Attention To Detail (part 2)
c2000 riffage

Sometimes I underestimate Jose's powers of persuasion. He had convinced his parents to let him live rent-free well into his twenties, and I know for a fact what a hard-ass his dad can be. Yet there he was, snug as the proverbial bug in the same old bedroom at home at age twenty-six. Now he had turned these formidable powers on me.

Through friends of friends Jose had tracked down the address to a rave south of Detroit, something called "Nice Crispies" - Jose's flier depicted a mock-up of the Rice Krispies cereal box, with Snap, Crackle and Pop looking appropriately trippy. Not only had he convinced me to attend this atrocity in the first place (have I mentioned how much I despise dance music?) but he had me chauffeuring him over the border to get there. Oh, and Bonita, too.

"Harry, whatever you do, just be nice to her, okay? Her boyfriend just dumped her and she's been down on herself all week." Oh joy.

I had at least convinced Jose to clean himself up a bit for the border crossing - he complied by shaving and wearing a dress shirt buttoned up just enough to hide his "Cheeba Dreamin'" tee shirt, and his newly grown hair was slicked back mafioso style over his crown. I was still in my work clothes - a 'Casual Friday' flannel shirt and slacks. In my paranoid state I was more concerned about looking presentable for the border officers that dressing up for some goofball disco shuck. To my surprise Bonita was wearing her old school uniform (she cheerfully told me that it was a party anyway, and that I was the one who had to worry about dress code - I tried to convince myself that it wasn't Bonnie's attempt at getting my attention) with her school jacket wrapped around her, closely hugging her form - apart from her baby pigtails perched high atop her head she looked positively demure. In any case she was sitting in the backseat and not likely to be noticed by the custom guards.

Approaching Windsor, Jose decided to test my reserve. "By the way, just so you know, I let Bonita in on the hair-growing pills."

I resisted the sudden urge to drive my car off the road. "Joe, I thought I had said..."

"Harold, it's not like she's blind, man, I've got three extra inches of hair on my head! She caught me without the ball cap on and I had to explain." We were talking as if Bonita wasn't sitting directly behind us. I caught her staring plaintively at me in the rear view mirror.

"Joe, can't you just get a haircut until I figure out what I'm gonna do?"

"Hey, it's my hair and I like it like this, okay? You shouldn't have offered me the pills in the first place..."


"Harry, please..." Bonita rested her hand on my shoulder. "It's okay. I won't tell anyone."

I gripped the steering wheel, contemplating ripping it out of the dashboard. Jose said this was an opportunity to relax and forget about the lost pills. I was definitely not relaxed. In fact I was more wound up than ever. Jose fiddled with the stereo, trying to tune in some distant rock station.

Bonita hugged her blazer tightly around her body. "This hair growth pill you're working on sounds interesting." I nodded, not really interested in revisiting the subject.

"Harry here is a genius. He's gonna be a rich man some day, huh?" Jose's teeth gleamed, locked in a cheshire smile.

I shrugged. "Did you look again for the container?"

"Harold, bro', you worry way too much about this shit. So you lost the pills, big deal. You can make up another batch. You should be thinking about marketing this stuff."

"I am. I suppose you wouldn't be interested in being an investor?" I asked, not expecting much of a response.

"Are you kidding? Count me in, man! I'm not only the president of this club, I'm also a client!"

Much of the remainder of the conversation revolved around brand names, campaign slogans, and rounding up investors for this miracle drug of mine. I had kind of imagined Jose as a possible investor from the get-go - he could convince his dad to spare a few thousand, I was sure of it. Finally Jose could show the old man that he had a plan for his life. Pieces of the puzzle were slowly coming together.

Jose opened a can of Jolt after we crossed over into the States. "But the most important part of all this... who's gonna be the spokesman? Or spokeswoman?"

I rubbed my chin thoughtfully. "Well, it's a hair related product... I'm thinking it could be a hair replacement, that's a huge market right there. Maybe we could get some bald dude like, I dunno, Sean Connery? You know, before and after?"

