I am traveling back in time.
I am sitting, as patiently as I am able, white-stockinged legs jutting out before me.
There will be black patent shoes later, shiny Mary Janes that make delightful sounds when sped across a linoleum floor. I look down at my plump, pink arms, dimpled fingers lifting up and down, up and down on my knees.
The back of my neck grows uncomfortably warm.
“Owwwww,” I say.
My mother knows, of course. What she does not know cannot be measured.
She leaves the room, returns with a damp washrag and arranges it between the hair dryer’s air hose and the tender skin at the nape of my neck.
“All better?” she says.
“All better,” I say.
I open my eyes.
And the General Electric Portable Hair Dryer roars.
I found it at a garage sale. Four bucks. Four bucks for a trip backward in time.
I would’ve paid that much just to stand there and smell its plastic, new-doll smell.
Portable Hair Dryer. “Portable” in that you are free to “port” it just as far as the electrical cord will allow – in other words, a little less than three feet.
In the world the dryer came from, a world where hair dryers had stood as pieces of furniture, a heated-air helmet on a sturdily built stand, this updated, 1960s-style version is indeed portable in that you can sit under it from any room in the house.
And in today’s world, it doubles as a tether.
I’ve damp-set my hair, rolled it in the largest rollers I have. My aunts used frozen orange-juice cans, but real rollers work just as well. I pull the nylon bonnet carefully over the curlers, pull the laces at the nape of my neck tight, place a damp cloth between the air hose that will soon be too warm and the tender skin.
I look, for all the world, like an astigmatic marshmallow.
I plug it in, turn it on “medium”. Its utter lack of portability requires that I sit still, only the roar of the circulating air and my fingers thrumming my knees to keep me company.
And so I close my eyes.
And I travel back in time.