MMA Boxing was something 23-year-old Elena started learning only a couple of months ago. The usual “JAB, JAB, HOOK” of boxing was something with which she was extremely familiar with, but under Marco’s guidance, she started with MMA as well. Marco was Elena’s coach and legal guardian for the past five years.
The guarded MMA cage was as intimidating as it looked. And when the opposition’s punch made Elena lose her balance, she toppled and fell hard.
“Dammit!” she yelled out of frustration.
“AGAIN!” Marco yelled from outside the cage. From her peripheral vision, Elena saw his lips pursed into a thin, implacable line. Marco wasn’t happy with her performance at all.
Elena pulled herself together and got to her feet once again. The second time, she got a good start but eventually lost her concentration when the stray fringes crowded her forehead and hindered her vision. As expected, the incoming punch forced her down within seconds.
“Stop!” Marco shouted and approached the ring. “I think that’s enough for today, Maria,” he said addressing the perky brunette.
She nodded in acquiescence and walked out of the ring.
Elena, exhausted and frustrated, slowly rose and took off her gloves. She pulled out her long sable colored ponytail out of the scrunchies and gently dragged her fingers through it. When the soft thud of the door ensured Maria’s exit, Marco turned to face her.
“What happened in there, Elena?” Marco asked in a controlled voice.
“I just got distracted for a second and then…” she trailed off, knowing it was useless to formulate a justification.
“I told you to braid your hair and pin these,” he said, slightly tugging down her beautiful bangs, which were eyes-level now.
Her glossy, dark hair reached her the small of her back and was exceptionally thick.
“I can’t braid my hair, I have told you that. It causes a bad headache.”
“Elena,” he said, “you know it will be impossible to box with these distractions. They keep interrupting your eyesight.”
“Alright, alright. I will trim a few inches and make the bangs slightly shorter.”
Marco shook his head firmly without letting his dissatisfaction show. “Why don’t you get fresh and change. I will drive you there myself.”
A slight shiver of panic clawed up her back. “Where?”
“The place where you can get your hair cut short,” Marco said.
“But I already told you,” she whined like a kid. “I am not getting it cut short. I can easily box, and it won’t be a problem, I swear.”
“Young lady, do you want to learn to fight properly?” His dark, rich baritone made her stomach quiver. “If so, get refreshed, change your clothes and meet me downstairs in 15 minutes.”
Marco wasn’t a temperamental man, but he was strict – both as a guardian as well as a trainer. Elena knew the iron-clad command held a seriousness that brooked no argument as she quickly responded, “Yes, Sir.”
Within the stipulated time, she met him downstairs. “Let’s walk down. It’s just a few blocks away,” Marco said and motioned her forward. After walking for several minutes, they stopped near a shop with a heading: Al’s Barbershop.
“You…you can’t be serious, Marco,” she said, petrified.
Clasping her face in his hands gently, Marco asked, “Do you sincerely want to learn MMA?”
She nodded in earnestly.
“Then a little sacrifice won’t hurt, little one.”
“I have…never had short hair, Sir. I will look hideous.”
His rumbling laughter startled her slightly. “You have beautiful features, Elena. Short hair won’t take away any of your beauty.”
She bit her lip nervously and looked at the shop. “It’s a barbershop…”
“And they know how to cut the hair for a sportsperson,” Marco finished the statement for her.
Elena gave up arguing. She might have been slightly fearful, but she trusted Marco with all her heart and soul. Besides, she knew she couldn’t put up her hair in tight braids as it caused her headaches.
“Alright, then,” she agreed.
As they walked inside the shop, Elena looked around wide-eyed. She had never seen a barbershop interior and the chrome-handled big chairs slightly intimidated her.
The barber, a man in his late forties, was reading the newspaper. When he saw them entering his shop, he greeted them with a smile.
“Marco, how are you, my friend?”
“I am good, Al.”
“Alright then, let’s get started,” Al, the barber, said, patting the leather seat of the big chair.
“Elena is getting her haircut today, Al. Her hair is getting a bit of a distraction,” Marco informed and ushered her in front of him.
“Take a seat then, kid.”
In small steps, she reached and plopped herself down on the chair. The barber wasted no time in flinging the pristine cape before wrapping a cotton strip around her neck. He slightly turned the chair sideways from the mirror and walked away to grab the comb.
“What are we doing today?” he asked, combing her the length of her hair.
Before Elena could respond, Marco answered for her. “A short back and sides, Al. And something for styling on top.”
Elena knew about trims, layers, bangs, but she had no idea what a short back and sides mean. But, she knew whatever it would be, the haircut would be short.
“A short back and sides it is then,” the barber confirmed and kept combing her hair until it was tangle free to his satisfaction. Marco sat down on the waiting chair, though not far away from where Elena sat.
The barber reached behind her, gathering her hair in the grasp of his fingers and pick up the clippers, turning them on. The low buzz made Elena flinch instantly as her stomach flipped at the sound.
BUZZ. BUZZ. BUZZ.
The machine bit into her hair as she desperately wanted to see the haircut. The barber slowly lopped off around 20″ inches of hair, removing the bulk as quickly as possible.
“There! Now I can work on the cut effectively,” he chatted away and dropped the length of the severed hair on top of the counter beside her. Every muscle in her body stiffened looking at it, but somehow she managed to breathe through it.
