Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Another Year Gone

"Happy Birthday To You. Happy Birthday To You." Michele, Vidal , Josef, (who elected himself as my personal nurse/bodyguard), the whole staff from the salon were singing off key. It was my birthday! We were at Ammies, celebrating my birthday. As I looked around, into each of their faces, I saw for the first time, how very lucky I was. This group of maybe the craziest bunch of men & women, were so happy to spend 'my birthday' with me & not being the least bit embarrassed that they sounded awful. I laughed so hard, it brought tears to my eyes.
"Hey, Baby," I looked up, it was my Viet Nam soldier, Richard. Damned, this was one sexy guy. Damned, this was one sick in the head guy. Damned, one night, just one night, would I go to hell, for just one night?
"Richard," I reached up my check for him to kiss, getting a very pleasant sniff of his cologne. "What are you doing here?" He was dressed really sharp, not his usual army clothing.
"Michele told me you guys will be here tonight." he glanced over to Michele & gave her a wink. A small twinge of jealousy stabbed me.
"Did she now?"
"Happy birthday, sexy. What are you drinking, let me buy you a drink."
"Ah," I looked over to Vidal, who was observing everything,"What am I drinking, Boss?"
"Mocha Vodka Martini's", he answered with that half grin of his. Beverly was in London this week, So Vidal & I were able to spend a lot of time discussing the salon & where he wants to take all of his salons. I haven't been able to work behind my chair yet, since the incident at my Mom's place, but I was well enough to do paper work, answer phones, & delegated the work load. That gave Vidal & myself a lot of time to talk business & expansion.
I glanced back at Richard, he raised his hand & made the peace sign.
"Gotcha babe", backing way from our table.
I looked over towards Michele, saw her eyes following Richard. I suspected that she liked him, but, Michele was hunting. What she was hunting for was a mystery, but it was known by all of us, that the girl was looking hard, but looking in all of the wrong places.
"What ya need guy?" Nikki was working tonight at Ammies.
"Mocha something?"
"For CeCe?"
Nikki mixed the intricate drink & a few seconds later, presented the glass to Richard.
"What do I Owe You?"
"Nothing my friend," Nikki smiled into Richards blue eyes, "CeCe's drinks tonight are on me. That girl has been though hell. Glad to see all of her friends around her. She doesn't need to know that I've got her tab, just sit it in front of her."
"I can't do that!"
"Yeah, you can, man! Just let it go. Give her the drink & baste in her thank you. That's a special lady there, she doesn't need to know that I've got her bill, Okay Brother?"
"Then, you must accept this!", Richard slid a twenty dollar bill across the bar towards Nikki. She looked into his eyes, & with a flash of glimmering teeth, nodded her head, laying her hand over the twenty.

"Hi, CeCe," I looked over my right shoulder, towards a familiar voice, & there stood Sunny.
"Sunny," my voice cracked. It had been a few months since I requested that he not patronize the salon any longer.
"What's with your arm?" I still had to use a sling.
"Oh, just an accident."
"What have you been up to?' Sunny had managed to place himself between his friends & My business prospects were getting VERY thin. 0% of nothing is still 50%

