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Act 1 Scene 1
(Begins at a hair studio. Hair dressers are running about while one secretary/clerk is at the front desk filing paper work and answering phones. A middle-aged woman walks through the door, while on the phone.)
CAROL: (Talking on the phone, very bland monotone voice) Honey, I’m walking into the salon now. (She pauses while someone speaks on the other end of the phone) I’ll call you when I’m done. (Another pause, however this one is brief) I love you too. See you soon. Bye.
(Carol puts her phone in her bag and walks towards the woman at the front desk, who was waiting for her previously.)
CAROL: (Apologetically) Sorry… that was my daughter on the phone. She’s always worried about something.
LAURIE: (Congenial, however distant tone and not very personable, obviously focused on making the sale) Oh it was no bother. My name is Laurie. I assume you are an Avida card holder…
(Carol opens her mouth to answer but Laurie doesn’t wait for a response)
LAURIE: (Very business-like tone and condescending, like Carol has no idea how to take care of herself) We are having a special deal this month but only for Avida card holders. Thirty percent off a cut and color! We also have some other deals that you might want to look into. You could use some, and they are phenomenal prices! Of course if you don’t want the color, although let’s be honest, everyone at your age should really consider it, you can just get a cut.
CAROL: (Visibly recoils from the clerk’s harsh tone, but then speaks in a sad tone) A… cut is all I need.
LAURIE: Okay then. My specialist, Grace, can bring you back right now. (Waves Grace over to the desk) But since she is one of the highest levels of specialists at this particular salon, the price for the cut will go up from the previous forty-five dollars, even if you don’t take my advice and get the color your hair is begging for.
CAROL: (getting slightly annoyed) That’s fine.
(Grace comes up next to the front desk and smiles)
GRACE: (cheerful and sweet, without sounding fake) Good morning Laurie. Good morning..? (gestures to Carol)
CAROL: (takes a beat to respond, her tone is a little confused when she finally does) Uh…Carol.
GRACE: What a lovely name! It matches your gorgeous hair. I’ve always wanted curly hair myself. (Twirls a lock of her own straight hair, which reaches almost to her waist)
(Grace and Carol walk over to Grace’s station in the core of the hair salon.)
CAROL: (tone a bit whimsy, almost as if she is daydreaming) I’ve always wanted hair as long as yours.
GRACE: (Smiles widely) Why thank you! (Takes a beat to play with Carol’s hair a bit) Let’s get you shampooed and conditioned before I cut anything.
(Grace leads Carol to the hair washing station and gets her situated. Carol sits down, and closes her eyes, completely relaxing into the chair as Grace massages Carol’s scalp and washes her hair.)
CAROL: (smiling, but still keeping her eyes closed) This was always my favorite part of getting my hair cut.
GRACE: (Babbles on while working on Carol’s hair.) Really? My favorite part was always seeing the end result. When my final hair cut was revealed, and I could swivel around in the chair. I liked not knowing what it would look like. I liked the suspense. The adventure of it all.
CAROL: (a little surprised) Really? I never liked that part. I guess it was the lack of control that got to me. I’ve never liked relinquishing control.
(A minute passes as Grace finishes washing Carol’s hair)
GRACE: I’m finished washing your hair, so I’ll just run and get you a towel, and then we can get to the cutting.
(Grace exits the stage as Carol sits up in her chair.)
CAROL: (talks to herself, in a sadly sarcastic tone) Great.
(Grace comes back onto the stage with a towel in hand and a smile on her face. She makes small talk with Carol as they walk back to her cutting station. Both Carol and Grace face the audience as if the audience is the mirror at the cutting station.)
GRACE: (perky tone) Okay Carol. Is there any particular style you had in mind for today, or a celebrity look you want me to copy…?