Jose snorted. "Harry, you ain't thinking like an advertiser! Get a chick, chicks sell stuff..." I could see Bonita in the back, looking for an opening into the coversation.

Jose snapped his fingers. "I got it. What's-her-face from that shampoo commercial... Portia De Rossi. She's got it goin' on, bro. Blond hair down to here and all that, yo?"

"Even better..." I wagged my finger, grinning broadly. "We get that chick from Felicity, what's-her-name who chopped off her hair. She takes some of the pills and viewers could watch her hair grow in time-lapse back to it's original glory. YES!" I high-fived Jose.

Bonita took advantage of the pause. "Keri Russell looks awful with that haircut. She should have kept it long."

I turned my eyes from the road for a second. "I couldn't agree with you more, Bonnie." She smiled, happy for the attention.

Jose chimed in. "Yeah, Harry hates it when a chick cuts her hair. He'd outlaw scissors if he could."

"What do you mean?" Bonita sat up, her curiousity piqued. I gripped the steering wheel harder.

"Bonita, my dear sister, you probably don't know this but you are riding with a driver who is one super-nutzoid long hair freak-of-the-week! Shit, why do you think his name is 'Harry'? It's his codename..."

"AAAAHHGGGH!!!!" Once again, Jose was blabbing out the type of information I was always trying to keep secret, to Bonita no less. I could feel the veins bulge in my neck as I scowled at Jose.

Bonita laughed. "What, like he likes long hair that much? I didn't know that. That's kind of wierd..." She saw the scowl I intended for Jose and stopped speaking.

"Oh Harry here is a total long hair gonzo." Jose was well aware that he was pissing me off, but he kept going. "Some guys, you know, they look at tits or bush or a chick's ass... Harold's a hair man all the way."

"Jose, for the love of God... SHUT THE FUCK UP!"

Bonita was used to the way Jose was speaking to her, treating her like one of the guys. To her credit, she tended to shrug it off. "I never heard this. Is that true, Harry - I mean Jim?"

I was a bit releived - her using my proper name was a welcome change. "Look, I just like long hair on a woman, that's all. It's nothing." We took the turnpike, heading west of Detroit.

Jose stretched his arms behind his head. "Hey, why do you think he developed the drug? He wants to make everyone into hippies."

I tried to calm myself with sweet thoughts of strangling Jose to death. "Joe, I told you, it was an accident. I just came across the formula during my regular experiments and followed it through to its proper end. I didn't set out to make a hair-growth drug."

Jose sensed that I had had enough. "Okay, it's alright, it's alright. Look, let's forget the whole hair pill thing and relax. We're here to have fun tonight, right?"

I was tense, unable to calm down. There was still a vial of pills that may or may not have found their way into the garbage, or who knows where. There was still several weeks' worth of unaccounted lab work at Banting. Maybe there were still chemicals floating in Jose's system whose after-effects had yet to make themselves known. For now, though, the only two people who knew about this were in the car with me, heading for Detroit. Jose was his usual happy-go-lucky self, working his way out of the button-down I'm sure he absolutely despised. On the other hand, I looked back at Bonita in the rear-view... she had undone her pigtails and was fluffing out her curly hair, swinging it around her ears as if trying to make it look as long as possible. I had a long night ahead of me.

* * *

We pulled up at around nine p.m. to the warehouse where the rave was already underway. Scores of kids were milling about outside, staying in the shadows in case any cop cars were out and about. Jose stretched and stood facing the building, looking like a bull about to charge. "Alright, let's get a move-on, you guys!" He jumped up as if her were doing an ollie on a skateboard, his baggy pants billowing. Bonita doffed her blazer in the back seat and set to rolling up the top of her kilt over the beltline, carefully keeping her shirt-tails neatly tucked, and eventually raised her hem above her knees up to mid-thigh. I was not used to seeing her bare-lagged and was a little stunned by this unprompted display of firm thigh and calf.

