Five Years Ago!
By JimB © Copyright March 2013
“Hey, where you two off to?” I called to Billy and Ryan as they came out the driveway of Ryan’s house on their bicycles.
“Going to the new barber shop in the mall,” Ryan yelled back as they crossed the street. “We were told there was a woman barber there and all the guys are going to see what she looks like.”
“Just like any other woman,” I told them, as I grabbed the handlebars of his bicycle.
“Only thing she’s a barber not a hairstylist. Anyway, what you going to do, watch?”
They looked at each other.
“No way,” Billy cracked back. “We’re going to get a Crew Cut.”
“Wait,” I told them. “I want to go with you and watch you two get all that hair cut off your heads.”
“You can’t watch. You have to get your hair cut when you go to a barber shop,” Billy again cracked. “Besides, they don’t cut women’s hair, or girls’ for that matter.
“You have to go to one of them ‘beauty salons’.”
I was kind of let down when he said that.
The three of us had been close friends since I moved here, when I was four.
Until then they we were the only children within four blocks.
Then we, my dad, mom, my three brothers and me, moved on the block right across the street from them.
The three of us became friends real fast, the first day to think of it.
They were sitting on the front lawn of Billy’s house. I just walked over and said “hi”.
Two years later we started school together and have been together since. We were now fourteen, them being a few days older than me.
Now just because they were going to a barbershop I couldn’t tag along!
“Who says I can’t go?” I angrily told them. “Who are you, and you, to tell me what I can and can’t do?”
They looked at each other.
“Cool it, Nancy.
“No one is trying to stop you.
“Not us, we’ve been friends too long and you know that.
“When you have your mind made to do something you do it.”
I looked them over, Billy first then Ryan. We burst out laughing.
“If you want to come, we’ll wait for you,” Ryan said.
“Crew Cut,” I said as I backed up some. “Can’t see you two getting your hair cut short, and so short at that!”
“Our moms said the same thing when we told them,” they both said at once.
I stopped and looked at them again.
They had never got more than a trim since we were ten.
My hair was shorter than theirs, not by much. Sometimes our parents couldn’t tell us apart from the back, the three of us having dark brown hair.
Once my dad yelled for me to put on my top when we were swimming in our pool.
But, it turned out to Billy
Boy was he red faced.
He told mom she should mark my back with an “X” for the rest of the summer.
When I got to the front door, I turned back to them.
“Hey,” I called to them, “know what?”
They looked at me throwing up their hands in a “what?” gesture.
“Think I’ll get a Crew Cut myself,” I said as I stepped inside, closing the door behind me.
About fifteen minutes later I came out the garage pushing my bicycle.
I had on jeans and one of my younger brother’s pullover shirts. I had my hair pulled back off my face in a ponytail like they did.
If you didn’t know me, you would think I was a boy. I did this when we wanted to play games so others who didn’t know I was a girl.
Got into a lot of sand lot baseball games, Billy and Ryan always got a kick of that.
As I walked up to them I reached in my pocket.
“Got my ten dollars,” I said waving it in front of them.
“You,” Ryan said as he looked at Billy, “You are joking!
I smiled, “Have you ever known me not to do something I want to?”
“What’s your mom going to say?” Ryan asked me as we got on our bicycles and began riding off.
I looked at them and shrugged, “Don’t know.
“But, I don’t think it will be something I haven’t heard before.”
“You’re joking?” Ryan asked again.
I smiled at him, then Billy.
It took us about a half hour to get to the mall. We locked the bicycles in the racks and started for the entrance.
Billy grabbed my arm, “You’re joking.
“Please, say you’re joking!” I smiled and opened the door.
“Christ, Ryan. She’s going to do it,” I heard Billy tell Ryan.
We walked through the mall to the wing where the new barbershop was located. It was full, almost standing room only.
But, like they told me there she was, a lady barber and a pretty one.
“Bet she’s got the most customers,” I told them.
“Can’t tell,” Billy said. “You have to take a number and they are on number twenty-eight, it looks like. And, the next number up is forty-one. Think we should go in and take a number and come back?”