Friday, October 3, 2008

Painful Memories

I woke up feeling 'GREAT'. Spring was around the corner again! My son will be seven years old in a few weeks. My God! Seven! Where did the years fly to? Sal started first grade this past Fall. I intended to go to the first Parent-Teachers night, but my Mom never told me when it was, so I got very upset again with her. Since that really big fight we had last year, I'd decided not to push my points with her anymore. I feared Sal got the repercussions, when no one was around to see. He had gotten a lot quieter as time past, I feared for what it might be. I feared to find out. So, like a coward, I backed down & backed out, when our 'talks' got a little heated.
I was dressing to go get Sal. He needed clothes, & I wanted to find out what he wanted for his birthday, plus ask him about his birthday party.
I no longer had the key to Moms apartment. as I approached the building door, someone was leaving the building, I was able to walk in. As I approached the apartment door, I noticed that it was silent on the other side. Ignoring my thoughts, I knocked. Silence. I knocked again, "Mom," I called through the door. Silent. "Mom," I called out louder, still knocking on the door.
"Mom, Sal, It's me," It was getting very warm in the hallway. Beads of perspiration was forming on my forehead & neck. "Mom, answer the door,Please?" I knew my voice was loud, My heart was starting to beat faster. "Please God," I silently prayed, "Please make her answer this dammed door." Memories came rushing through my head. A little girl, hands cupped over her mouth so no one could hear her crying. Visions that I didn't want to remember.
"Mom," almost a whisper, "Mom, please let me in."
I didn't hear the building door open, nor did I hear my name, until I felt a hand on my shoulder.
Startled, I looked to my right. There stood Andrew, with a puzzled look on his face. I could smell Scotch on his breath.
"CeCe, why are you just standing there?"
I hated this man. The man that my Mom lived with, worshipped, beg, borrowed & stole for. This man, that I used to refer to as my 'Dad'.
"Mommies not answering. She knew I was coming." I was almost in tears, struggling to hold my composure, wanting to scream.
Andrew unlocked the apartment door, & I followed him in. There, sitting on the couch was my Mother, eyes squinting, lips held tight. On the chair in that room, sat my son, hands clasped tightly on his little lap, eyes wide, full of fear.
When Sal saw me, he attempted to get off of the chair to come to me. Mom glanced over at him, & my son stopped, slid back into the chair. I saw his little mouth quiver, afraid to cry. I ran to him, scooped him into my arms.
"It's o'kay now Sal, it's o'kay." I held him as tight as I could, his small frame pushing closer to me.
"Why didn't you answer the door, Mom?"
"I don't want you coming here every week."
She got off of the couch & walked into the kitchen where Andrew sat.
"I told you two days ago, I was coming today. I'm taking Sal shopping, & looking for his birthday party stuff. Did you send out the invites to his friends at school?"
"He is NOT having a birthday party!"
"What?" Andrew looked at her, shock written all over his face,"What are you talking about, Marie?"
"Just what I said," She raised her nose to the ceiling, "I want an end to this. I don't want you here! Do you understand me?" She screamed at me, her eyes ablaze.
With Sal still in my arms, I walked towards the door. My sons little legs were wrapped around my waste tightly, his grip on my neck getting tighter with every step that I took.
I was right at the frame of the doorway to the hall, when suddenly, there was a pinching pain in my shoulder. It took my breath away for a second. Sal was openly crying now. I heard Andrew say something. I kept walking, the stinging getting worse with every breath.
As I reached for the outside door, I saw Andrew grab me by the wrist.
"You can't go out there," he was saying. My back felt wet, but I knew that it wasn't sweat. "Come on, come on," he was pulling me back into the apartment.
As we got to the apartment door, she came towards me, hands extended. As I turned away, to protect Sal from being removed from my arm, I felt her push the knife deeper into my shoulder. A scream escaped my throat as I fell to my knees. God, I thought to myself, protect my son!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunny's New Style

