At the Salon on Wednesday
Vn has the place decorated in earth tones. When we come in, we see the burlap and magazine-covered table on the left and, on the right, an interminable glass case full of long, feathery earrings and other dangly jewelry. In between, there’s a semicircle of simple, waiting-room chairs. The wallpaper’s a matte gold and cream with strands of wheat-colored yarn, or something, tacked to hang in intervals along the tops of the walls. The waiting room opens into a styling floor that’s a gauntlet of six gleaming styling chairs, with a television perched high in the upper left corner of the room, along with VHS, DVD, and CD players. When we come in, the TV’s invariably playing some bootleg video, either horror or comedy. (Wednesday, though, the girls were catchin up on 24 episodes.) Beyond the gauntlet is the shampooing room, where, besides washing hair, the stylists eat and use the restroom. Actually, anybody can use that restroom; that’s what it’s there for.
Vn and M are both tall black women whose locks (because we don’t say dreadlocks anymore) hang down to their backs. Vn has beautiful, absolutely flawless dark skin and perfect, white teeth. Her locks are a deep, brown-red color and decorated with tiny, glittery, dangly hair jewelry. She’s in her forties, narrow-hipped, big bosomed, and muscle-armed. (Most stylists, I’ve noticed, have arms like Angela Bassett.) She loves Jesus and horror movies (although she denies her love of the latter), and she always gives me a big, sandalwood-smelling hug when I come in. Vn, when she’s not listenin to other people talk, is given to short, pithy lectures. She’s always proselyzing Goobs about locking her hair. Goobs pays her no mind.
Oh, and she belongs to my church. (After all, everybody does.)
M, her business partner, is also tall, narrow-hipped and bosomy. But M has a harder demeanor. Her locks are a brasher red, and she has one real diamond attached to one lock somewhere in there. Her skin is not as smooth, and M doesn’t care. She doesn’t wear lipstick, or any makeup, for that matter, as a rule. (I suspect she gets all dolled up for parties, concerts, and clubs, though, however M. defines “all dolled up.”) Both Vn and M were wearing all black (t-shirts and jeans) on Wednesday. We believe M loves Jesus (He certainly loves her; she cracks Him up), but she definitely does not love church, and after the experience she described for us, I don’t blame her.
“I went to my uncle’s church, Sunday, Vn,” she said. “Girl, let me tell you. It’s one of those tiny, family churches. Girl, the pastor anointed [her two-year-old] with oil and laid hands on her. Her eyes popped open like this.” And then M showed us how the baby’s eyes popped open. We fell out laughin. “I didn’t know if I wanted him to pray for me after that! But I did. And, look, Regina: I just smoothed that oil right up into my hair. I needed that anointing.” And then M showed me how she smoothed that oil right up into her hair. “Cause, girl. When I went back to my seat, the pastor’s mother jumped at me!”
“She what?” asked Vn.
“What?” I asked.
“I said she jumped at me –like she wanted to fight me!”
“Stop lyin,” said Vn.
“I wish I was lyin,” said M. “That woman. . . .my aunt had to grab my arm, else it’d been on!” I thought about the kind of strength it would’ve taken to hold M back, and I figured that M hadn't really wanted to jump back at the pastor’s mother, especially in church, and that’s why the story wasn’t as exciting as it could’ve been.
“What’d she jump at you for?” asked Vn.
“She said, ‘Please don’t push against me.’” M’s eyes got big, like her baby’s had when the preacher prayed for her. “I was nowhere near her! I don’t know what she was talkin about!”
“Ain nobody like church people,” I said.
“Got that right. Somethin must be wrong with that woman,” said Vn.
“Somethin gon’ be wrong with her, she jump at me again,” said M. “And get this. My uncle touched me on the hand, got up and went to play on the organ. Our grandmother taught all of us to play, you know.”
“Was he good?” Vn asked.
“Naw! He was off-key! And lookin at me like this,” M said, and then she showed us her uncle’s expression. It included a wink. Apparently, her uncle had no idea he was playin off-key.
“Why he wanna get up there, playin in B, when everybody else was playin in A?”
“He ain know he was off-key?” Vn asked.
“Naw! He thought he was tearin that organ up! And the keyboardist kept lookin at him like this,” said M, and then she showed us the keyboardist’s expression. Goobs was leanin over her homework, snortin, and Juice was wipin tears of laughter from her face. I had nearly fallen out of my chair at the proudly confident expression on M’s uncle’s face, but I was undone by the keyboardist throwin eyeball daggers at M’s uncle.
“Were you laughin?” asked Vn.
“Naw! I was turnin around, askin my aunt, ‘Do he know he’s off-key?’ She shrugged. And then, Vn, and then, tell me why the pastor asked for another offerin? Who did he have in the congregation? About thirteen people: him, his wife, his mama, his son was playin the keyboard, his son’s cousin was on the drums, and the other eight of the congregation was family, too! Why—“ and here, M lost it, just cracked up. Funniest part of the story. Because M, this gangsta-lookin stylist, when she got to laughin, had the sweetest, most lilting laughter you’d ever expect. Imagine the kind of laugh you’d hear out of the princess of the “Princess and the Pea” story –you know, that chick who was so delicate, she could feel a pea through umpteen mattresses? This was M’s laugh. No lie.
“Why didn’t he just go to they houses –he knows where they live—and just ask for more money there?” M asked around her silken giggles. “But lemme tell you: that man preached his butt off! Yes, he did. Girl,” said M, “I’m goin back.”