Tom considered himself a model citizen. He kept regular hours and pursued a high-paying career as a financial advisor, in which he was held in high esteem by any number of well-heeled clients. He did pro bono work for charity and even sat on the board of one of them. He voted in every election, where he tended to vote a straight Republican ticket. Although unmarried and childless at the age of 32, he took pleasure in coaching Little League and would have made an ideal candidate for the PTA or the Boy Scouts. As I say, Tom was the perfect model of Southern California respectability.
That is, until Cindy moved in across the street. He had seen her that first day as she drove up to meet some workmen, who were doing repairs incidental to her moving in, and had a fleeting glimpse at the shimmering mass of black hair piled on her head, a glorious sight that awoke in him all his most hidden desires. Tom had never married for the simple reason that he had never found the woman who could fulfill his secret passion, and Tom was most particular on this point. His ideal woman would have the longest, most perfect mane of hair in the universe. He had set his heart on this. It wasn't that he hadnít searched for her, heaven knows. Indeed, there had been several instances when Tom felt he had found his perfect mate. There had been Sharon, for instance, whose fiery red hair had driven him almost to distraction. It had the most extraordinary sheen and texture. If only she had allowed it to grow to a decent length! Or Anne, one of his clients, with that beautiful thick, wavy hair of hers that flowed tantalizingly to her waist. Tom began looking forward to their biannual meetings with ever mounting anticipation, for her hair was growing progressively longer, fuller, and ever more luxuriant. Then one day she had arrived to discuss some changes to her portfolio with her hair freshly cropped to above her ears. Tom was so distraught he barely heard a word she said. A few others had flitted in and out of his life, but that ideal remained allusive, and Tom could only continue to dream. His mind was clouded by images of the hundreds of photographs he had collected over the years showing women with the most magnificant hair, flowing long and seductively down their backs. Wonderful fantasies of silken treasure, all of them untouchable, all so distant. Did such creatures actually exist in reality?
Then Cindy had arrived and brought new meaning to his life. That first promising glance was re-enhanced the following week when Cindy arrived to move in to her new home. Tom was in the front room as the moving van appeared and had his binoculars at the ready when her blue Chevy drew up a few minutes later. He could see her clearly now, stepping out to confer with the van driver. Tom carefully focused, and she came into sharper view. Rather tall and stately, well dressed, he noticed, with hazel eyes. But all Tomís attention was riveted on the thick mound of rich, dark hair piled on her head. There seemed so much of it! It spread out from ear to ear in heavenly profusion, making her appear even taller than she actually was. It danced and shimmered in the sunlight, as she stood there talking to the movers. It seemed to glow with a life of its own. Tom thought back over his picture collection and couldnít remember a photo in it that was anywhere nearly as perfect. How did her hair look when she let it down? How long was it? Tomís binoculars shook in his hands just thinking about it. He longed for her to do something with her hair now. To release it and brush it out right there in the street.
Of course, she did nothing of the kind. Eventually, she opened the door to her new house and disappeared inside. The movers began unloading the van. Tom lingered by the front window all morning hoping Cindy would reappear, but she seemingly had better things to do settling in and was not seen again that day.
Nor did Tom see much of his new neighbor in the weeks that followed. Tomís work required him to leave for his office quite early, before she was apparently up. Cindy rarely appeared in her front yard. Occasionally, Tom would glimpse her briefly when she stepped out to retrieve the mail or take in the newspaper (she read the L.A. Times, he noticed). That magnificent mound of tantalizing and absolutely gorgeous hair always remained firmly piled upon her head. A couple of times it appeared damp, as if she had just washed it. Tom began to dream about her, about how she must look when she was getting ready for bed. In his dreams he could see her seated at her dressing table slowly removing pins from that glorious accumulation of dark silk and carefully releasing it from its restraining bonds. In his imagination he could picture her picking up her brush and slowing pressing it through rich, smooth strands, streaming down over her body. He could almost hear the gentle whoosh of the bristles as they floated down that liquid highway.
Tom tried to think of some pretense he could use that might allow him to make Cindyís acquaintance --why, at the time he didnít even know her name! It seemed a shame that modern suburban life allowed people to live in such close proximity for years without getting to know one another. He could simply walk up and ring her bell, of course, but on what pretext? He could have just called to welcome her to the neighborhood, but in his anxiety never thought of that. Too bad neither of them owned a dog. He had read somewhere that that was a great way to meet people.
The following June brought a period of unusually warm weather to Southern California, and Tom was home alone one evening. He had consumed one too many martinis that night and nothing was on TV. For some reason, he couldnít keep Cindy and all that magnificent hair off his mind. Was that great accumulation even real? Cindy never wore her hair down; he had seen her often enough to be sure of that. It was always kept confined to that restraining mound. Perhaps she padded it somehow. Victorian women sometimes used something called 'rats' to make their hair appear fuller, but he dismissed this idea. People didnít do things like that nowadays, when long, full hair is no longer the fashion. What would be the point? Maybe there was some other reason Cindy never wore her hair loose. Perhaps Cindyís hair was so long she could never wear it down with safety for fear of it tripping her up. This idea filled Tomís mind with renewed excitement. Perhaps that wonderful mound concealed literally yards of the stuff of his dreams. Tom could stand it no longer; he had to know more about that hair!
