Willoh and Wo
Willoh and Wo
A romance in a future not so very far away
The owner of the salon, Rozilin, wore a pink dress with a nurse’s jacket and curled her own hair in a dark flip based on pictures she had seen in old magazines. The salon walls were painted pink inside, too, even while outside everything was brown, big brown downtown, with buildings, streets, even the air, the color of rusty ends of things. But Rozilin’s shop was a rare happy place with three other stylists, and besides the salon, in one corner were some booths for men to have coffee while waiting. The trouble was women rarely came to have their hair done. Only single men, in their long raincoats, stopped by and hunched their shoulders over the mugs of steaming liquid the stylists served them.
Early one morning, Rozilin huddled with her three employees, Zif, Tigi, and Unicorn near the stairs, waiting for the stranger to come down from the little room above the salon. This young woman had wandered in the day before, and Rozilin had lent her the room for the night. The newcomer was a runaway, so she had said herself. “I can’t remember what I’m leaving behind,” she told the ladies. In fact, the girl was hallucinating. The pink of the room had swirled in ripples before her eyes as she entered the building, and the four other women that had gathered around her grew large and small, their heads like balloons, as each spoke to her. What was her name?
“Willoh,” she finally remembered, distinctly pronouncing it, “Will - oh.”
That was yesterday. Today, as another morning of spring gloom began, the salon ladies watched the young stranger come down the staircase. She wore a black sweater and black high wader jeans with ankle boots; her hair was long and loose, dishwater brown. She was neither very pretty nor plain, but an attractive surge of energy caused her to skip a little when she reached the salon floor, as if beneath the lost present she kept a pleasant past. Once I am sure of where I am again, she was able to think, then I will go on.
“Family?” asked Unicorn with the bleached buzz cut.
“My mother,” Willoh answered tentatively, trying out her voice.
“Your mother will be worried,” Rozilin said.
“Call her,” Zif put in. Zif was tall and had a wild style of two upright round ponies above her head. She, too, had seen this ‘do in the brittle pages of the magazines found in the salon’s top room.
“The phones aren’t working,” Tigi reminded them. Tigi wore owl glasses and a turquoise wig.
All of the women gathered close to Willoh. Over at the window sat a couple of men, each in a different booth alone, drinking coffee. Each man looked up to glance at the new girl, and then down again went their heads, half hidden by the upturned collars of their coats.
“I can’t remember the number, anyway,” Willoh said finally, after more swirling had stopped. Numbers 775 2345, 0987 and 4739 marched across her mind. “I remember my car!” she cried out. “I’ve got to go find my car.” She imagined she saw the car parked at the curb just across the street from the shop, but when she dashed to the glass door and looked through the swirls of her mind, it wasn’t there.
“I’m going to find my car now,” she announced to the room. “Good-bye and thanks.”
All the faces loomed in front of her, even the two men’s, as they looked up again. What else to say? Willoh wondered. She shrugged her shoulders and went to the door, while those inside turned their faces to each other.
“I wish you would stay, Willoh,“ Rozilin called out, while a youth in the ubiquitous raincoat of men bumped shoulders with Willoh at the door. While the young man paused and watched, Willoh walked on, striding along the sidewalk with the brown steel skyscrapers crowding above her in the low cloud of smoggy air that rarely cleared to blue sky. The streets were wet, as usual, with water running a few inches deep, while at the intersections flowing neatly together like a plaid, the reflecting wavelets making the only bright sparkle of the scene. Willoh’s stride was long and thin, like an elegant model in some old movie like Funny Face, and the youth, still at the salon door, decided to follow her. Willoh noticed. She kept an eye on him, too, tossing her head back once in awhile to see where he was.
Then, as she passed an apartment building, she saw a tiny black kitten on the stoop. “Mew,” the little thing said, looking up at her. Bright eyes in a rectangular face gazed meaningfully, she thought, into her own eyes, and seemed to ask her to stop awhile. She sat down and petted the little creature, while it circled and popped up and down under her hand in the irresistible way of kittens, making Willoh, for the first time, feel sharpened and real. She took another quick glance to see where the young man was - he loitered at the near corner.
But from the other direction there came trotting a snuffling dog with a huge head and strong jaws on a short sturdy quartet of legs. Oh, the dog may kill the kitten! Willoh thought. She’d seen such a horror before in her childhood, a dog shaking a tiny kitten by the neck, and she would not let such a thing happen again. Oh, no! She shoved the kitten behind a fern and then said hello to the dog, hoping it was friendly. A small boy ran right up after it; he grabbed the loose leash with a breathless shout.
The dog’s mouth opened into a huge smile like a clown’s. and Willoh was relieved. She turned to the kitten again, but it had slipped into the building by way of a cat flap hidden behind the potted fern.
“No, Goree!” the boy shouted, as if he were in charge of a monster.
Willoh meanwhile wobbled the dog’s big head in her hands and laughed. Behind the boy, the man who had followed her suddenly appeared and knelt to greet the dog. He looked over at Willoh, and she saw an enigmatic wink of interest play across his face. Willoh stood up, feeling shy, and then the little boy with his Goree dog pulled his pet into the doorway with the cat flap, and that was that.
The dog and the kitten live together, Willoh realized, and she smiled privately; of course they are friends, she thought, while I feared the dog would kill the kitten.
“I liked how gentle you were with the kitty,” the young man spoke.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Wo,” he told her.
“Yes,” Wo answered, “another W name.”
Willoh didn’t care for his presumption of her name, though she realized he had heard it said back at the salon. She stood and walked to the corner of the block; there she considered crossing the street.
The water on the streets wasn’t deep, only a few inches ran smoothly along between the curbs, and then at the intersections a ruffle of white water pleated gently and then ran smooth again after. Willoh stepped off the curb and jogged across with Wo very close behind her. At the far curb, Wo leaped ahead onto the sidewalk and held out his hand to Willoh. She accepted his chivalry. Hands still clasped they walked on, and it seemed settled between them that they would be a pair.
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
Compliments of the Author: Debbie Bumstead