Soft Bald

"So, you don't like the way it feels or what?" I asked. Linda was trying to be tactful, as she usually is. I've found that the smarter a woman is, the more tactful she is when dealing with male ego. It's probably some evolutionary thing related to surviving in a hostile environment. "I just like it a little longer than that," she said. "It makes you look a little softer." Which is why last month Brad buzzed my head with a number two clipper instead of a one, and I looked a bit softer instead of like an alien with a cranium glowing from within.

"Did you use the two setting?" I asked. I had come in complaining that by the time I got back I was looking like a clown, with the hair on top of my head beginning to look like a stock shot of the devastation left behind by swarming locusts.

"No. You'll look softer in a couple of weeks and you won't be seeing your wife until then anyway."

There was another guy there, a retired lawyer, waiting to get his hair cut. "You'll be soft bald," he said, which I thought was pretty funny. Brad kept telling him how lucky he was to be alive, because the guy had been on his way to Cambodia or somewhere with his wife, and had a ruptured appendix. Brad described in detail how the scenario might have went if he'd burst and appendix in the Asian backcountry. "Did I tell you what happened to me when I got bit by a poisonous spider in Cambodia?"

"No Brad, you never told that story," I said, with clearly satirical intention. "You know, you're going to be the quintessential old man:

"Woke up this morning and my teeth were gone. I was sure I left them soaking right on the stand, but they were gone, and I got out of bed to look for them and stepped right on them and they bit off my fucking toe ... now I keep pitching forward ..."

We were laughing pretty good as the lawyer and I warmed to making sport of Brad's tendency to go into detail about his own experience, apparently not wanting to leave anything out. Then the conversation turned to murder at some point. The lawyer had worked a lot of murder cases, and he was describing what some murderers are like. What got me interested was that some of them continue to be split between the part that did the killing and the innocent party.

This connected with a book I read once by a prison psychiatrist who was laying a case for some gruesome murders being committed by essentially autonomous complexes, which are triggered by a pattern. One example she gave was of a man who murdered a nun in a particularly brutal way. There was a pattern of early sexual abuse, in which the abusive part is unconscious in the victim, and acts out later, sometimes brutally. In other words, both roles are there, with one being conscious and the other experienced only as another person. Or the other alternative is that there are disembodied spirits which take possession of people sometimes.

Fans of David Lynch's "Twin Peaks" television series know that "Bob" can move into the psyche of a seemingly innocuous real estate salesman and commit horrifying murders. One of my favorite scenes is when Leland, the ego character, has lost touch with the ground and is floating in the air, while Bob, the shadow who murders women, is standing solid. Lynch explored this idea in "Lost Highway" and "Blue Velvet," as well.

The lawyer told me about a man and his son who'd murder young girls. They worked as a team, doing things together. He said the man would never admit, even to his lawyer, what he had done, because he had convinced himself he didn't do it. And in fact he committed suicide, because, the lawyer said, the man couldn't face the truth of what he did, and so had to dispose of himself before he was confronted with the evidence of it. There are some things, I'm sure, which cannot be accepted into the ego, because it would explode the personality cathexis and leave a series of autonomous patterns with no controlling center. This would truly be a man abandoned by the gods.

I left Brad's looking hard bald but happy to not see cartoon hair in the mirror, and thinking about what this lawyer's working life had been like, dealing with so many murderers. And I was thinking about Brad's saying that he's in favor of killing hard core killers, because you can't let them out, and the only other thing you can do with them is shelter them and feed them, at public expense. But it's not that simple. For example, the most notorious killer of my generation was probably Charles Manson, who didn't actually kill anybody himself.

Posted: Tue - February 3, 2009 at 02:54 PM