Miss Isabelle, Present Day
I ACTED HATEFUL to Dorrie the first time we met, a decade or so ago. A person gets up in years and she forgets to use her filters. Or she's beyond caring. Dorrie thought I didn't care for the color of her skin. No truth to that at all. Yes, I was angry, but only because my beauty operatorhairdresser they call them these days, or stylist, which sounds so uppityleft with no notice. I walked all the way into the shop, which is no small effort when you're old, and the girl at the counter told me my regular girl had quit. While I stood there blinking my eyes, fit to be tied, she studied the appointment book. With a funny smile, she said, "Dorrie has an opening. She could do you almost right away."
Presently, Dorrie called me over, and certainly, her looks surprised meshe was the only African-American in the place, as far as I could tell. But here was the real problem: change. I didn't like it. People who didn't know how I liked my hair. People who made the cape too tight around my neck. People who went away without any warning. I needed a minute, and I guess it showed. Even at eighty, I liked my routine, and the older I get, the more it matters. Picture me now at almost ninety.
Ninety. I'm old enough to be Dorrie's white-haired grandmother. And then some. That much is obvious. But Dorrie? She probably doesn't even know she's become like the daughter I never had. For the longest time, I followed her from salon to salonwhen she wouldn't settle down and stay put. She's happier now, has her own shop these days, but she comes to me. Like a daughter would.
We always talk when Dorrie comes. At first, when I met her, it was just the regular stuff. The weather. News stories. My soap operas and game shows, her reality TV and sitcoms. Anything to pass the time while she washed and styled my hair. But over time, when you see the same person week after week, year after year, for an hour or more, things can go a bit deeper. Dorrie started talking about her kids, her crazy ex-husband, and how she hoped to open her own shop one day, then all the work that entailed. I'm a good listener.
Sometimes, she'd ask me about things, too. Once she started coming to my house, and we got comfortable in our routine, she asked about the pictures on my walls, the keepsakes I have on display here and there. Those were easy enough to tell about.
It's funny how sometimes you find a friendin the likely placesand almost immediately, you can talk about anything. But more often than not, after the initial blush, you find you really have nothing in common. With others, you believe you'll never be more than acquaintances. You're so different, after all. But then this thing surprises you, sticking longer than you ever predicted, and you begin to rely on it, and that relationship whittles down your walls, little by little, until you realize you know that one person better than almost anyone. You're really and truly friends.
It's like that with Dorrie and me. Who would have thought ten years later we'd still be doing business together, but so much more, as well. That we'd not only be talking about our shows but sometimes watching them together. That she'd be making excuses to stop by several days a week, asking if I need her to run any errands for mewanting to know if I'm out of milk or eggs, if I need to go to the bank. That I'd be making sure when I ride the cart around the grocery store, after the Handitran drops me off, I put a six-pack of her favorite soft drink in the basket so she'll have something to wet her whistle before she starts on my hair.<
One time, a few years back, she looked embarrassed when she started to ask me a question. She stopped mid-sentence.
Copyright © 2013 by Julie Kibler
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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