We looked at each other, but before they could say anything I was walking in the barber shop.
“You’ll have to take a number and come back in about an hour,” one of the male barbers called out to me. “If you’re not here when your number is called, you’ll have to take another one and wait your turn.
“Or, come back tomorrow.”
I grabbed three numbers and waved as I walked out the door.
“Here’s yours and yours,” I said as I handed them numbers forty-two and forty-three.
“I’m number forty-four.”
I turned and started walking away, when Billy said, shocking, “You’re really not going to do it are you?”
I smiled as I waved my tag, “Number forty-four.”
We walked around for almost an hour. Billy and Ryan hardly said a word to me. I could see the look on their faces, wanting to know for sure if I was going to get a Crew Cut like them.
Was I joking?
I looked at the clock, in the food court, and it said 5:45PM.
“Let’s go,” I told them. “We don’t want to have to take another number, or have to come back tomorrow.”
Again, both of them asked me if I was really going to do it.
At which I smiled, “Don’t think I can pass for a boy?”
Then, for the first time in our friendship I heard them tell me, “No.”
“She’s going to know right off you’re a girl,” Ryan said questioning him self.
“Just because our hair is the same length,” he continued, “and you’ve got forty-four, doesn’t mean you can fool her.” I smiled,
“We’ll see!” I was almost 5:55pm when we got back to the barbershop, five more minutes and we would have had to have come back tomorrow.
If not for haircuts, to return the numbers.
“Just in time,” the lady barber said to us as we entered the shop. “We close at 6pm and don’t let anyone in after that.”
We sat down, Billy and Ryan a little nervous. I picked some magazines from the rack and gave them one each.
“What numbers do you have?” one of the male barbers asked of us. Billy looked at us, and replied, “Forty-two, three, and…”
“Forty-four,” I called out in a little deep voice.
“He’s got a little cold,” Ryan said.
“Go ahead, Don,” the lady barber said. “I’ll cut them. You guys can go for the day, and I’ll close up.”
With that the two male barbers began cleaning up around their chairs. One swept around the chairs, while the other put away their tools.
When that was all taken care of they waved to her, and said “see ya’ in the morning, Kim.”
Five minutes passed and she was finished with the man whose hair she was cutting when we came in. She dusted him off, he paid, and she let him out, locking the door behind him.
“Closing time,” she said as she walked to her chair and took the cape from across the chair.
“All right, who’s first?” she asked of us.
Ryan raised his number, “Forty-two, that’s me.”
He walked to the chair, sat, and was asked, “What’ll it be?”
He looked at us, “Crew Cut, a nice short Crew Cut.”
He looked at us. Billy smiled at him and looked at me smiling a bigger smile.
Both had smiles that said, “We’ll see, we will!”
I smiled back at them, saying, “We’ll see.”
It did not take her long to get the clippers humming. A little oil on the blades and she was pushing it over Ryan’s head.
His hair fell off with ease, falling all round the chair and in his lap.
I watched the change in his face. He had a big smile and small brown eyes.
“How short do you want to go with the Crew Cut?” she asked.
He looked at us sitting there and his head turned toward me smiling bigger now.
“Real short,” Billy called out. “Almost bald on the sides like a military Crew Cut.
“That’s it, a military Crew Cut!”
“Right, a military crew cut,” Ryan echoed as he looked at me smiling bigger.
“Got you,” she said as she stepped to the shelf and picked up something.
Billy looked at me whispering, “Real short, like a military Crew Cut!”
“Buzz,” I replied as I ran my fingers through his long hair. “Yours will be on the floor with his in a few minutes.”
We exchanged glares, the kind you do when someone is questioning you.
“So, will yours if you go through with it!” he whispered to me.
We turned back to the chair as she was running the clippers over Ryan’s head again.
This time his hair was being cut to a length so short you could hardly see it from where we were sitting.
When she was finished this, her left hand took the attachment off and she tossed it on the shelf. She began clipping his sides without any attachment.
With each pass of the clippers the side of his head looked like it was being shaved.
He sat looking at us, looking at me. I could tell from the look he thought they had me licked.