Before he knew what he was doing, Tom was out the door and crossing the street. Night had fallen and all was still as he walked swiftly across Cindyís lawn and around to the side of her house. The front of the house was in darkness, but he could see a light coming from a rear window. Cindyís bedroom, perhaps. Tom moved silently. He knew he was trespassing, but he couldnít help himself. Something compelled him onward. He opened the side gate and slipped into Cindyís side yard. The light was brighter here and beckoned him onward. He could see the rear window was open to take advantage of the soft evening air. From here he could also see that the blind was only partially drawn. He got down on his hands and knees and crept slowly forward. He peered carefully through the window.
Tom had never seen a dream come to life, but what he saw before him now matched almost perfectly the recurring dream he had had of Cindy over the past few months. Through the open window, he could see Cindy seated at her dressing table brushing out her hair. It was loose and flowed dark and long down over her night gown, the end blocked from view by the foot of the bed. Her hair seemed practically endless. It was so rich and luxurious! Tom held his breath and watched in awe. Never had he seen a more exquisite sight. Her magnificent hair was utter magic, as it rippled to the movement of her brush and glowed with a deep, radiant luster against the light. Time seemed to stop in its tracks, as he watched the vision Ruefully, it crossed his mind that he was being the proverbial Peeping Tom, and that his considerable reputation was in the greatest jeopardy should he be discovered, but he considered the risk well worth it. It isnít every day that dreams come true. He squatted there transfixed, staring at the glorious sight before him. Eventually, Cindy stood up, all that hair surrounding her like a cloud of silk, and began to weave it into a single, thick braid. Her fingers worked with practiced skill, producing twist after shimmering twist, while Tom silently made his escape. That night Tom had vivid dreams of drowning in rich folds of perfumed hair.
The earthquake struck the following day at dawn. Tom was in his breakfast nook enjoying a second cup of coffee and reading the Wall Street Journal, as he did every weekday at this time. He was just getting ready to tidy up and leave for work, when he heard the roar and the lights abruptly went out. Tom had lived in Southern California long enough to know what was happening. The entire house suddenly became animated. Pictures began to sway on the walls. Knickknacks jumped crazily on their shelves. Things fell and crashed. Then, as suddenly as it started, everything was still.
Tom went outside to survey the damage. The entire neighborhood seemed to be gathered in the street. People were talking excitedly to one another, and Tom thought how ironic it was that it took something like a natural disaster to bring neighbors together like this. He looked casually around for Cindy, but she seemed nowhere to be found. Then his next door neighbor pointed across the street. The front porch of Cindyís house had given way, blocking both entry and exit. Tom crossed the street rapidly and suddenly could hear sounds coming from the back. Cindy was evidently trapped somewhere in the building. He made his way carefully down the side of the house, the very path he had taken during his nocturnal adventure the night before. There was the same bedroom window he had peered through on that memorable visit. It was still ajar and through it now he could faintly hear Cindy calling for help.
A number of neighbors came rushing up as Tom raised the window and let himself in. "Be careful," someone shouted, "there may be damage." Tom moved causually forward into the hall, following Cindyís voice. There it was. Coming from behind that door. The door was jammed.
"Are you all right?" Tom called out. "Just give me a minute to figure out how to open this blasted door."
"Iím okay, just a bit shaken up. Silly me; I seem to have trapped myself in the bathroom."
The only way to open the door seemed to be to break it down. It took several concerted efforts of Tomís shoulder before the door finally gave way. And, then, for the first time, Tom stood face to face with Cindy. Her long, heavy braid was partially disheveled and gathered up into a sleek loop that hung to her waist. They both uttered a deep sigh of relief. "Thank goodness you came so quickly. Heaven knows how long I might have been trapped in there. Say, arenít you the guy who lives across the street? Iíve heard nothing but good things about you from Mrs. Reily next door." Tom blushed and felt ashamed of himself for having played the peeping tom at her window the night before, and for the first time equated Cindy with more than simply her hair.
So that is how Tom officially came to meet Cindy. They quickly became good neighbors and eventually much more than that. Tom helped her get her home repaired; the damage turned out to be far less than was originally anticipated. The house was finally sold a few weeks after their marriage. Cindyís hair has tuned out to be everything Tom could have hoped for. He clearly remembers the first time she let him touch it. It is, indeed, long, a magnificent cloak of black velvet that reaches to her toes. Tom is hoping it will grow even longer, and Cindy is perfectly willing to fulfill his request, now that heís around to help her with it, something he is more than happy to do. In the evenings a little ritual has been established -- donít even attempt to contact Tom and Cindy after 10 at night. Cindy sits at her dressing table, and Tom slowly removes the pins from the thick daytime mound of silk seen by the rest of the world. Cindyís coal-black tresses are released and flow forth in a glossy torrent that streams down her back and onto the carpet beneath her feet. Tom gathers up the rich strands and spreads them out so they flow evenly down over the back of the chair and carefully arranges the ends under it out of the way. Cindy hands him her brush, and Tom spends the next half hour in bliss counting out the hundred required strokes. Cindyís hair begins to glisten blue-black in the lamp light. Then Cindy braids her hair and itís off to bed for further bliss.
Tom finds Cindyís hair much more satisfying than any of the lifeless pictures in his photo collection, a collection he eventually burned. The two of them have remained open about everything. The only thing Tom has never told Cindy is about that June night before the quake when he came spying on her. But no matter. Tom will never have to play the peeping tom again.
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