Christmas came & went, 1967 was three days away. Vidal has now given me full responsibility of the salon. He had casually mentioned wanting to open another salon in Queens, over the past few months, & now he has started to look for good property seriously.
I started to give Brad more responsibilities, since my clientele was so strong, especially for my hair coloring methods.
My relationship with my 'Mom', was still strained, but for my son, we called a truce. If we don't talk to each other, then we can't fight. I was allowed to take my son on shopping trips & outings again, thankfully. We always had such fun together, but, going home, the both of us would fall silent. I prayed that I would soon be in law school, with the promise of having my son live with me.
Josef & Agness were shivering from the cold, watching me try to open the salon doors. It was so cold this morning in the city, with the wind stinging your face, making your eyes tear. The lock was frozen, & the key was getting jammed.
"Give me that", Josef said gruffly, "I'm freezing to death, & your piddling with this!"
"Good, you do it", as I stood back from the door.
"Now, now, children, play nice. Just get us in the damn store!" Agnes' face was so red from the wind & cold.
Finally, the key turned in the lock. We rushed into the warmth of the salon, Josef went to the back to turn the lights on, the music started playing in the back ground. Agnes put a pot of coffee on, as I went to the safe to get the register cash. I was entering information into the ledger, when a burst of cold air swept across my face. I looked up, & there was Sunny, with that sideways grin on his face.
"Good Morning Sunny," I tried to sound respectful, but indifferent.
I could see Josef walking briskly towards the desk.
"Hey, how are you man?" Josef placed himself cleverly between Sunny & me.
"Good, good," replied Sunny, "I just wanted to speak with CeCe a minute."
Josef looked at me, then walked over to his station, getting it set up for the day, carefully me & Sunny though the mirror.
"Is something wrong with your hair?" It looked fine to me, but I really didn't care.
"The cuts good, He said, brushing it with his fingers. " Did you open the gift?"
"Oh, yes," I got up & walked over to my station, removed the box from my drawer quickly & walked back to where Sunny was standing, holding the box out to him.
His eyes looked at the box & back to me, with a puzzled look on his face.
"What's this?"
"Sunny, I can't accept such a expensive gift!," Please God, I thought to myself, let this go smoothly.
"Yes you can!" His tone was indigent, & demanding.
"Sunny", I lite a cigarette, & took a sip of coffee that Agnes brought over to me, "The gesture is very nice, but, I can't accept a gift of that magnitude from a client. I appreciate your generosity, but, you must take it back."
"NO!", His eyes were ablaze. I almost got frightened for a moment, & was relieved to see Vidal walk thru the doors.
"Good morning everyone" Vidal yelled out, as he hurried to remove his coat in the back.
"You can't do this to me, Cece," His tone was full of anger. "I searched high & low for this to give you. Your keeping it!"
Vidal was now sitting in my station chair holding the cup of coffee that Agnes prepared for him, just watching Sunny & me.
"No, Sunny." I placed the box on the desk in front of Sunny. "I cannot accept it & I won't."
This man raised fear in me now. I was not going to be forced to do anything, by any man, that I didn't want to do anymore. I disliked feeling fear, especially, when it concerned a man. Josef & Agnes became silent. Vidal watched closely.
"Sunny," I took a deep breath & swallowed hard, "I'm sorry to upset you, but, I think that maybe you should go somewhere else for your haircuts from now on."
I hoped that I sounded strong. I hoped that Vidal would support my decision.
"Right, yes, I will go somewhere else! See you around, CeCe!" He turned, pulled the door open & left the salon, leaving the box on the desk.
"Josef. Take this out to him, please." I motioned to the box. Josef ran out the door, stopped Sunny a few doors down, retuning with the box in hand.
"Said he never takes back anything he gives or says." With a shrug of his shoulders, Josef placed the box on my station. Our clients were starting to come thru the doors. Another day, another dollar.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sparkling Style