When she finished she hung the clippers on the hook under the shelf. She undid the cape and let it slid down to the arms of the chair.
There was a popping sound, not a loud one, the sound when wood hits wood.
I looked up as she tucked a towel in his collar.
She stepped to the shelf and there was a winding sound.
When she turned around she had a pile of white in her left hand. She began dabbing it along his hairline, along the right side then to the back.
“That’s shaving cream,” Billy whispered in my ear. “She’s going to shave him!”
I looked at him. He had a wicked smile.
One of “got you now”!
I looked back as she began shaving his hairline. She had a straight razor and the shop’s light was reflecting off it.
It took her only five minutes and she was removing the cape from Ryan.
“Next?” she asked as she shook the cape.
Billy and I looked at each other.
“Forty-three comes first,” I told him, smiling.
He got up and walked to the chair. He and Ryan bumped each other and snickered.
As he sat in the chair, she asked him, “You going for the same haircut?”
He looked me, then at Ryan sitting next to me.
“We’re all going for it,” he said with a smiling snicker. “All of us, including number forty-four.”
With that she took the clippers from under the shelf and put on the last attachment she used on Ryan.
Like Ryan his hair fell all round the chair, more so than in his lap. She was combing the clippers back over his head, front to back, even on the sides.
Within fifteen minutes she was finished clipping. Ryan nudged me as she began lathering Billy’s hairline for the shaving.
“Numberrrrr forty-FOURRRRRR,” he whispered.
I looked at him as I placed my magazine down next to me. I winked at him with the same wicked smile they had given me.
“All right, NUMBER FORTY-FOUR,” she called out as Billy stepped from the chair.
Ryan nudged me. I looked at him with spit.
“Don’t shove,” I said then cough.
“Sore throat,” he told Kim when he noticed her looking at me somewhat strange.
As I walked to the chair she asked me, “Think it’s a good idea to get your hair cut this short with your throat being sore?”
I smiled at her and sat in the chair.
“Doctor said it would be all right,” I replied, kind of hoarse. “He gave me a shot this morning when I went for my visit.
“Said it would be gone by Monday.”
She smiled at me as she tossed the cape across me. As she pulled it up around my neck as I gave Billy and Ryan the biggest smile I had ever given anyone.
I brought my left hand from under the cape and stuck my thumb up at them.
Any questions they had in their mind was going to be answered in a few minutes.
As were any I had, too.
Kim picked up the clippers and clicked them on.
She pushed my hair back with her left hand and started clipping.
Just as she placed it at my hairline, she pulled it away.
I felt my heart stop.
Their look of “she’s going to get away with it,” turned to one of fear.
Did Kim know I was a girl?
Was she going to ask me for my telephone number, so she could call my parents to see if it was all right for her to give their daughter a Crew Cut.
A really short one at that!
“Got to oil them again,” she said, turning to the shelf.
She stood behind the chair dropping oil on the blade as the clippers hummed away.
She shook it a little and wiped the blade.
She stepped to the right of the chair again.
Her left hand pushed my hair back and she brought the humming clippers up to my forehead.
I looked at Billy and Ryan, their eyes wide with fear.
Was I going to back out and stop her?
Their question, my question, was answered, as Kim pushed the clippers back over the center of my head.
I could not back out even if I wanted to.
How could I explain it my parents if I stopped her now.
It was better to let her finish, to go through with it; to get a Crew Cut.
A really short one at that!
The fear on their faces changed to one of disbelief.
I kicked my legs out with the joy of knowing I had done it.
Kim looked at me when I did that.
“Something wrong?” she asked.
“No,” Billy said. “Just we weren’t sure Kurt would get a Crew Cut.”
“He was a little hesitant,” Ryan continued. “With the sore throat and this being the first time in the last three years we have gotten our hair cut short.”
Kim looked at me.
“Going to be nice. Really good for the summer,” she said.
She began another pass with the clippers. I knew I had done it.
I had passed for a boy.
Even if she found out, it was too late. She would have to finish the cut, or explain why to my mother, even if she got upset.
As she made the third pass over my head, we heard her say, “Had a mom in here earlier with her sons. They got Crew Cut, just like you guys.