Jose snuck up behind me and whispered, "You know, if she catches you looking at her like that, she might get the impression that you like her."

"Shut up, Joe," I snarled. Jose laughed and started for the front door of the warehouse.

Jose and Bonita paid and sauntered in, but as Bonita had suggested would happen, I was hassled by the bodyguards at the door - they insisted that I looked like an undercover cop in my 'grunge-wear.' Thankfully, Jose and Bonita were able to sweet-talk the guys into letting me in. Pissed off, I paid my twenty American dollars and followed the Carras siblings inside.

The space inside seemed huge, lit with lasers and television screens shrouded in clouds of cottony dry ice smoke. The room was crowded with hundreds of ravers, most looking like they were barely out of high school, and many more looking like they had a few years of high school left to go. Lots of people were wearing sports wear of various sorts - I counted five Nike 'swooshes' on the attire of one kid alone - along with fun-fur pants, sneakers, t-shirts with various inside-joke messages scrawled on front, tube tops, and what Jose described to me as 'capri pants.' Most of the kids had severly cropped and dyed hair, looking somewhat like punks by way of the Teletubbies. One of these munchkins, a pretty girl with her head buzzed except for bright blue pixie bangs, approached me almost as soon as I stepped into the main dance space with some sort of blue drink, offering it to me. I declined. I felt more like my own Dad than I ever have, tempted to shout out "what the hell is wro ng with you kids today?"

Jose was off doing his usual thing, dancing with the girls and chatting them up. He wasn't asking to see I.D., but it looked like it might have been a good idea in some instances. Bonita loosened her tie and dragged me into the middle of throng for an attempt at dancing - she was gyrating like a pro, swivelling her hips and the whole bit, yelling things in my ear as an attempt at conversation while I stood there like an idiot. Luckily one of her old high school friends stopped by and they started squealing and hugging, saving me further embarassment on the dance floor. I slunk away, trying to find a beer to drink. Unfortunately I found out that the joint had no liquor license - the guy behind the bar offered me something called a 'smart drink' - it was more of that blue gunk that girl had offered me earlier. I passed.

I was on my own for the next few hours. Jose would come over now and then, introducing me to someone or other, asking me if I was doing all right. I always lied and said I was having fun. Bonita also caught up with me at one point, her shirt untucked and sticking to her with sweat, asking me back out on the dancefloor - I smiled, saying that I'd rather leave the boogying to the pros. She shimmied away, a hurt look on her face.

I discovered that there were pockets of space where you could actually hear yourself talk, usually behind a wall or pillar, but the things most of these people had to say were not worth hearing about. I mentioned words from my own school days - "rugger pants," "Breakfast Club," "The Ramones" - but I got either looks of disgust or simple blank stares. I was feeling very, very old. Defeated, I finally shelled out the five dollars for a bottle of water and retreated to a corner couch to watch the action from the sidelines.

I was trying to "feel the beat," as some kid had described to me - being sober I was at a bit of a handicap. I sat on the sofa, tapping my foot in sequence with the bassy throb. I then closed my eyes, pretending as if I had a hope in hell of a nap for an hour until it was time to go. Fat chance.

I opened my eyes and saw a young girl standing a few feet away, making her way around the crowd to the washroom. What caught my eye was her bushy brown hair, particularly the longer portion in front hanging in her eyes. The bottom two inches of her hair were dyed a bright blue. It occurred to me that she looked an awful lot like the girl who had offered me the drink earlier.

Curious, I got up and started following her, but then I saw a black kid in a Superman t-shirt, who I recognised from when I had come in. He had had a shaved scalp when I first saw him, but now he had a one-inch afro and stubble on the point of his chin.

I pushed my way through the crowd, searching for Jose.

I found him on the other side of the room, offering a Chinese girl one of the hair growth tablets, which she swallowed with a gulp of water. I grabbed Jose and pulled him aside.

"Harry, dude, what the fuck?" The vial of pills was sticking pistol-fashion out of his belt.

