Anjali Yardi

Pepper-and-salt Like Mary Kostakidis

The warmth and din are welcoming. I'm glad
to leave behind the weather wild and wet
and sink gratefully into a chair that's clad
appropriately in plush black leatherette.
Taking my glasses off before I face
the mirror, I avoid unmediated
encounters with a self that tracks the trace
of time too nakedly. Negotiated
with help from Marko and his gallant team
of colourists and stylers, the ravages
of age have some redress, begin to seem
a shade more tractable than cave-born savages.
What would I like today solicitously asks
Marko pausing between his other tasks.

I give my usual answer. The colourist Nic
has checked my print-out, mixed the pungent dyes,
smoothed cream along my hair-line. Now with quick
brush-strokes she covers each whitening root which lies
exposed in furrows that her left hand rakes
methodically through my hair wth a comb-tip.
My scalp tingles. The dye feels cool but makes
my eyes smart. The bristles rasp and slip
pleasantly against the skin. I'm misty-eyed
without my glasses, watching wet hair stand
in spikes that'd look at home on a half-dried
mop-head. Nic smoothes them down with rubber-gloved hand
as best she can, sets the timer ticking
and leaves. I settle to some magazine-flicking.

Without much guilt I'm catching up on all
the celeb-goss since my last visit here.
Odd bits of many conversations fall
with unexpected force upon my ear:
Canberra's cold this time of year but Tassie
will be. . . . His wife's just left him poor man. . . .
My daughter says. . . .
all float atop the snazzy
thumping beat of pop threaded through an
underlay of sound like squalls at sea –
the noise of many dryers on the toil.
Behind me, a bloke with tattooed arms is delicately
wrapping a woman's hair in bits of foil.
My timer rings. I move off to the sink,
lie on the couch, rest my neck on the brink.

This is my favourite part. Gentle fingers,
warm spray like summer rain. A scent
of mown grass and flower-filled gardens lingers
on the air from the unstoppered unguent.
If there were any part of life I could
prolong endlessly, it might be this –
having hair washed and scalp kneaded good
and hard by competent hands – such bliss.
The practised tenderness of professional
hands is the closest some of us will get
to loving touch this day. Confessional
moment past, towel draping shoulders, wet
hair bundled in a wrap, I'm feeling so
relaxed and cleased. Here comes Marko.

I respect his skilful hands while he
respects my need for silence. Smart but not
too young?
he anticipates me smilingly
and sets about accomplishing what looks a lot
more hopeless than he makes it seem. Overgrown
hair is deftly shaped with comb and click-
ing scissors. The floor is strewn with mown
hair, but my head emerges styled and slick-
looking in its fresh-minted incarnation.
A woman on my right is heard to say
she wants to show her greys – struck by inspiration
she adds – I'm thinking pepper-and-salt like Mary K.
We snicker, but truth to tell our common need is
to age picturesquely like Mary Kostakidis.