The snow was falling like a pure white blanket. I didn't like the snow, but I loved to watch it come down from the sky, and cover the ground & trees, as if the heavens were purifying the land. It made everything look so clean, & the air had a crisp, clean fragrance.
Christmas was two weeks away. I was busier with my life than I had ever been. Brad, I recruited as my 'personal' assistant in the salon. Vidal had left for London with his family for Thanksgiving, to be returning the end of this week. Michele was in love again. Josef & Brad had a thing going on between them. Charles was flirting with anything in a skirt, as usual.
My visits to see my son were still very strained. There was no avoiding an argument with my 'Mother', & Andrew couldn't or wouldn't support my side at all. Sal seemed to be getting more quiet & withdrawn when I was with him. It disturbed me terribly, but, I didn't know what to do about it. So, I did nothing, ignoring her remarks about how terrible I was, refusing to feed into her passion to force an argument. I wasn't going to let her ruin my sons Christmas, so allowing her to rant & rave, keep some peace.
I was active in the anti-was movement now. Parents & young men called almost daily to find out about leaving this country. Mothers & fathers begging me to save their sons was heartbreaking. I felt good trying to help them, & if everyone really prayed for me, like they said they were, well then, I was a very blessed young woman.
Sunny was sitting in my chair, not saying very much as I cut his hair. His eyes almost never left my face & this disturbed me. I didn't really like this man, & I was sure that he suspected that, but, he continued to flirt with me, & always asked me out after every haircut.
"Want to go for dinner tonight?" He had a huge smile on his face as he paid me for the haircut.
"Sunny," I let out a deep sigh, "The answer is NO!" He was irritating me, & I just didn't care if he never came back to the salon.
"Well, Okay." He chuckled, "See you next month."
He turned to leave, & then stopped.
"Oh, I almost forgot." He removed a box, gift wrapped with a bow & card on it from his coat pocket. "Just a little token for being my favorite hairdresser." Handing the box to me.
"Thank you." Taking the gift from him. He finally left the salon.
Clients often gave us presents or envelopes with money for the Christmas holiday, so I didn't think anything of it.
I walked over to my station, placed it in the drawer & lite a cigarette.
"You going to open it?" Josef had that mischievous grin on his face.
"Not right now," My next client was in my chair.
"Maybe it's diamonds, CeCe!" Michele got a kick out of Sunny's determination. She thought that it was romantic.
" I doubt it very much. Don't you guys have anything to do?"
"Oh, CeCe is getting pissy" Brad chirped in, stroking his raised eyebrow with his pinky.
We all burst into laughter, even my client. It was impossible to stay annoyed about anything in this place. The guys always had something funny to say or do, whenever a stressful situation happened. I was so glad to be working with is group of people. We always rallied around each other with support & genuine care.
At the end of the day, I was packing the gifts that I received from my clients that day, when Michele picked up the box that Sunny gave me.
"You going to open it?" Michele shook the box, holding it to her ear.
"Oh, o'kay, give me the thing!"
I ripped the ribbon & the paper off, quickly opening the box. Michele & I both gasped at the contents.
"Oh my God," she exclaimed. I held my breath.
Josef jumped out of his chair, & before I knew it, everyone was standing around me. I lifted the bracelet out of the box very gently. It was the most stunning diamond bracelet I had ever seem. I couldn't believe my eyes.
"Man, you have to go out with him now, CeCe." Agnes said.
"Yes, & I know what your going to have to do for him on that date!" chimed in Brad, with that queenie, mischievous smile on his face.
I was speechless. Michele but her arm around my shoulder. "Well kid, Your going to have to do something now about this guy!"
"I'm returning it to him. And asking him not to come to the salon anymore!"
"What? Are you crazy?" Michele was floored.
"Maybe, it's not real diamonds." added Agnes
"That's right." Joseph responded taking the bracelet from my hand, holding it up to the lights. "In that case, you just thank him for it next month, & forget about it. Take it to the jeweler up the block tomorrow & let him tell you."
"Good idea. I'll do that in the morning."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

