[postcards] Books and Fades


[postcards] Books and Fades

December 2016

I was getting my hair cut yesterday, the clipper humming loudly as Sophie carefully traced my skull, fading from a close one to a longer two. The fade takes more skill than most people realize. The gradual shift requires a steady even hand and an eye attentive to detail. But Sophie has been doing this for a long time and so she does this while also laughing and chatting with customers.

She asked me what I was doing after, and I replied after a brief moment of thought, “Nothing much. Just some books to read.”

I’m working through Junot Diaz’s works, attempting to absorb how he sucks readers into the everyday without the use of a spectacular plot, just the gritty drama of day to day Life. 

I’m also working through a collection of Cambodian histories. I’m traveling through Cambodia this winter break for several days and I’d like to be able to have some feeling toward the land and people, feelings beyond simple aesthetic awe. I’d like to feel the pulse of the country, the energy of the humans that occupy that space. I also hope to write a good travel piece in the style of the “Postcards” column in the Harpers Magazine. 

I’m also reading Ted Chiang’s stories of Your Life and More, hoping to absorb how a skilled author can build rigorous intellectual conversation into the fabric of a human drama.

This is how I pass my day. I make coffee, read these books, and stop occasionally to jot some notes down. When I grow tired of reading I go out for some food, take a nap, meet a friend, or maybe exercise. Especially near the end of the semester when midterms cease and dead week allows hours on end of unscheduled time, I’m reminded how fascinating the University is as an institution. For four years we are free to roam and explore, relatively free from the imperatives of work, encouraged to think deeply about the bigger questions in Life and download massive amounts of knowledge. 

I opened my eyes, batting my eyelashes several times to clear off a few stray pieces of hair that had fallen from the scissors onto my eye. In the reflection of the large mirror, I looked at Sophie and noticed her dark black hair, still wet from  her morning shower.  Her figure is delicate, thin but strong. I notice how much brighter she looks than usual. I normally make an appointment late in the day and by then, after so many customers, weariness sits heavily on her shoulders and she moves slower after standing on the white linoleum floor all day, mustering for every customer a smile and a few polite questions always. 

As a young man, I’m constantly unsettled by how different patches of Society experience the rhythm of Life so differently, how class structures fundamentally alter how we move, breathe, and live from sunrise to sunset everyday. As I peruse histories and flip pages, Sophie is standing all day long in that same spot under the bright fluorescent lights, laughing with customers, effortlessly tracing heads with her humming clipper, from ten in the morning until six in the evening. fading from a shorter one to a longer two.