"You son of a bitch! I've been looking for those pills and you had them along! You goddamn, motherfuckin' - "

"Hey! HEY!" Jose pushed me back by the shoulders. "Calm down a minute. Let me explain... "

"EXPLAIN WHAT! That's a potentially dangerous fucking pill you're selling, you're fucking selling MY - "

"No, no, no, not selling, bro, I'm just handing them out to people who wanna try them."

My jaw dropped. This was unbelieveable. "Why in God's name are you handing this shit out? What the hell are you telling these kids when you give it to them?"

"Hey, I just tell them to wait a few hours and they'll feel something they've never felt before. Look around, it's the hit of the night, dude!"

I looked around the crowd. Here and there I saw ravers (mostly female - this was Jose handing the pills out, after all) pushing back thick curtains of shiny hair, often with tell-tale dyed ends. To my right two girls in bras and track pants were screaming gleefully, pointing at each other's crop of hair hanging in their eyes. Another girl was dancing on a concrete podium near the middle of the floor, swinging thick blond-tipped red tresses, looking delighted at the sensation. Most of the people who looked like they had taken the hair-growth pill were smiling blissfully, showing off their newly grown manes to the dancers around them.

Jose continued, yelling over the beat. "See, you left the pills behind, and I knew you weren't gonna do anything useful with them, so I figured, why not bring them to Nice Krispies? These people will take anything you give them, as long as you say the right thing."

My panic was returning full force. "Joe, listen, I still have not properly tested this pill, do you understand? There are now dozens of people here who could get sick from this."

"Harold, brother, relax, okay? I feel fine, these people feel fine. Look around, you got a lot of happy customers here."

I watched the crowd swirl and writhe. The ravers who had taken the pill were letting the hair fall in their eyes. Even people with hair tied back were undoing their ponytails and letting their hair flop over their faces in a show of unity. People were whooping and screaming, flinging their hair around, running their fingers through each others' locks as well as their own. It was like an ocean of swinging hair rippling before my eyes, pulsating under the strobe lights. I could only look on in bewilderment and hope that no one would notice my developing hard-on.

"See, you were talking about marketing, right?" Jose was pointing to the crowd. "Well, I figured that we'd start with free samples, and build a rep here, then at the next rave we could sell it for ten bucks a pop. I even came up with a name for it: 'Harry's Fave!' You know, Harry, hairy... like in h-a-i-r-y? Get it?"

I looked back at Jose and stammered in disbelief. "Joe, that's not what I meant by marketing! I meant packaging it and selling it as a hair supplement, not a goddamn raver's drug, for crying out loud!"

I felt a tug on my arm from behind. "Harry!"

It was Bonita. She was jumping ecstatically, hanging onto me like a pogo stick. To my shock, her hair now hung down in thick gleaming curls over her shirt collar. "Your pill really works, Harry! This is amazing!"

I stood there, trying to take all of this in. She continued babbling, grinning ear to ear. "I couldn't believe it when I looked in the mirror! I haven't had hair this long since grade school!"

She put her arms around me and kissed me on the cheek, grabbing my hand. "I think it's still growing... feel it, it's incredible." She then fed my fingers into the hair on the side of her head. It felt very thick and soft, and damp with sweat. Gingerly I guided my fingertips up to her scalp and felt at the roots, but couldn't detect anything beyond the pleasant silkiness of her curls.

"It feels nice," I babbled, trying to be heard over the music. I was trying to detect some difference in the hair shaft indicating recent growth, anything approximating scientific analysis. Hell, I was just trying to get my bearing at this point. Bonita, on the other hand, was resting her head in my hand, closing her eyes and smiling beatifically. There was nothing at all scientific in her expression. She looked positively radiant.

"The top of my head is still all tingly, so I think it's still growing. Do you think I should take another pill and grow it longer?"

