by Barak Fravasi
A young woman was sitting at the table ahead of mine at Starbucks this morning working on a PowerPoint about Vasodilators, I noticed as I walked in, and her blondeness and general whiteness made it difficult for me to tell whether she was an undergraduate or a medical student. I sat down facing her and noticed that she wore a gray cardigan over a t-shirt I recognized at once. This was the design on the t-shirts sold during Led Zeppelin’s 1977 tour, and I had bought one then, though hers was obviously a replica, I thought, not just because t-shirts rarely last thirty years but because this woman was probably learning to master a fork when my own Zeppelin-induced vasodilation took place.
After a few minutes, the table beside hers was occupied by two blonde moms who had come from dropping off their daughters at the Hurstley School. I’ve seen one of them in local cafes fairly often, always clean-looking and attractive enough, but pushing things with the pony tail, I think, and apparently unwilling to smile. The moms seemed to be discussing discontents and grievances of one sort or another until the unsmiling mom, who was facing the young woman with the computer and the Led Zeppelin t-shirt, became distracted by the color of the girl’s hair. Soon she had convinced the other mom to turn around completely to admire the work, which was actually lit quite perfectly by the spotlights that converged on the young woman’s head, though she was focused on vasodilators and various text messages and didn’t seem to notice the attention. I returned to my book and thought: I often joke that, here in New England, all blondes look the same to me; but what if this is basically true?
A full five minutes went by before the mom on the far side got up, approached the young woman, complemented her, and asked where the hair coloring had been done. The young woman was happy to oblige and indeed she had several business cards from the hairdresser in Harrisville who had created these much-admired low-lights. The young woman said she had received many compliments, which didn’t seem to register with the unsmiling mom one way or the other, and as they talked about something to do with the cost or the coloring process I could see rising a mutual recognition that, in fact, nothing the low-light artist in Harrisville could do was going to give this mom what she wanted. Soon the young woman with the t-shirt of vintage design was back to her PowerPoint, and the moms were gathering their empty paper cups for the trash. They left the table without saying goodbye to the young woman, but she noticed them leaving nonetheless, and her eyes followed them out the door with a minor smile of surprising energy.