“When I finished with them she told me she was just going to get a trim.
“But, seeing how nice the Crew Cut looked on the boys she decided ‘what the hell’, and told me to give her the same.”
“She looked real good with it,” Kim said as she walked around to the left side of the chair. “Even asked how often she should return to keep it looking this short and nice.”
Billy and Ryan looked at each other.
In a somewhat deep voice I said to her, “Didn’t think women got Crew Cut?”
She laughed as her right hand pushed my hair back.
“Two years ago, when I was doing my four weeks on the floor, cutting hair without the instructors telling me what to do, had a woman come in and asked to have her head shaved,” she said as she pushed the clippers back over my head.
“The head instructor brought her to me, and told me what she wanted.
He said, ‘Shave her head and don’t ask her why.’
“When she was brought to my chair I thought she was going to be some kind of street kid around eighteen, or so,” she continued.
“But, she was more like a woman of forty and was well dressed.”
She looked at Billy and Ryan, sitting almost on the edge of their seats.
“Did you shave her head?” I asked almost in my normal voice.
She smiled at me as she took the last pass over my head.
“She left with a nice shiner, and I don’t mean a black-eye!”
She placed her left hand on top of my clipped head and pushed it down and to the left. I felt her position the clippers at the hairline of my neck.
Slowly she pushed it up my nape and the back of my head until it cut no more. She repeated this five more times and the clippers stopped.
As I raised my head, I took a deep breath. I had not looked at myself in the mirror since she started clipping.
Her telling us, about the mother earlier and the woman when she was in barber school got my attention.
Now I had to face reality and start to think of what to tell my parents.
Mainly my mother.
I looked straight ahead at myself, as I noticed Kim standing to my right. She put her left hand on top of my head and tilted it to the left.
My eyes watched as she brought the clippers, less any attachment, to the front of my right ear.
Without a word she pushed it up, clipping what little hair that was there, leaving behind hair so short I looked bald. As she began the second upward pass I closed my eyes, trying to remember what I looked like with hair.
Hair at any length.
My head was tilted downward to the front, as I felt the clippers being pushed up the back of my head. I could feel the coolness of the air conditioning blowing on the right side of my head.
For the first time since she started clipping my hair off, I was able to look at Billy and Ryan.
They noticed me looking at them and gave me a smile.
One we had always given each other when we did things we wanted together.
Together as friends, as pals.
One of approval.
One I wanted to see them give me.
One I had given them when they stepped from the chair with their Crew Cut, their short military Crew Cut.
Before I could really enjoy the clipping it was over.
The cape was being unclipped and dropped down across the arms of the chair.
I heard the sound of wood hitting wood, and saw their expressions. She was tucking a towel, like the one she used on them, in the collar of my shirt.
Her long fingers softly spread it out over my shoulder.
Then, I heard the winding sound.
When it stopped I felt the warmth of the shaving cream being dabbed along the hairline.
Over my right ear, down and across my neck, finally over the left ear.
The sound of running water ended as she stood to my right.
In her right hand was the same straight razor she had used on Billy and Ryan.
She flipped it open, as her left hand took hold of the leather strap hanging from the right arm of the chair.
She, slowly at first, moved the open blade over it, up and down. A few quick strokes and the strap was let loose.
My head was tilted to the left as her left thumb moved over the shaving cream in front of my ear.
She brought the razor up and took a quick short downward stroke, then wiped it off in the palm of her left hand. The razor moved over my ear, down the neck.
I was trying to watch her, as I had when she had shaved my two friends before me.
But, I was unable to. I had only to sit and feel the razor’s work.
Slowly it began to show over the top of my left ear. Two quick strokes and she was finished shaving.
The towel was brought up around my head, wiping what shaving cream there was left from my hairline.
My head was powdered, the cape removed, and the chair lowered.
I stepped from the chair and was greeted by my friends. We gave each other a hug.
I looked at myself in the mirror.
I could not believe I had done it. I had passed myself off as a boy and gotten a Crew Cut.
A really short military Crew Cut at that.
Now all I had to do was face mom.