I was about to dissuade her from taking any more pills, when there was yet another tug at my shoulder from behind, this time from Jose. "Dude, there's someone who wants to talk with you." I pulled away from Bonita and faced a skinny kid with an uneven goatee and sweaty blond hair twisted up into makeshift devil horns. Jose spoke to the kid. "Kyle, this here's Harry, he's the one who cooked up the Fave."

The kid shook my hand vigorously, as if he was trying to tear it out of its socket. "Dude, that is some mad pills you fixed up, fuck, am I tripping or did I grow like three inches of hair?" He continued shaking my hand, ranting and mumbling. I could only make out parts of his lecture over the din: "fuck... everyone's grown...awesomeness... it's like... mad... hair flying... " and so on until he became distracted and stumbled back into the crowd, shouting something along the lines of being the devil. I turned back around and found that Bonita had disappeared, lost somewhere in the sea of hair.

Jose was handing out more pills to a group of teenage girls. I could see him making hair-growing motions with his fingers, waving his hand frantically over his head. I pulled him aside and shouted in his ear. "If you and Bonita want a lift back to Hamilton, I'll be out in the car. You have fifteen minutes." I stormed away before Jose had a chance to respond.

* * *

Jose sat in the passenger's seat, barely saying a word. He asked me at first what I was so angry about, but he knew damn well what it was that caused me to stomp out of the rave. He looked peeved, like a child who had been denied a second cone of cotton candy at the fair. Petulantly he buried his chin in his chest and waited to nod off. Bonita, for her part, looked very tired, less disappointed about being dragged away than looking forward to resting in the back seat on the way back. She came out guzzling water from a large plastic bottle, using her free hand to hold back her newly grown ebony mane, which now draped abundantly over her shoulders. The only time she spoke before lying down to sleep was to ask me if I though the longer hair looked good on her. I sighed and said it suited her very well. She mumbled a satisfied "thank you" before finishing off the last of her water, and then curled up in back, fading out of sight. I wanted to tell her she looked very attractiv e with her hair long, that it framed her face nicely and she should grow it out some more - and it did, and she should have - but after everything I had just gone through in the past few days I just wanted to drop off the two of them in Hamilton and go home.

It was past 3 a.m. when Jose woke up with a start. He asked me where we were and I told him that we were fifteen minutes past Kitchener, maybe another twenty to thirty minutes away from their house. Jose yawned and unfolded a flier from the rave, looking over what looked like a list of names and phone numbers scribbled in pen. "It's just as well we left when we did. Almost all of the pills were gone."

I rubbed my temple, contemplating a hot coffee. "How many were left?"

"Maybe a dozen." Jose stretched and tucked the flier in his pants pocket. I could here him fumbling around, as if looking for something. "Uh, Harold... " There was an unwelcome nervousness in his voice. "Don't get mad, but I can't find the container of pills."

I rolled my eyes and sighed, slowing the car down as I took an exit ramp to a service station. "Tell you what, don't worry about it. If you were handing out so many pills to so many people, it's not like we have any cover left to blow. The loss of what was left is probably a good thing. Good fucking riddance."

I pulled up to the drive through and ordered a coffee, no sugar, no cream. Jose asked for a blueberry muffin and some juice. Bonita looked like she was fast asleep - Jose said it looked like she had her school jacket pulled over her head - so we left her alone. I paid for the goods, and then pulled up to the pumps to fill up the gas tank.

After I paid for the gas and got back in the car, Jose excitedly held up the pill bottle. "I found it on the floor of the car... guess it fell out of my pocket or something."

Bonita coughed in the back seat. I started up the car and did a double-take. "Why is the bottle empty? Did the cap fall off?"

"No, man, the cap was on tight."

Bonita coughed again, and I heard something splash on the floor of the car. I looked over my shoulder at Bonita - her body was shaking slightly. I hurriedly pulled over the car to the side of the roadway and switched on the overhead light. Jose undid his seat belt and turned around to look at his sister. "Holy shit, that's not her jacket over her head, that's hair!"

