Now, this lady was an older woman – in her forties, maybe – and Pete was at the time a younger man. So when he returned to her home the next night, after another day spent exploring the neighborhoods of L.A., and found her lying on the couch wearing next to nothing, he didn’t know what to do!
At least, that is, until she began to slide on foot up the length of her bare leg, crinkling her white chiffon lingerie. “Come,” she said, “sit over here next to me on the couch.” With an invitation like that, he found he knew exactly how to handle himself.
For the next week, all Pete did was Boom-Boom. He’d walk around all day, then come home, get fed dinner, and Boom-Boom! Those were the best five days of his life, and for this kid from Cyprus, there could be no other place for him on earth but singular, beautiful California.
Of course, it didn’t last forever. It couldn’t. At the end of Pete’s week, before he flew back to DC, the woman took him by the ears. “Look,” she said. “Do you see those photos on the wall? The ones of the man in the army uniform?”
Pete saw them.
“That man is my husband. He’s away now, but I never know when he’s going to come back. So after you leave, if you ever return -” and she took his hand and put it to her breast, her beautiful, tender breast – “you must promise that you will never try to contact me. Ever.”
Pete promised. It killed him, but he promised. And when he returned to L.A. after just nine more months on the east – months during which he sold all his things and told his one friend, his brother, “look me up if you ever make it out to California some day” – he kept true to his word.
California never was the same for Pete after that first magic visit. He moved into a little place in Venice, and he eventually opened his barber shop just off the 4th Street Promenade. Thousands of new acquaintances entered and left his life over the years, and he never tired of the weather. But still, Los Angeles always lacked for him, tangibly, that special quality it promised the first time he came out and saw it.
I realized at the end of his story that I’d almost not come to get a haircut at all; that day, I almost let the rain keep me inside. But if I had let the elements get the better of me, I never would have seen that pretty woman with the umbrella. And I never would have heard Pete tell me that every now and again, when a lady walks by his shop, he stops what he’s doing for a minute and thinks about her.
Usually, he just considers what might have happened in her life, and where she might be. But sometimes, he lets himself imagine that she walks by now and again, looks through the shop window at him at work and smiles. And on those days, he can’t help but wonder which, if either, he’ll see first again in his life: that long-lost woman, or the falling, powdered snow.