So I gave myself a haircut today, and then this story happened in my head…sorry for the bad pun. And the cliches. Yeah.

When you asked me to cut your hair, I said yes without hesitation, even though I’d never done it before. We went down to the stream and you took your shirt off, threw a towel around your neck.

“Nice day, huh?” I said, as you settled down on a rock, wetting your feet in the stream.

You looked up: towards the sun that baked the river stones, creating hot waves in the air, spreading the smell of decay from upstream. “Sure,” you said, batting gnats away from your eyes. Sweat was already beading up on your shoulders and forehead.

“Can you get it wet?” I asked.

Your eyebrows shot up.

“Your hair, I mean.” My cheeks burned crimson.

“Oh, sure,” you said, looking away, then bending forward into the stream, bringing your hands to the back of your neck to make sure it was completely submerged.

As you worked, I could see the tendons running from your neck to your shoulders and down your back to your waist like a road map — or a maze – or a mysterious lever and pulley system under skin stretched like canvas.

Then you pulled your head out of the water, dripping from the ends of your hair, spreading little ripples in the stream, and when you sat still on the rock, towel back in place over your shoulders, and I picked up the scissors and a clump of your hair, you shivered.

“Are you cold?” I asked, snipping off a curl.

“No,” you said, watching the curl drift downstream.

We fell silent, listening to the water bubble and flow and my scissors’ sharp schick schick schick until it, too, faded into just another nature sound.

When I thought I was done, I dug my hands into your hair at the roots, drawing it to its ends between my fingers to check for uneven strands. The muscles in your neck were taut and unmoving, resisting the jerk of my fingers. Before I thought better of it, I put a thumb at the apex of your spine, pressing against the tension that had grown there.

You let a breath hiss out through gritted teeth, then you groaned and bowed your head. In the distance, a bell began to toll, but neither you nor I made any move to leave.