I looked back and saw that there was several feet of glossy black hair covering her head and upper body, quivering as she coughed and wheezed. Jose lifted away her hair - the skin was red and inflamed at the hairline, and her lips and shirt collar were smeared with lime-green ooze. A small puddle of green vomit sat on the floor mat below her head.

"Joe, get in the backseat and keep her head up so she can breathe." Jose had barely clambered in back with his sister before I gunned the car back onto the freeway, heading towards the nearest hospital I knew of.

* * *

Jose and I sat in the lobby of Kerr Memorial Hospital, waiting for news from the doctor. We had told them nothing about being at the rave in Detroit - as it happened, the hospital was only ten minutes away from the Carras household, making our alibi a little easier to make up. We told them that Bonita had overdosed on a vitamin supplement of some sort. I insisted that Jose be checked out too, as I had told them that he had taken a tablet or two himself. Jose got a clean bill of health, which could only bode well, or so we hoped. Meanwhile Bonita was upstairs having her stomach pumped.

The sun was just coming up outside when the doctor came back downstairs. "She's going to be all right. I don't know what that garbage was in her system but she's detoxing nicely now. She might have to stay a day or two for observation, though."

Me and Jose breathed a sigh of relief. "Can we see her?" I asked.

The doctor rubbed his eyes, probably looking forward to the end of his shift. "We did have to give her a mild sedative, so she's a bit out of it, but it wouldn't be a bad idea. Mr. Carras, I'll assume that you'll pass on the word to her parents that she's doing fine?"

"Sure will." Jose was about as quiet and subdued as I've ever seen him. It was a little eerie, actually, but considering the circumstances it wasn't too surprising.

Bonita's bed was one of three in her room, nearest to the window. Her eyes were closed and her chest was rising and falling almost imperceptably with her shallow breaths. And atop it all, of course, was her hair, hanging in a shiny tapestry of black curls tumbling over the bedsheet and piled in her lap. Jose called her name and her eyes parted, heavy-lidded and fluttering rapidly. "Jose..." she whispered in infant-like tones, "que pasa..."

Bonita and Jose talked quietly, careful not to rouse the other two people lied out fast asleep in the other beds. I moved over to the far side of the bed. My upper body broke the light of the sun across the bed, leaving a shadow stretched over her.

She turned towards the darkness, squinting. "Jim? Hi, you're here too..." She smiled weakly, her eyes glazed, and lifted her drooping hand as if to wave hello.

"How you feeling?" No response. "Okay?"

Bonita didn't seem to hear my question. Her fingers slid into the pile of hair in her lap. She played with the tangle, letting out short breaths approximating an attempt at laughter. "I grew my hair out for you... do you like it?"

I froze. Bonita kept staring, her head turning as if she was looking at something just over my shoulder, barely conscious of what she was saying. My stomach turned. This was just too much for me to handle. Overwhelmed by the guilt, and exhausted by everything I had gone through, I buried my face in my hands, sobbing uncontrollably while Jose sat in mute shock, not sure what to say. Bonita's fingers continued to idly dance in her heavy blanket of hair, struggling sluggishly like a small animal snared in a bush and unable to break free.

* * *

I took a few days off from Banting, citing family troubles. I seriously considered destroying the ledger containing the notes on the tablets I had developed, but I decided against it. Perverse as it sounds, the unplanned experiments I had witnessed over the past few days gave me hope that the drug had possibilities if properly refined, and there was hope of conducting further tests and developing it further, under regulated terms back at Banting. I decided to put aside the work I had done, until I had a chance to clear my head. Time would tell if any ill effects were to show in anyone who had taken the pills at the rave. From what Jose had gathered from friends in the scene, the rave had already become something of an odd legend, and the 'mad doctors' who had handed out the drug were nowhere to be found. In fact, the new talk on the scene was wigs with long bangs in place of pixie cuts, and short bangs were starting to fall out of favour. I could only laugh at the ridiculou sness of the situation - if nothing else came of this ordeal, that was an accomplishment I could take a warped pride in. I've always thought that pixie bangs should be outlawed.

