The shape-memory of the metal keeps it curled, and though I can wrestle it through the wheel and frame, warmth makes the job so much easier.
On today's trip it feels like spring has sprung.
I'm told "Fargo," fresh out of jail, showed up at the Day Center yesterday looking chipper. The courts are likely see him as a frequent flier with a shoplifting habit and anger management issues. When he's here, though, he's among the rare ones who'll grab a broom at the end of the day. (Although maybe he was just working off his community service hours. Still, he was good about it.)
This morning he arrived wasted, looking for a shower and a washing machine.
Later, as he folded his clothes in the vestibule, he stared hard at a woman who is touchy and dismissive on her best days, so I kept an eye open for an impending explosion.
Instead, he got her laughing. They chin-flicked away the tension.
Jason gave high-and-tight haircuts to Keith and Jeremaiha. As Jason worked, I talked to George, who grew up near our neighborhood in the Twin Cities and worked at the Minneapolis Club before coming here about 15 years ago. He's been sober now for two years and he's ready to start a job next week.
My boss told me to get a gentleman's haircut before I came in, George said. Is there somebody who comes here to cut hair?
I told him a number of people cut hair, myself included.
Could we work something out? he asked.
Can you trim eyebrows, too?
Yeah, I'll even do mink eyelash transplants, but that'll cost you.
As I was cleaning up the clippers, Fargo reappeared.
I can do it, he said.
His hands seemed steady. I checked his eyes. What the hell. I can watch and make sure it doesn't go south.
Fargo left it longer on the sides than I would have but George was happy and looked quite presentable, not at all like someone who'd just gotten a haircut.
Tomorrow, there's a board meeting, and our director was rounding up a few volunteers to go testify about the Day Center. Of course, the folks are selected from our more advanced guests because the organization likes to put forward success stories and people who give money like to feel their support makes a difference.
But we agree that success most days isn't about getting someone into housing.
It may be helping a man cope as his dead toddler's birthday approaches. Or getting George cleaned up for his new job. Or letting Fargo hit the pavement and bounce back after his weeks of bologna sandwiches.
We measure our days not just by the success we produce but what we absorb, what we quiet or avert, what we start rolling. Much of this will never get to the board meeting because it doesn't qualify as lasting change.
The world can be cold even on the hottest days. Memory's grip isn't visible from here on the sidelines, but we understand that six feet of man might find barely two feet of stretch.
Most days, two feet is enough.
“The dog down there is on too short a chain. Change it, lengthen it. Then he’ll be able to reach the shade, and he’ll lie down and he’ll stop barking. And the silence will remind the mother she wanted a canary in a cage in the kitchen. And when the canary sings, she’ll do more ironing. And the father’s shoulders in a freshly ironed shirt will ache less when he goes to work. And so when he comes home he’ll sometimes joke, like he used to, with his teenage daughter. And the daughter will change her mind and decide, just this once, to bring her lover home one evening. And on another evening, the father will propose to the young man that they go fishing together… Who in the wide world knows? Just lengthen the chain.”
— John Berger, Here is Where We Meet