Gone. I do not need to look. A mere forefinger gently on the spot, circling clockwise in the tiniest circumference, tells me all I need to know, tells me what I knew would be, eventually, when I started rubbing that spot, several inches above the left eyebrow, several months ago. Then there was a hair at that spot, a lone hair at the frontier, a hair that was the frontier of what used to be my widow's peak, and is now my widow's walk. The hair was long and wavy, like the hair of my youth. But it was also frail -- I could feel that -- frail from living on the edge, and on the run. I knew it was dying. Now it is gone, and there is nothing in its place. Only my forehead, pushing back, as it has been pushing back relenlessly, my last frontier.
I wish I had never singled out that hair. For years friends had been bellowing: "Hey, you know, you're going bald!" as if they had just discovered artichokes or the Comstock Lode, instead of the source of man's discomfort. But I refused to believe them. I was always possessed of a high forehead, a sign of nobility, my mother said. And had not my faithful barber answered, "Nah," when asked if it were true? "Your hairline is where it has always been."
Not so. I know now he was being kind, or practical, now that I am sitting here circling the spot blindly like the Cyclops, groping for a hero. But there is no hero. And I am growing more like the Cyclops every day: a man without hair, like a man with one eye, admired only for what is absent.
When should I openly call myself bald? Having pussyfooted around like J. Alfred Prufrock so long, having lied to the world that nothing was missing, is it incumbent on me now to make some official public declaration -- "I am going bald"? Suould I have it notarized? This is a major cultural decision. The world is made up solely of those with hair and those without. And those without are called "skin heads" and "billiard balls," and those with are called people.
If I do declare myself bald, will I then have to act bald? Bald people usually act either too brash or too meek. Will I have to choose? Will I have to dress especially neat so as not to compound my baldness, and watch my weight in order to prevent my becoming known as fat and bald? Will I learn to make jokes about my own baldness, preempting others? Or will I flee in the streets at the drop of a snigger, pulling oversized hats about my ears?
Hugh Troy, the millionaire practical joker, once bought out the first 20 rows in the orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera, sending most of the tickets to friends with hair, and some particular tickets to friends without. He had arranged the seats so that he, observing from the balcony, could read a dirty word spelled out by the hairless heads. I used to think that clever. No more. I will not be humiliated. I will accept no opera tickets. I will wear my baldness like the pink (God, will it be pink?) badge of courage, like Yul Brynner, like Kojak, like an eagle.
Of course, I could always get myself a wig. I could go to Mr. Ray's Hair Weave, and wind up looking like that couple on television, on whose rejuvenated heads Mr. Ray seems to have draped two muskrats.
Or I could try one of those expensive mystery techniques developed in France and administered in California, where I imagine they saw off the top of your head, and push mink through like pasta.
Or I could go the route of Sen. William Proxmire, and have someone pluck the hairs from the back of my head, and sew them into the front. Yet people would then say, "Oh, you and Bill Proxmire, huh?" -- suggesting a companionship neither of us seeks. And how long can such a treatment go on before one is as bald in back as one was once up front? Besides, I do not wish to look like a bald man with hair. I would rather look like a hairy man going bald.
Which (I-ll say it now) is exactly as I do look.
Well, I will neither change nor cover up. I will go forth and be brave, and I won't be patronized. Those same people who remarked upon my emerging scalp, will now tell me baldness is a sign of virility. I know better. Nor will I sashay through life like Bette Davis in "Mrs. Skeffington," as if my affliction did not exist. Instead, I will turn east, and develop a Zen-like serenity on the subject, concentrating not on the baldness that is present, but rather on the hair that is gone, caressing with my mind, as I did with my forefinger, a lost horizon.
For, as no portion of physical matter ever totally disappears, so must there be a world to which all lost hairs go. And I know that somewhere among the inexplicable stars all my dear, departed hairs stand suspended -- no longer drooped and weak, but vital, strong and proud, waiting for me to rejoin them, to be rejoined to them, in the territory of goodness and mercy where all heads are equal.