Two days after taking Bonita to the hospital, Jose took a break from cleaning up the house to come up with me to visit her. Their parents were coming back in a few days and we were still getting our stories straight. Jose had taken the initiative to get his hair cut to its usual style - "one less thing I have to explain to Madre and Padre," he told me - though it really would have helped if he hadn't gone to the same salon that he had gone to for his first crewcut, but that's Jose for you ("You should have seen the expression of the chick who cut my hair the first time - she kept looking at me from two chairs over, wondering if I was the same guy! Wicked!")

I brought a modest bouquet of flowers for Bonita. Jose thought it was a nice gesture, but ribbed me about it all the same. Things seemed to be returning to normal between us friends, thank god.

As we were approaching Bonita's room, Jose pulled back and put his hand on my shoulder. "Hey, Harold, listen, why don't you go in and I'll catch up with you guys later?"

"Uh, I'd rather you came with me. It'd be a little uncomfortable just the two of us in there."

"Yeah, sure... " Jose stroked his chin, his expression somewhat Machiavellian. "Look, bro, I'm not laying any blame here, you know we've gone through this before and everything's cool and all..."

"Jesus, blame who for what?"

Jose frowned, his voice growing unexpectedly harsh. "Look, dude, you know Bonita's crazy about you, fuck knows why, and she's been trying to get your attention for years, and you keep dumping on her left and right, even though I know and you know you're scared shitless of admitting that you like her too." He shushed me before I could cry out in denial and continued. "Now this is a real stupid thing she did, and you know my sister's not one to do stupid things. There's an obvious reason why she took those fuckin' pills, and it's about time you got the stick out of your ass and return some of those attentions, 'cause you owe her, alright?"

I stood speechless, unable to drum up a comeback. Jose shrugged. "Besides, you go for the long haired honeys, and there's one in that room there who's totally loco over you. You can't ask for more, can you?"

Without waiting for my response, Jose turned back down the corridor. I held up my hand. "Where you going?"

"Oh, I'm gonna talk to that blond in reception. That chick's got it going on!" Jose laughed. "I'll see you later, dude. Don't blow it!" With that he turned and left me alone in the hallway. I held up the xinnias I had brought for Bonita, shook my head, and proceeded down the hall to face my fate.

I knocked on the door to her room and entered. Bonita was alone in the room, lying back in her nightgown with the sheets pulled up over ler legs. She dropped the magazine she was reading and sat up, excited to see me. "Jimmy! Hi!" She cooed and thanked me for the flowers and sat them on her end table. "I'll ask the nurse later if she can get a vase or something for them. Thank you very much!"

I sat down in the chair by her bedside. "You're looking a lot better, I see."

"I feel fine. Dr. Wasserman says I can probably check out tomorrow. They say there's only trace residue in my bloodstream. It should clean itself out pretty soon."

I looked at her hairline for any trace of irritation, but didn't see anything. She looked as healthy as always, the only difference being the long mane of hair enveloping her head and torso. "So how does it feel to be a longhair now?"

Bonita's face swelled, bursting with glee. "Oh god, it's amazing! I've gotten so-o-o many compliments from everybody about my hair. I never thought about growing it long before, but I'm glad it worked out the way it did. I feel like a new person, totally!"

I noticed that she had not stopped fussing with her curly locks since I had entered the room. Indeed, it was hard not to look at her as a different person now, a new woman - I was a bit mesmerised, in fact. "It looks good on you. I hope you keep it."

"Oh, definitely. I couldn't possibly cut this off." With that she took up her hair in both hands, rubbing the ends on her cheeks, and then giddily throwing it in the air, letting the long tendrils fall over her eyes and laughing girlishly. "I can't believe all of this came out of my head!" she squealed. "It's amazing, don't you think?"

"Bonnie, it's gorgeous." I smiled, watching her frolic under her masses of ebony foliage.

