Ethan closed his eyes in anticipation of the razor’s vibration as Crazy Johnny flipped it on. He never thought that his hair would have created such a commotion. The long tail of his hair was curled on the barber’s counter, rubber-banded at each end. It was thick and wavy, healthy, like a girl’s hair, which was exactly the point. He grew his hair on a mission to donate it to Locks of Love. When his mom had cancer he had no idea that part of the deal meant she would lose her hair. He thought that once you took the cancer out it was done, and you went back to your life taking care of your family. Mom lost her hair from the chemo — clumps left in random spots and his mom too tired to even care. Little by little she got better. She started to eat more, to laugh, and to grow back her hair, but it wasn’t the same. When she was home she took off the scarves and the hot, scratchy wig and she let Ethan rub her head. She said it felt good, and he thought she looked like a baby chick. Which is weird way to look at your mom.
When Heather started missing school rumors started that she had cancer. Ethan had known Heather since kindergarten. She wasn’t like the other girls, and she wasn’t like the boys either. Heather “got’ Ethan and he knew that was rare. They didn’t have to spend a lot of time together, and as they got older their circles intersected less and less. Ethan didn’t even feel right going by himself to visit her. But he felt he had to do something, so he did the easiest and cheapest thing an eleven year-old boy could do: he grew his hair.
As his hair grew longer people made more comments: He was lazy. His parents were lazy. He was gay. He was really a girl. He was weird. His family must be very religious. His family must be atheists. Some people knew that his mom had cancer so they looked at him with sympathy. Very few asked him why he seemed to be growing his hair. Ethan kept it clean and most of the time kept it in a pony tail, but he had to admit that it was more work to tend to long hair. “Gave him some perspective” is what Mom called it. Eventually other topics became more interesting than Ethan’s hair and he was left alone to grow it in peace. At night he’d brush it out and look at himself in the bathroom mirror. The hair alongside his pale face, feeling it on his still-smooth cheeks, at the back of his neck and brushing his shoulders. He could faintly smell shampoo and static. He wondered if he looked like a girl from the back.
But now his long hair was gone and the cool barber shop air conditioning felt almost painful. He reached a hand out from under the cape and planted it right on top. Yep, now he understood what his mom felt. Growing your hair all over again will feel good, new, but would it be the same? For a split second Ethan saw himself as a man. Strong, with long hair, and he wouldn’t care what anybody thought or said about him.