When she was finished with me it would be dad, but I could handle him. As for my brothers!
I think they were going to wonder about their little sister and her two long-time close friends. I just hoped mom and dad could keep them from doing something.
We reached in our pockets to pay Kim, but she stopped us.
“Made too much today,” she told us. “Besides, a free haircut is in line since you’re braving your first haircut in years.”
She wouldn’t even take five dollars as a tip. We said goodbye and walked to the door with her.
“Two to three weeks,” she said.
We looked at her.
“That’s when you should come back if you want to keep the cut looking good,” she replied after seeing the questioning look on our faces.
We smiled saying, “All right.”
“Number forty-four, forty-four,” the voice sang out.
“Don’t worry about forty-four,” Kim’s voice replied. “She’s my customer.”
“Be with you in a few minutes, Nancy,” she told me. “Just have to sweep up this mess of hair.
“We’ve been very busy today.
“School’s out and it’s been a mad rush for summer haircuts,” she continued as she swept passed me.
“You can sit in the chair, if you want.”
I put the magazine down and walked to the chair. My mind was back to here and now.
The little visit back to my first visit here, and meeting Kim, was five years ago.
It was one I remember each year, around this time.
Each time Billy and Ryan and I get together for lunch or coffee.
They are both in the Marines now and stationed away from our close friendship.
Ryan met a lovely lady, also in the Marines.
They are planning a September marriage and will be stationed in southern Florida for the rest of their tour.
Billy is off to another advance training, “in aviation” he says.
He is thinking about becoming a fighter pilot, but would like it just the same if he could fly fix-winged aircraft.
Me, well I stayed with Sam’s Ad Company, an advertisement agency in the city.
I started with them when I was fifteen as part of a high school project.
I learned a lot over the few years and the owner, Mrs. Norma Samuels, said she would pay for half my college if I went for advertising.
I start next August at the local four-year community college. I’ll be going to classes at nights and on Saturdays.
“All right, young lady,” Kim said as she tossed the cape across me. “What’ll we be getting?
“And, what had your attention?
“Dan called your number four times.”
I laughed and shook my head, “Would you believe I was revisiting five years ago?”
“Five years ago,” she said as she pinned the cape around my neck.
“Yes, five years ago,” I replied with a smile and snicker. “It was five years ago I came in here with Billy and Ryan.
“Remember, we got Crew Cut?”
Kim shook her head and smiled,”Thought you were a boy.”
Combing my hair from its center part, she remarked, “I thought your mom would be waiting at the door come Monday morning.”
“Me, too,” I said. “It surprised me when she saw the haircut.
“I thought she would have run out the house, coming down here looking for you.
“But, when she just looked at me and said ‘nice haircut’, the life ran out of me. I began to wonder about her.”
Kim combed around my head, first with a comb to untangle my now shoulder-length hair, then with a stiff hairbrush.
When she took the last brushing, she turned the chair so I was facing the mirror behind us.
“So, what’ll it be,” she asked putting the brush on the shelf.
My eyes caught the sight of the clippers hanging from the hook under the shelf.
A flicker of light glanced off the open razor, hitting my eyes.
The sound of wood on wood popped in my left ear, then the winding sound.
“Let’s go back five years,” I told her, crossing my legs causing the cape to rise above my knees.
Kim looked at me in the mirror.
We smiled at each other, as she brushed her still long fingers through my hair.
“Five years ago,” she whispered as she turned the chair to face forward. “Very interesting.
“And, what timing.
“The weathermen have been saying how hot this summer is going to be.”
I watched as she went about readying things.
First, she oiled the clippers. Dropping drops of oil on its running blade. Second, she shook and wiped the teeth of excess oil.
Her left hand pushed my hair off my face.
“Five years ago,” she said as she pushed the humming clippers over the top of my head, like she had five years ago.
Down the center of my head so there would be no turning back.
Just like five years ago.
Unlike then, I watched with interest, even as she began to tell me of her day.
This time I watched the clippers slide back over my head, pushing a foot or so of hair to fall on the floor behind the chair.
Just like five years ago.
Billy and Ryan were not here, but I could see the