FREDA’S HAIR SALON
I had just been released from jail. I was a scofflaw and refused to pay three hundred dollars for four parking tickets. Why? Because I didn’t have the money. The tickets were exorbitant and unfair. Otherwise, I was a law-abiding citizen, who volunteered to feed the homeless in our neighborhood, bringing bottles of water, canned pineapple, King Oscar Sardines, peanut butter Tasty Cakes and other foods I bought at our local McCafferty’s.
In the Women’s Correctional Facility way down in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, I sat around chatting with the other women. All colors – black, brown, and white – sharing our stories. Never was there a quiet moment. Banging of cell doors, radios playing after “lights out” – and the lights were never out, so we could be watched every single moment – as if we would kill or maim again – I did learn to play chess, though. Our chess pieces were smuggled in and I fantasized becoming the new Garry Kasparov. Fantasies, of course, being the mainstay of all inmates.
After my jewelry and valuables were returned to me in a small black Hefty garbage bag, I waited for Ron to pick me up. We were companionable but would never marry. One marriage was enough. My two grown children had lives of their own and pretended not to have a mother. Ron had long red muttonchops – I think that’s what they are called – they swirled around his face like a general in the first World War. Uniquely strange, if you ask me.
Okay, so Ron had money. But what about love?
We drove off in his Austin Healy, a small forest-green car that rode like one of those bumper cars at an amusement park, zooming and then stopping. Zooming and then stopping. Gave me the willies.
My own car was safe at home, locked in my garage.
“Ron, you’re a darling,” I said. “I’ll be fine now.” I heard Steely Dan on his radio.
“May I come inside?”
“Not today,” I said. “Another time, for sure.”
The first thing I did was take a shower, scrubbing my hair with Pantene shampoo. I lathered up my entire body, until I pretty much got rid of the smell of prison and most folks in there. I towel dried my chestnut-colored hair and stepped out of the shower, carefully, carefully, so I would not fall.
Freda’s Hair Salon was twenty minutes away. I got into my two-tone Ford LTD – an older model that drove well and would protect me if I crashed. As I drove the brown and black vehicle, I imagined other cars looking at me, this attractive older woman no one would ever guess had just spent a week in jail.
Her salon resided in the same shopping strip as a Thai restaurant, a TD Bank (open 24 hours!) and a huge Michael’s Craft Shop.
I peeked inside Freda’s salon.
It was dark inside.
What was going on?
I knocked loudly on the door, while I watched.
A Japanese woman wearing a kimono, put her finger up, indicating, “I will be right there.”
She opened the door a crack, wearing a black mask in this pandemic.
We stood looking at one another.
“Freda is dead,” she said, with no expression.
“Dead?” I exclaimed. “How could that be?”
“Shit happens,” she said.
The Evening News
Always so glum
Dictators being deposed
Climate change losing ground
America divided by fearful survivors
But YOU, Erik, Erik the Red, never did
We figure you dead.
You struggled so hard
A young man in a race
You nearly won
Your flaming red hair like the
Vikings before you
You rode with them
Fought with them
Paddled with them
With muscled freckled arms.
Body filled with poisons, toxins, drugs, meth, cocaine, a sip of booze
A barrel of Fentynal instant gratification
Like a kid with his creme-filled cupcakes
But the gods had other plans for you
All 10,000 clenched fists to bring you around
As they catapulted you up past the moon
And beyond the stars
Of course, there is life
It’s our Erik the Red
THE FADING SIDEWALK
As the second owner of my house on Cowbell Road, it was hard for me to give up items the Morris family had left here. In the cupboard were a few simple cups I often used for my morning coffee. I had learned from my neighbor that old man Morris had died of complications of Parkinson’s disease.
His wife, no longer young, was battling breast cancer.
I felt utterly sad.
On the sidewalk the names Mark and Jeff were carved in wet concrete. I had paid no attention to them until one day I saw them clear as day.
They were fading fast.
What a parade of people passed on these same sidewalks. Older couples balancing one another, dogs prancing around with their masters – poodle Lucy wore a pink ribbon - some drinking coffee as they walked – and young people wearing short shorts with their slender thighs revealed.
There must be some way I could celebrate the fading of the sidewalk.
Thinking a moment, I knew what I would do. I would celebrate at the Pink Moon – the last Full Moon of April.
And outside I went, wearing a shiny robe that came down past my knees. I plopped myself on the sidewalk and felt, as if I were a blind woman, the imprints in the sidewalk.
There, there, there, I soothed myself. My dear brave friends with their “intimations of immortality,” as William Wordsworth said one hundred years ago.
There, there, there.