Next, the barber picked up the trusted scissors, combed out a section of hair around her nape and quickly snipped it off, leaving around an inch closer to the scalp. The comb-over-scissors movement rapidly started shearing her hair and making it sliding down the white cape, down to the floor.
“No turning back now,” Elena thought to herself and steeled her nerves to glance sideways. Al moved to her left, and the vigorous snipping continued. He sectioned off a huge chunk of her hair over the ears, held it between his fingers and quickly snipped it off. The severed hair fell over her shoulders, and some slid down to her front. SNIP. SNIP SNIP. Elena saw, for the first time, that her ear was exposed as Al continued shearing until her left side was around one inch in length. The barber, now, moved to her right, titled her head slightly towards the left and began the usual snipping. The thick chunks of dark, glossy hair kept accumulating on her shoulder while some skated down her lap and on the floor.
Elena couldn’t fathom the sight before her like it was an out-of-body experience. It was fascinating as well as intimidating to have her hair cut so short in a barbershop, of all places.
Once her back and sides were shorn down to an inch in length, the barber proceeded to take down the top. He combed a section out on top holding it between his fingers a couple of inches above the scalp and quickly sliced it off. The swift snipping continued until the entire length on top was around two inches. Al put down the scissors and approached the counter.
It was then Elena dared to look into the mirror, and the reflection she saw was of a stranger. Her previous long, dark, glossy sable-colored hair was now cropped short like a boy.
“Let’s clean it up now,” the barber said, coming behind her with a clipper in his hand. Trepidation weakened her nerves, and her gaze flitted to Marco’s. Marco nodded his head slowly at her, with an assurance that somehow calmed her insides.
The barber gently pushed her head down and held the top of her head with one hand. The Clippers were turned on and dove into the lower part of her skull, moving up. The low vibration against her skin and the snippets of hair feathering down her skin made her sensitive. Pass after pass, the Clippers reduced her hair on her back and moved towards her crown. Then, he flicked the wrist and sailed it around her ears, taking down the length even shorter. Elena couldn’t see anything except for the raining of shorn hair all around her. The clipper attachment was changed, and her head was then pulled up as he continued clipping down the hair around her temples, tapering it.
“Now it looks clean,” he said, more to himself once both the sides were nicely buzzed and tapered towards the top. “What do you think, Marco?”
“Al, your work is as always impressive,” he said walking over closer to the barber chair. “It’s very manageable for a boxer now.” Marco’s calloused fingers gently ran over the nape and ears, inspecting it when Elena actually realized how terrible short it was. Hoping it was all over, Elena proceeded to get up from the chair, but the barber quickly stopped her.
“No, no, no, young lady,” he said as he shook his head. “We are not done here. Sit tight, while I clean the top.”
Next, he sprayed the top and dampened the hair on top, which was comparatively longish than the rest of her head. Gripping the comb in one hand and thinning shears in the other, he continued to reduce the volume on top.
“Al, please take down the bangs,” Marco instructed.
“Off the eyes?”
“Off the forehead, actually.”
“Hmm. Then, let me shortened the top a bit to taper it,” the barber informed and picked up the clippers again.
It was then Elena felt the tears pricking her eyes. Being shorn off was one thing, and then the length taken down further was another.
“You look beautiful anyways, girl,” Marco told her as if reading her mind.
She bit down on her lips and nodded, as much as she could with the clippers lopping off the length on top. Elena didn’t bother stealing a glance at the mirror because she was afraid that she might start crying.
For the final touch, Al applied foam and took the razor and very gently, scrapped it against the hairline on her nape, around her ears, sideburns and slightly on her cheeks. A cooling lotion was applied on the shaved portion, followed by dusting off the hair with baby powder. The hairdryer quickly set her hair as it hardly took a minute or so to style it.
“A nice short back and sides – all done,” Al announced cheerfully, loosening the cape and taking it off.
Nervously, Elena got up from the chair and faced the mirror. Her trembling fingers feathered over the back realizing it was almost buzzed down to nothing. The side-parted front had a certain length but hardly touched her forehead. She was in shock how short it was, but she also marveled at how beautifully it suited her. Even though she was slightly saddened at the loss of such long glossy hair, she knew it was a little sacrifice for her love of boxing.
“Thank you, Al. The haircut is perfect what I had in mind,” Marco said to the barber and handed him the bill. “Keep the change.”
“Glad you liked it, though she looks a bit dazed,” Al commented, looking over to Elena.
“She’s a brave girl. I am sure she would get used to it,” Marco assured.
“To keep this clean, you have to visit every two weeks.”
“Excellent,” Marco answered and took the leave.
The gush of air outside unnerved her slightly while she continued to touch her nape.
“See, you won’t have to braid or pin the hair anymore. And short hair suits you as well,” Marco complimented her.
“The hair…is…so short, like a boy,” she said, overwhelmed. “I didn’t realize it would look so short.”
Marco chuckled and ruffled the hair on her head. “You will thank me for this later, and you will see how low maintenance it is for you.”
“Do I really need to cut it every two weeks?”
“Tell you what, little girl, we will wait for a month at first. If you don’t want, then I won’t insist. But I have a feeling you wouldn’t prefer growing it out anymore.”
“Okay, one month,” she said thoughtfully.
Let me know if you guys would like a part 2 for this.