Mario sat in the barber’s chair. The same chair he had sat in so many times before. It was good to be home, back among familiar things. He had wanted to stay in the army but they insisted on an honorable discharge after he was missing in action for weeks. Mario had been found, half dead, in the jungle. He owed his rescue to a buddy, the one person who refused to give up on him. Mario recalled the young soldier emerging through the trees and shrubs. In his weakened state, Mario had thought for a moment that the man was an angel as he stood before him backlit by the strong Burmese sun. He remembered the young man giving him a drink from his canteen and drawing out the ticks from his body with a lit cigarette. He had felt so weak, not a feeling this body builder was accustomed to. But that was behind him now. He was back home. Back with his family and friends and that awful war seemed light years away from the warmth of the neighborhood barber shop. Tonight his father was hosting a party to celebrate his safe return. Everyone in the town would be stopping in at some point of the evening to welcome Mario home and he wanted to look his best for them. So here he sat getting a shave and a haircut.
As the barber spoke to him, Mario noticed a young woman across the street and suddenly, the barber’s voice seemed as distant as that far away jungle. He was hypnotized by the young girl’s beauty. It seemed as though the whole world was standing still and she was moving through it in slow motion so that he could take in every last nuance of her being, the way she looked, the way she moved. When the breeze tossed her hair into her face she jerked her head to flip it back behind her shoulder. It was almost as though she were moving to music. In fact Mario could hear the music in his head when a very irritated barber suddenly yanked him back into reality with a tap on the back of his head.
“Hey you… Mr. Biga Shot… you hear me? Hey!.. I’ma talka to you!” the Italian immigrant asked with mock indignation.
“Huh? What? Oh sorry,” answered Mario.
“Whatsamatta wit you?
Mario smiled, “See that girl across the street Joe?”
“You can say that again. I don’t know who she is or where she’s from, but somehow, someway, I’m gonna make her my wife!”
“Yeah… ina you dreams maybe…”
“I mean it Joe, it’s not just that she’s beautiful, I have this feeling about her, like… inside somewhere… that we were meant for each other, kind of like it’s our destiny to be together. Do you know what I mean?”
“Ah… biga shot dream boy. Sit back in the chair and stay still, unless you thinka Miss America over there lika the boys with one ear!”
“Oh you just don’t understand old man!”
Joe rolled his eyes and got back to the business of cutting hair. Mario never took his amber eyes off the beauty as she looked in the shoe store window then the millenary shop. After what seemed like an eternity, Joe finally said “There all done” he reached for a mirror to show Mario the back of his hair, but Mario quickly pushed it away with one hand while pulling off the barber smock with the other. “Here, here’s your money Gotta run… bye.” As Mario ran across the street he saw Trudy turning the corner. He quickened his pace to catch up with her but as he turned the corner himself, she stepped onto a bus and it pulled away. “Shit! Damn it! Shit, shit, shit!”
All that day Mario could not get the girl off his mind. If only he walked faster, if only he had gone for his haircut one minute earlier, if only, if only, if only! It was maddening. Now hours later, here he was in an apartment filled with people, all of who had come just to see him, and all he could think about was the girl that got away. The one he thought was sent to be his soul mate.
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Until next time,