Bryan Paul Sullo

A Haircut, a Horse, and a Gorilla, named King

In A Funny Thing Happened on 16 November 2013 at 2:12 pm

GC1HRJX Trinkets
Last Saturday, while waiting to get my hair cut, the man seated directly across from me got up and left the barber shop. I glanced up from a recent issue of Field & Stream, wondering if he’d just had enough of waiting, but moments later, the man returned. I must have looked curious, because he started to make small talk about being unable to send a text from inside the building. I smiled sympathetically, and muttered something about the brick walls blocking the signal (which sounds plausible, but is probably hogwash). I’m not very good at small talk, but I don’t get out much these days, and a conversation about something other than work or babies seemed like a fine way to pass the time while I waited for the five other guys ahead of me to get their ears lowered.

The man, who looked to be about my age, wore a red T-shirt, with the logo of some blood drive or another, gray sweatpants, and newish hiking boots. My comment about the walls seemed to open a conversational door. The man in the gray sweatpants smiled (a little more than necessary) and told me that he’d just sent a text to his friend out of state, a horse, who loves basketball. His friend was a Lakers fan and the Lakers either won or lost last night (I don’t recall which), hence the subject of the text.

Attentive readers may have noticed the words, “a horse,” in the above paragraph. I was puzzling over this myself. I’m not a basketball fan, but I know HORSE is a playground basketball game, so I assumed (optimistically) that “horse” was some sort of slang among basketball fans.

The man in the gray sweatpants went on to tell me that he texts his friend a lot, especially when he’s feeling depressed. “It may sound strange, but he really heals me,” said the man in the gray sweatpants.

My hope in “horse” as basketball slang began to flag.

My expression of panicked bewilderment must be similar to the expression of polite interest I had worn moments earlier, as the man in the gray sweatpants proceeded to tell me about another of his friends, a gorilla, named King, who lived in a jungle preserve in Florida, and who was not only a basketball aficionado, but was apparently a player of the game (as the man in the gray sweatpants had frequently had to call out King for traveling).

The waiting room of this particular barber shop is roughly the size of a Fiat, so there’s no way to have a private conversation. Strangely, however–or should I say, “wisely”?–the five other guys in the room seemed to have gone deaf. I glanced toward the gentleman seated next to me. We’d shared some words when he first sat down. I thought we had built a little rapport. Help me out buddy? Nothing? I considered my options. The guy didn’t look violent, but he hadn’t looked like a guy who sent text messages to animal friends either. I figured there was strength in numbers, and that, despite their mass hearing loss, the guys and I could restrain an (almost) middle-aged guy in gray sweatpants if we had to.

With no means of politely extracting myself from the conversation, I learned more about King, the basketball playing gorilla: He often beat his chest, wouldn’t eat food that had touched the ground, and was friends with LeBron James, despite the fact that LeBron rarely came to visit and had never brought his trophies. My new friend in the gray sweatpants had been more then happy to show his own trophies to King. Although I didn’t ask, the man in the gray sweatpants told me he also had a friend who is an orangutan (“But she’s lazy.”).

Thankfully, at this point the most recent customer rose from the barber chair, and one of the other men sprang from his own seat with more enthusiasm than a haircut should warrant. As he walked between me and the guy in the gray sweatpants, I used the sudden break in eye contact and stream-of-consciousness narrative to bury my face in the copy of Field & Stream I’d been gripping as tightly as a portkey from the Harry Potter universe. I read, with obsessive interest, every article and all the ads, twice, while I waited for the man in the gray sweatpants to get his turn in the barber chair. Of course, his turn didn’t come until just before mine.

I came home and told Carrie that I’d met a man who has basketball-loving, out-of-state animal friends. “Of course you did,” she said. You see, her theory is that I have, “Talk to me,” tattooed in “man ink” (an ink that only guys can see) across my forehead. It doesn’t matter where we go, I always end up trapped in a one-sided conversation with the weirdest guy there. Come to think of it, he’s usually wearing gray sweatpants.


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