“That’s a common mistake, mi amigo,” Sal Gonzalez says. He stops clipping, looks into the barbershop mirror at Larry Shanks. Sal stands to the right and a bit behind Larry; it would be the blind side, if not for reflection. “That’s my first marriage. I married my friend. And we’re still friends.”
Larry rolls his neck, says: “One day you look up and you’re roomies. Sex? Maybe. Sometimes. Schedule it.”
“And couples need that passion,” Sal says, resuming the clip-clip. “I married three times. Third time’s the charm. With Rita 33 years. I am blessed. Without Rita, I’m dead.”
COVID-19 had almost killed Sal three months earlier. He’d been on a respirator—torture!—and had pneumonia. It took eleven weeks to recover and get back to work.
“All the nurses on every shift knew Rita.”
“How old are you, Sal?”
“Not for me.” And even if Sal wanted to, he couldn’t since he’d lost his savings in a Ponzi scheme. Rita had stuck with him through that, too.
Anyway, how many times can you golf or bowl? How much TV? Sal doesn’t own the business: It’s Buddy’s Barbershop. Sal did own a beauty salon for 25 years, but then sold it. No more managing headaches. The fact that Sal had been a women’s hair stylist ups his stock. On Saturdays—with Buddy, Sal, and Mickey all here—guys wait for Sal. Buddy and Mickey say, “anybody?” Guys pretend not to hear. Sometimes, someone’s in enough of a hurry to not bother hanging until Sal’s free, but not always. Buddy and Mickey stare at the TV.
Photos line the bottom of the mirror in front of Sal’s chair. One old newspaper clipping of young Sal sliding into third base. He’d been drafted by the Pirates, heading to the Bigs, but then fractured his leg in three places. He still limps.
Larry’s a biggun, about 45. An electrician with two kids who’s blown up his life with divorce.
“Passion,” Larry murmurs, squinting at his reflection as if looking for somebody far off.
“It’s not always boiling,” Sal explains. “But in general, mi amigo, things need to work in the bedroom or . . ..”
“Right. But the kids.”
“Kids are tough. They’ll be OK.”
A myth, Sal knows. Kids hate divorce. It ruins some, scars all.
Door opens, bell rings. Another regular: Joe Kinego.
Larry and Sal talk about last night’s game the next few minutes.
When Sal finishes, Larry gives Sal a hefty tip while looking out the window.
“Any time, mi amigo.”
Sal gestures Joe into the chair, drapes the cape over him, affixes the neck strip. Joe’s in his early 30s; warehouse manager. It’s not Sal who brings up Joe’s three-year starter marriage.
“Just a trim, Sal. I’m dating again.”
“Good! Back in the saddle!”
“You know what it was, Sal? We stopped being friends.”
“That’s my second marriage, mi amigo,” Sal says. “You really need that friendship factor. A trim, you say?”
Frank Diamond’s poem, “Labor Day,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize Award. His short stories have appeared in RavensPerch, the Examined Life Journal, Nzuri Journal of Coastline College, the Fredericksburg Literary & Art Review, and the Fictional Cafe among many other publications. He has had poetry published in many publications. He lives in Langhorne, Pa.
Featured image courtesy mcmahanphoto.com, photographed by Charles Conlon in 1910.