I met my transition man today.
Friends tell me it won’t last, but for now, he’s exactly what I need.
Unlike my husband, he’s tall and dark and uber-Christian. All day long, he has conversations with God, alternately mumbling or laughing out loud at jokes only he and God are privy to.
My husband found him on the internet, encouraged me to contact him. I wasn’t going to, but my husband kept urging me on.
“Just call him,” he said. “You might actually like the guy.”
Finally I picked up the phone. Jon answered, and he sounded nice. After a few conversations and major hesitation on my part, I booked a trip.
“Who goes to Minneapolis in January?” my friends chided. “Especially when you live in California?” I shrugged and found long underwear, a thick hat and my only winter coat.
When I pulled my gray wheelie bag down from the top shelf of our closet, photos of our little girl spilled all over the floor in the process. What am I doing? I thought to myself.
Then I headed to the bank, got a stack of $100 dollar bills and tucked them carefully into the inside zipper compartment of my hand bag. I didn’t want a paper trail coming in later to remind me of my folly, my vanity even, if things went wrong, if I regretted this crazy decision.
I boarded the flight and planned to meet Jon the next day.
It was negative six degrees in Minneapolis and piles of snow and dirty ice were mounded up along the sidewalks. I pulled out my phone and typed in Jon’s address. After twenty years of marriage, it felt odd to wander this unfamiliar city alone, searching for Jon while I tried to ignore the icy air on my face.
Finally I pulled open a glass door, the surge of warmth a shock to my frozen cheeks, and I felt my anticipation serge. Christian rock blared from an unseen source. In the empty shop, I sank into a black leather chair, staring at myself in the mirror. It was cozy, neat rows of product making pleasing symmetric designs along the walls.
Jon, charming and handsome, draped a black plastic cape around my shoulders, tucked a towel around my neck, and rolled his table near my chair, wheels making a creaking sound on the linoleum. Tentatively, I took off my wool hat.
He rubbed his palm over my head, my baby-soft new hair fuzzy, only an inch long. “We can do it,” Jon smiled. “It’s long enough.”
Someone else’s hair lay on the table along with a hot glue gun, pliers, and strips of white paper. Jon grabbed a few strands of hair, dabbed one end in hot glue, rubbed it in paper and then attached the bundle to a wisp of my own hair.
“The glue is made from tree sap,” he explained, as if that fact was the most natural thing in the world.
I felt detached, like I was watching a scene from a National Geographic documentary about a situation that is odd but could never happen to me.
Then I remember that it is me. That this expensive, surreal experience is my life.
Methodically, Jon goes about his work. Strands of hair, dot of glue, attach to head. Repeat. I watch the transition, my chemo head disappearing under a canopy of blond. Nodules of glue butt against my scalp, each one attached to wavy prosthetic hair, each one hardening into a rock the size of a pea.
Across the room, I spot photos of another woman who had undergone the same process, before and after shots. The first showed a nearly bald head. The second showed the same face with long, luxurious hair. They hardly looked like the same person.
“She was my first chemo girl,” Jon told me. “Now you girls come from all over the world. Earlier this week, a lady came from Peru.”
My guilty feelings for having indulged in this extravagance start to abate, and I settle in to watch the process unfold.
Seven hours later, I saw a new me. It wasn’t chemo me. It wasn’t cancer me. It was just… me.
Jon guided me to another chair and heavy, exotic Moroccan oil filled the air as water caressed my head, my first shampoo in months. Breathing in, I felt like a woman, a normal woman at a hair salon. He combed out my hair, 22 inches of femininity.
When I looked in the mirror, my cancer was gone.
Flushed with satisfaction, giddy in fact, I picked up my coat, my scarf, and my mittens. But I threw my hat away.
Jon, my transition man, hugged me goodbye, a permanent temporary presence in my life.
Bio: Nancy Brier is regrowing her hair in Palm Desert, California, with her balding husband and their daughter, whose hair is perfect. Connect with Nancy on Twitter @nancy_brier, and for more of Nancy’s work, please visit NancyBrier.com.