CAROL: (extremely apprehensive and has a shaky voice) Umm…I…uh…
GRACE: (not picking up on Carol’s upset tone) If you’re not sure then I could just give it a bit of a trim. Maybe give it some shape. One thing your hair is not lacking in is volume! If you like it that way then I could leave that aspect and just cut some off the bottom to keep it nice and healthy. Or I could thin it out to make it easier to handle.
(Through Grace’s whole speech, Carol’s expression grows more and more miserable until the end when Carol puts her head in her hands.)
CAROL: (Lifts her head out of her hands. When her face is revealed, tears cloud her vision and her voice is wobbly.) I’m sorry Grace. You’ve been so nice to me, and I shouldn’t be dumping all of this on you. These tears, (waves her hands frustratingly at her face) are entirely my own doing. I know exactly what hair cut I want, or rather, need. Just… saying it out loud…it’s so hard to admit. And if I tell you, you’ll have to do it.
GRACE: (surprised and little caught off guard by Carol’s emotional breakdown, but still extremely kind and understanding) I’ll do anything you need. But I can’t help you unless you tell me what you need.
CAROL: (A smile spreads across her face. Carol begins twisting a piece of her curly, shoulder-length hair) I get the feeling that you’re a mother.
GRACE: (laughs a bit and begins to also play with Carol’s hair) Yes I am. I have a six year old boy. Do you? Have any kids I mean?
CAROL: (nods head and looks up to the audience) I have a daughter, but she’s seventeen. Seems just yesterday she was six years old. They grow so fast.
GRACE: (prodding sort of tone) Kind of like hair.
CAROL: (Closes her eyes and take in a deep breath. She lets her hand fall from her hair and opens her eyes.) I need you to shave it off.
GRACE: (Visibly and physically takes a step back, completely caught off guard by Carol’s request. However, she picks up a scissor and an electric razor anyway. She takes a deep breath and brings her hands to Carol’s head. Right before she chops the first lock off, her hands freeze.) I’m a really good listener. If you want to talk.
CAROL: (Her voice sometimes wavers or falters and also sounds extremely tired and sad, she sighs and then starts talking) I used to think that hair was just hair. That it could never define me. But I realize now, that it’s a part of who I am. If all of a sudden someone were to cut off my nose, I wouldn’t look the same. I wouldn’t feel the same. I wouldn’t be me, at least, I wouldn’t be the old me. My hair, as much as I don’t want it to be, is like an extra limb. A part of me that I would never choose to cut off, if I had that option. Breast cancer is like a leech that attaches to you and sucks out all your strength. And every snip of those scissors is like a slice, a blade cutting at my heart. I feel…I feel… violated. Like my body isn’t my own. I feel mutilated and different; broken. Like the disease is changing me from the inside. I mean, if I had control over my own body, I wouldn’t make my hair fall out. I would never choose for this to happen to me! I mean, would you cut your hair off?
(Grace looks up from her careful cutting)
GRACE: (speaks kindly) I can’t say that I would.
CAROL: Exactly. It’s not like dying my hair blonde. It’s not a change. It’s a destruction. (Throws her hands up in confusion and exasperation) Everybody is telling me to “be strong, be strong!” To “hang in there”. But can’t I just be weak for once? Being strong won’t make this any easier, being strong won’t make the cancer go away. Only chemo can do that. I mean, is it bad that all I want to do is cry? I have never been so surrounded by people that love me, by people that care and want to help. But… (choke up) but I have never felt so alone. (Tone begins to get angrier) Everybody I talk to has a grandmother that died of cancer, or a sister in treatment; or a dog groomer’s, boyfriend’s cousin who is a survivor. For once, can’t it just be about me!? Hearing the diagnosis was like hitting a wall. It knocked the air right out of me and left me stranded in a corner of my mind were I’m completely alone. (Takes a minute to calm herself) Normal people, healthy people have hair. I’m not healthy. I’m not healthy. Not anymore. So now, whenever someone looks at me, they aren’t going to see a human being. All they’re going to see is this damn disease.