She pushed her hair aside either side of her face. "It's gonna take some adjustments, though - I've been thinking about what I'm going to do with it at the gym, 'cause there's no way all of this is fitting under my racing cap. Feel it!" Giggling, she handed me her hair in a big bundle. I could barely get my thumb and middle finger around it all. "See, it's so thick! I figure I can just use four or five scrunchies around it and make a big rope down to my butt. The guys at the gym are gonna just freak when they see me!"

I rubbed the curls between my fingers, enjoying the smooth texture on my palm. "Any thoughts on how you're gonna explain this to your parents?"

"Oh, I already did. They called yesterday and I told them that we went to a salon in Toronto and you bought some really good hair extensions for me."

"I bought - ?"

Just then a nurse poked her head in the door. "Ms. Carras? Sorry to interrupt, but you wanted to let me know if the shower room came available for you to use? Well, the one at the end of the hall is free." She saw me sitting there, stroking Bonita's hair. "Or perhaps it can wait if you have visitors?"

Bonita turned to me, smiling slyly like a cat with a mouse trapped in its maw. "Uh, actually, my boyfriend wanted to help me wash my hair. That's okay, isn't it?"

The nurse returned Bonita's knowing grin. "Oh, that shouldn't be a problem. You two have fun!"

The door closed and I looked around in vain for anyone else in the room that could be mistaken for a boyfriend, but it was only me and Bonita in that room. There was no wriggling out of this one. Bonita swung her legs out from under the sheets. "That's okay, isn't it? I mean..." She reached up to the side of her head and coquettishly tousled her tresses. "I mean, you have no problem with playing with a beautiful woman's long, sexy wet hair, do you?" She made kissy noises and pouted Marilyn Monroe style, rubbing my arm with long strokes.

At the back of my mind there was a tiny voice urging me to run for my life. The voice was unanimously outvoted. "Oh, why not?" I took her by the arm and helped her out of bed and out into the hall.

She held on to my shoulder as we walked, though I'm sure she was strong enough to walk under her own power. With her free hand she repeatedly pushed the masses of hair away from either side of her face, talking rapidly all the while. "So I got to check out a website on hair care down in the common room last night -" Her hair kept tumbling in curtains over her eyes - I thought of suggesting that she push it behind her ears, but there was likely too much hair to stay put. I was contented to watch her play with the thick black vines which seemed to drift about her face on her own accord. It was a bit wierd playing the 'boyfriend' after so many years of fighting her off. I was wondering if I could ever really get used to it.

"... and we should only wash it with cold water, like you'd wash silk with cold water. I don't have a brush with me and besides I don't want it to frizz up... " She stopped to face me, letting her hair roll slowly over her cheeks towards her eyes as if tired of fighting with it. "So maybe we can just work our fingers through it to get out the tangles..."

Bonita paused, and we stood facing each other. I reached down and placed my palms on either side of her face, and drew the hair away from her eyes, draping it gently over her shoulders and back. Her lips parted slightly, taken aback by my gesture. I too was surprised, and unsure of my actions. Without thinking I tilted my head down and kissed her lightly, letting my lips rest gently on hers. She threw her arms over my shoulders, pressing her body into mine, and hugged me tightly. As my hands cupped her sides we broke off our embrace and nervously giggled. Bonita turned and guided me with an arm on my back down the hall. "Gotta wash this hair, huh?" She sniffed and I caught a tear escaping her eye... a tear of absolute clear joy. She rested her arm on my shoulder while I stroked the regal cloak of hair that flowed behind her, and we continued towards the end of the hall.

I had a hard time taking in and processing what I had just experienced, that bizarre epiphany that stopped time in its tracks when I moved the hair from Bonita's visage. I was looking into the face of a beautiful woman I had never really seen before, one whose deep brown eyes revealed nothing but a pure love that shone brightly in every direction, washing over me like warm water. I have to say it's humbling for a man of science to admit that there are details which somehow avoid his closest study, and which have to be pointed out to him from time to time. It was a lesson well-learned and long overdue.

CLICK HERE to return to the Hair Tales index