An Angered Client

Thanksgiving was upon us again. Richard, my favorite Vietnam vet was in my chair, going on & on about how the Government was lying to us about the war. How the administration wasn't helping the vets with medical & emotional problems. I could smell the scent of pot on his clothes & hair, & it disturbed me. I really liked Richard. But he was so angry, & I really didn't understand why.
"That's why, I'm going to that rally tonight," he was saying, "We have to educate the public about the truth!"
"Do you think your group will be able to?" I asked
"Well, we're going to give it a hell of a try, CeCe. We need to get our boys out of that country. We need more people to drive the new draftees to Canada. There's a lot of people that don't want this war to continue, just not enough strength to fight the Government on it. We have to be more active, more anti-war. That is the important step to save our boys!"
"I heard that a lot of guys are going to Canada." I was blow drying his hair now. "How are they getting there? How is that being arranged?"
"We have an 'under ground' group that receives calls from these kids, or from the parents of these boys, begging us to take their sons to Canada. The 'group' makes arrangements to pick the guys up somewhere, it's a bunch of boys in a van or station wagon & we drive them to Canada. The parents or the boys donate some money to cover gas & expenses for the group. It's strictly volunteers doing the driving there & back. I do it once a week. But we need more people to help us. These guys are from all over the country, & we can't get them out of here soon enough."
"Wow," I was removing the cape from around Richard. This is such a undertaking I was thinking to myself. "Isn't that illegal, Richard?"
"Yes, but if it's done carefully, it's doable. I've been doing it for a long time now. Even got to know some of the guys at the border stop."
Richard pulled two fifty dollar bills out of his pocket & handed them to me. When I looked down, I saw that he slipped a folded piece of paper with something written on it between the money. When I looked up, he winked at me, saluted & left the salon. I slipped the paper into my jean pocket with my tip, & went to my next client.
It wasn't until the end of the day, when I was counting my tips, that I read the piece of paper.
"CeCe," it was in Richards hand writing, " Here is the address of our meeting place tonight. I'd love for you to come & listen to what is really going on in our country.. Meeting starts at 7PM, we serve coffee & dough nuts. I'll look for you there. Bring a friend if you want. The more people the better. If you can't make it, I'll see you next month for my haircut. Your devoted client, Richard.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Short Clips Of A Year Ending

The year of 1965 was nearly to a close. It had been a year of political unrest & frustrations. North Vietnam was trying to overtake South Vietnam. The U.S. sent Military advisers & then more soldiers. Over 200,000 American troops were in South Vietnam. The war that 'wasn't going on', was now admitted to be real by the government. Anti-war protests were starting up in masses in practically all of the colleges, draft dodgers were fleeing to Canada, & the racial unrest in the country was at an all time peek. Malcolm X, was assassinated, which caused more racial conflict.
We were cleaning up after a very long, busy day at the salon. The doors were locked & Josef was telling Charles, how he could 'change his life' for the better, jokingly, if Charles would 'experiment a new lifestyle' with him. This was an ongoing joke between those two, & I personally loved the batter between them. Josef, with his, lash batting, wrist flipping, hand on the hip pose, & Charles with his 'macho', womanizing attitude, caused the most hilarious scenario, all of us enjoyed.
"Gentleman!", Vidal held up his hand to Josef & Charles, "May I interrupt this flirtatious moment, please?"
All of us turned to Vidal.
"I'm sorry to interrupt you 'love birds', but I need to speak with all of you for a minute."
The shop was suddenly still.
"Ladies back there," Vidal motioned to Agnes, Judy, Maria & Lisa, our two manicurists, "I want ALL of you to hear this!"
We all gathered around Vidal.
"Due to this war, & the racial conflict going on in this country right now, I'm asking all of you to please, do NOT, give your personal feeling and/or beliefs to your clients, should you be engaged in a conversation about these subjects. Politics & religion is off limits."
"Vidal", Michele spoke up, "Everyone is talking about that stuff!"
"Yes, I know. Listen to them, nod your head in understanding, BUT, do not express your beliefs or feeling on these topics. At best, it might cause a friendly argument, at worst it WILL cost you a customer, may cost ALL of us customers, since we can hear the different discussions going on at other stations. But, for yourselves & each other, keep the conversation neutral."
"But, Vidal," I spoke up, "I'm against this war & so are all of us. I think that the Blacks have a right to equality in this country."
"Good, CeCe, but don't express your beliefs to the clients. We have some very powerful, & rich clients that come to us. Their beliefs & power is much stronger at the moment than what we have. I'm not saying not to talk about these subjects with them, everyone is talking about it. I'm just asking all of you, not to express to the client your personal beliefs & feelings. Some of these people feel President Johnson is right for keeping the war going, some don't. Some feel that the Blacks in this country should still be slaves & some don't. These are very powerful issues. Don't allow your feeling about them ruin your career, & that is what I fear could happen to some or all of you. Being 'Black Balled' right now is not the wisest thing to do. So, guys & gals, protect yourselves & each other. With that said, Beverly is across the street, who ever wants to join us, I'm buying drinks & dinner."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Hairsylist's Nightmare

