sees the old woman — wheelchair bound, pushed by her daughter — glance out the window, and goes in back to fetch a shower cap. The woman tugs her daughter’s shirt and says, almost inaudibly, It’s raining. And it is raining. Barely. But clearly it wouldn’t take much rain to collapse the woman’s hair back to what it must have looked like when she came in here — that is, not so much hair as the gray wisps hair turns into if you live long enough. Without a word, the hairdresser begins fitting the shower cap atop the woman’s head, going around the edge with her pointer finger, one by one tucking in curls like a pastry chef piping rose after rose around the bottom of a cake, the frosting flowers almost magical, blooming in pink blush. When the hairdresser steps away, the woman’s hand lifts to feel the cap there, and her daughter asks too loudly, You’re all right now, Ma? And I wonder, should I feel hope that there exists, anywhere in the world, compassion for an old woman’s curls, that she’ll arrive back at the facility, perm intact, that some aide may carefully remove the cap, letting her have a day or two of however hair returns her to herself? Or is it something else I should feel — despair that life unravels into such bathetic necessity, sprayed, teased, and blow-dried to prop up an animal surely near its final days? And then I recall, from the seat where I await my haircut, that my own mother had her grayed, chemo-thinned hair cut two weeks before the cancer took her, and that, when we said how good she looked, she smiled sardonically but seemed to sit a little higher against the pillows she was propped on. Though she couldn’t lift herself, not even to eat, she seemed to rise.