(Grace has cut off all of the hanging pieces of hair, and has now started shaving off the hairs that are close to Carol’s head)
GRACE: (compassionate tone) I always thought it was stupid when people pretend to know how someone feels. Every situation is unique, just like the person it affects.
CAROL: (trying to act logical) I know that I have an expiration date. I’ve always known that. I just never thought my expiration date would be before my daughter was grown and graduated. I never thought that I wouldn’t be able to see her wedding. In my head, my death was fifty years from now. But… but hearing the test results, feeling the lump, just made my death real. Possible. (Tears stream down her face as her head is shaved. Her curls fill the floor as her head droops with exhaustion)
(A couple of sad minutes pass as the last wisps of hair are shaved from Carol’s head. The very top of her head is shaved and Grace gasps.)
GRACE: (heartfelt and genuine) It’s beautiful!
CAROL: (A little laugh bubbles up from inside, and Carol instantly knows what Grace is commenting about.) I got that three years ago today. Three years ago today I was going through exactly what I am going through now, but sitting here in this chair, having you shave off the pathetic cotton ball like hair that I was able to grow back, that (points her hand accusingly at her shaved head) bout of cancer seems like the calm before the storm. I got that tattoo because I felt like once my hair grew back, nobody would ever have to see my bald head again. Strangers would think that I’m human again, not some walking charity case. I wanted to always remember the battle I fought, and what better way is there than to broadcast my victory to the only person who will be with me one hundred percent of my life. Myself. I thought that I had beat cancer, and that pink ribbon tattoo is like the American flag on the moon. It’s my victory stamp. Mine and mine alone. That is, up until the doctors told me that I had a relapse. (Brings her hands up to her head and rubs them gently on her bald scalp) I don’t want to be alone again. I want control. I want a guarantee that I will live to my imagined expiration date. I want… to be happy.
GRACE: (tears swelling in her eyes now, and falling on her cheeks) You think you’re weak. But you are the strongest person I’ve ever met.
CAROL: I’m not strong. Just unfortunate. (Wipes at her tears and stands up from the salon chair, rummaging through her bag. She pulls out a wallet and takes out a couple of bills)
CAROL: (Extends arm towards Grace) Is this enough?
GRACE: (Defiant and positive tone) You don’t owe me anything.
CAROL: Grace, it’s okay.
GRACE: (tone implies that she is talking about more than just money) No. No it’s not.
CAROL: (Drops arm and smiles sadly) Thank you. You are a really good listener.
(Carol walks away from Grace and past Laurie who looks at her with a stunned and ashamed look on her face. Many stares and pitiful glances follow Carol out the door but she never once looks back, instead keeping her head held high, she walks out the doors to the salon. The pink ribbon tattoo clearly visible to all of those behind her. As Carol reaches the door, a woman from the outside opens it for her and holds it open as she exits. Once Carol is through the door, the second woman, with a sad expression on her face walks up to Laurie.)
LAURIE: (swipes at the tears on her face with an ashamed expression on her face, although when she speaks her voice is far less harsh and condescending) Good Morning. Can I help you?
ELLA: (her voice is shaky and she sounds unsure of herself) Umm…I think you can help me. I just saw that woman walk out of here, and umm…I (deep breath) need the same thing.
LAURIE: (Visibly becomes softer and more welcoming at the mention of Carol. She stops thinking about the sale as she did earlier with Carol, and begins focusing on the young woman in front of her and how she feels. Speaks in an understanding and kind tone) What’s your name?
LAURIE: Ella, I promise you that we will do everything that we can to help make this (waves her hands as if she is trying to think of a less horrendous way to put what Ella needs to do into words) experience as painless as possible.
ELLA: (Tears begin to swell and fall on her face. She reaches her hand across the front desk and grabs Laurie’s hand) Thank you. It’s been so hard…
LAURIE: (Stands up from behind the desk and, still holding Ella’s hand calls out behind her shoulder) Anastasia, I need you to work the front desk. I’m going on my break! (Laurie turns back around and smiles at Ella)