Halloween was almost upon us. I was on my way to my moms apartment to pick up Sal & take him to buy a costume. This is his first Trick or Treating & I was excited about taking him. I still had the key to her apartment, so I just let myself in. As I opened the door, I watched as my mom kicked Sal in his back. The poor boy was curled up on the floor, crying out, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry mommy."
"What the hell?" I screamed, pushing her away from him & picking him up into my arms. "What are you doing to him?"
"He disobeyed me!" her face was blood red, & spit shot from her mouth as she spoke. "He's a damn brat. He has to learn that when I say something, he MUST do it!"
My son was holding onto my neck, trembling, while his tears were dripping down my neck. I thought that I was going to be nauseous. I tightened my hold on Sal, & rocked him in my arms.
"Let me tell you something," I wanted to smack that look on her face right off. "You don't kick him. you don't hit him. You don't ever do anything to Sal like that again!"
"Who do you think your talking to?" Her voice was defiant & loud. Sal hugged my neck tighter. "That's my son. As far as everyone knows around here, he's my kid. I take care of him. I stood up nights when he was a baby, walking him, washing diapers, taking care of him."
"Mom, that has nothing to do with it. I couldn't live here anymore with you & daddy. You know why. If I would have stayed here, something awful would have happened."
"Aach," she waved her hand in the air to brush off what I just said, "That's all a lie. I don't believe anything that you said. I know none of that stuff is true. Andrew loves me. Besides, your the one that left the baby with me. That proves to everyone that you don't want him. You live in the kitchen of hell, hanging out with those people, doing God knows what everyday. Your not a mother. You don't know what sacrifice is! You've never wanted that boy. I need him! Now, put 'My' son down & leave this house."
" You know, your a bitter old woman, full of meanness & hatred. I'm taking Sal shopping for his Halloween costume." I was putting Sal down from my arms. He had stopped crying, & I was brushing his hair back from his face.
"You will do no such thing!", she pulled Sal by the arm over to her side. My son started to cry again, & I could see the fear in my little boys eyes.
"What are you doing mom?" The swiftness of her action took me by surprise. "I told you yesterday that I was taking him shopping today."
"I don't want you with him. You won't take him out or shopping any more unless I'm with you, understood?" Her face was alarming. Her eyes showed a hatred that I hadn't seen in many years, but was all too familiar with.
"Mom, I'm taking my son out today." my voice was calm, but my nerves were screaming.
"No!" she held her body straight up, shoulders back, in full defiance. "Now, get out of my home. Get out & don't degrade my home again."
I walked toward Sal & she pulled him behind her body. Her eyes were cold.
"Let me say good bye."
"You can say it from there!"
"I want to kiss him good bye mom? Let me kiss my son, please" Now I started to cry.
"I told you, he is My son. you abandoned him & that's what I'm telling the whole family. No! You cannot kiss him or anything anymore. Out, get out!
Sal was crying again, watching me cry. I wanted to strike out. I wanted to grab my baby. I wanted to scream. I turned around to the door, turned back to my son, threw him a kiss as he quietly whimpered & made a little kiss face, & pulled the door closed, knowing that I had to leave today. I had to go now! My heart was beating so fast in my chest. I was clutching my fists. I have to get back home quickly. If I stayed another minute, I'll be sorry for the rest of my life. I waved down a taxi, sat back in the seat, & let the tears come.