Photos of Mars

He cut my hair and talked about a new book with color photos of Mars. He was older. Before I moved into town, he did drag shows at a local bar. I still don't know his drag name. I told all my friends that he was the greatest hairdresser I ever had, without knowing if I really felt that way. I'd sit in his chair for over an hour. After the scalp massage, shampoo, conditioning, and cut, he would throw his hands in the air, shaking them rapidly and say "Oh, I just want to play with it." It was during these play times that I had my hair coiffed, teased, curled, put in barrettes, parted in the middle, on the side, tousled back--anything he felt like doing. It was this play time together, not the haircut, that made me keep coming back. He was a "new age queen" and wore a crystal around his neck. He was the first man to talk openly to me about being gay. To interact with someone who was so open about loving men validated me. My experiences weren't sleazy or void of emotion anymore. He had been full-blown for years and didn't attempt to fight the battle.

While I was his client, he had a premonition of death. He flew out to the desert in Arizona, laid in the sand, and waited for his soul to be taken. He flew back into town, bright red from a sunburn and from the humiliation that he did not have ESP. The memories of conversations we had about mutual friends, drugs we had done, people we had done, fashion, and hair seem fuzzy compared to the sharp image I have of him with khaki pants, a white button-up oxford shirt, and a utility belt with scissors, combs, brushes, and barrettes strapped to his waist. That is when he told me about the photos of Mars. He spent the majority of the time talking about the brilliant colors and how we forget there are other worlds beyond ours.

"Can't you just see it, it's almost unreal. Colors more vivid than Crayola ever imagined. What if they started a new line called 'Colors of Mars?' These photos are going to alter everything," he mused. "People are going to wake up and realize that there are more colors than what's in the Crayola box and more flavors than 32. Oh those photos are going to liberate us all. I can't wait to see it, honey," he said.

He became ill and was unable to cut my hair for five months before his death. After the funeral, I walked out of the parlor and lifted my head up thinking of Mars. I could never spot the dippers, let alone a planet. I gave up.

--Steven Reigns (2003)