An Innocent Fascination
Pricilla, or “Priss” as she had been called since she was a very little girl, sat on the bench, watching. Being thirteen, she was free to go out on her own, although her mother kept close tabs on her whereabouts. Her mother had no idea why she seemed to come to rest on the same bench, looking away from the park, rather than playing in it.
It was where she had always picked her up, often sitting in the car, observing her youngest daughter. Priss would sit, well before their agreed-upon pick-up time, seemingly content to watch the traffic and pedestrians moving by on the main street of their little town. It had never occurred to her mother, what actually grabbed the young girl’s attention.
Priss smiled, as another customer emerged from the barbershop across the street. She made a point of remembering what each of them looked like as they entered, and would always find a strange enjoyment in their appearance as they left.
Sometimes, the change was subtle, a trim as they must have called it. Other times the change was more noticeable, and very occasionally, drastic. This was one of those times. The teenager had entered the shop with blonde hair grazing his shoulders, and Priss had paid specific attention to him. She had to look closely, being quite sure that he was indeed a boy.
Had it not been for the clothes, she doubted she would have recognized him. His once flowing hair had been shorn close to the skin, the sun reflecting off his freshly exposed scalp. These were the ones that gave her that special feeling, one she found difficult to describe. She wasn’t too young to understand what arousal was, but hers was an innocent mind, and she struggled to understand it, or what it meant.
Unlike her friends, she never got those ‘feelings’ when she looked at a boy. Embarrassingly, she found herself experiencing the telltale rush in the presence of girls. Even some of her closest friends elicited the unexpected hum of pleasurable sensations, and she had fought against showing it.
Nothing seemed to bring on those feelings more than when she would covertly watch the ins and outs of Walter’s Barbershop. There had been times when she had ventured closer, pretending to pause on the sidewalk in front of the shop. She had even cupped her face once against the glare of the sun, her forehead pressed to the glass, watching closely what happened within those walls. She remembered being startled from her reverie by a low gravelly voice.
“Looking for a haircut, little girl?” The tall, well-dressed man asked, as she pulled sharply away from the glass.
“No…, sorry. Just looking.” She remembered the man grinning as she quickly walked away, as though he knew exactly what she was up to. She wondered if she was the only girl to have such a fascination with the cutting of hair.
Once in a great while, a woman would enter the shop. Oh, there were the mothers that dragged their boys through the doors, it wasn’t those women she was thinking of. No, it was the ones that entered alone. They would often hesitate, Priss noticed, walking up to the doors and then almost running away with a sudden realization of what they were about to do. Sometimes they came back, sometimes they didn’t.
It was the ones that came back to the shop that intrigued her. She would watch as they slipped through the door, their hair often cascading down their backs. Invariably, the change for the women was drastic. A few times, she had even seen them leave with only a fraction of an inch of hair remaining on their head.
She relished the look on their face as they exposed themselves that first time, stepping out of the barbershop shorn of that most evident flag of femininity. Priss imagined what that was like. How exhilarating, and even humiliating it would be to be so bold.
She ran her fingers through her chestnut curls, something her mother insisted upon maintaining. Her mother, as much as she loved her, stood in the way of the one thing she wanted most; seeing those same curls decorating the floor of Walter’s barbershop.
The blare of a horn startled her out of her daydream. Her mother sat staring at her, probably confused over her lack of attentiveness.
“Come on, sweetie!” She called, hastening Priss’s steps as she slipped into the front seat next to her mother. Her two brothers were battling over something in the back seat, but she tried to ignore them as she reached over to hug her mother.
“Hi, Mom.” Pulling the seatbelt across her lap.
“Don’t bother, honey. I’m actually parking. Your father insisted that I bring these two in for a haircut.” She looked over the front seat, scolding the boys, doing little to bring them to bear. “Alright, you two. It’s haircut time.”
There was some humming and hawing, but they finally fell into step behind her mother as they crossed the street. Priss was incredibly nervous, but excited at the same time. Was she actually going inside? She wondered how many of the barbers had noticed her attentions from across the street. Would they say something?
Accompanying these feelings of nervousness, was a certain degree of envy. Her brothers would know the kiss of the clippers against their necks, something she so desperately wanted to experience.
As they walked through the doors, a strange sense of exhilaration swept through Priss, and she almost felt as though she belonged. The smells and sounds of the place saturated her as she sat amongst those so lucky as to take their place in the large swivel chair.
She had an excuse to be there, to be sure. Beside her sat her two brothers and her mother beside them. It was like a free ticket to see what happened there, up close and personal.
Over the next forty-five minutes, Priss was on the verge of something she had never experienced. She had no clue what it was, or why she seemed unable to control it. In the end, it was the double-show of her own brothers being shorn, the clippers making short work of their light blonde curls. Both chairs had coincidentally opened up when it was their turn.
Her mother was only glad to be done, when the two tumbled out of the oversized chairs, sans their hair, the crewcut bristles almost transparent on their freshly exposed scalps.
So, Priss was shocked when one of the barbers spoke up as her mother paid at the register. “What about her?”
“That’s my daughter.” My mother explained, giving the barber a strange look.
“I’m pretty sure she wants to have her hair cut.” He insisted, looking over at Priss’s widening eyes, and meeting them with his own.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” She huffed. “Let’s go boys, Priss.” They dutifully tagged behind her as she pushed the door open. Priss desperately wanted to stop her; to tell her that the barber was right. She reached up and tugged at her mother’s sleeve.
“He’s right, Mom.” She sighed, but her admission was lost against the bell that chimed over their head as they left. Priss looked back, seeing the barber shaking his head at her, knowing that she had missed her chance. “Mom!”
“Oh, my goodness, what is it?” She pulled up, the boys circling them, rubbing each other’s heads in a game.
“The barber is right. I want him to cut my hair.” Priss knew she was blushing, it being the first time she had come clean about her strange infatuation.
“Pricilla Marie! What on earth are you saying?” Her mother chortled.
“I’m saying I want to have my hair cut short.” There. It was out, she thought.
“Well, next time we go to Annabel’s, I’ll have her give you a nice lob, or something.” Thinking that was all it was.
“No, mother. I mean…” she struggled with the truth, and just how it might be perceived. “… I mean short, rubbing her hand over one of her brother’s heads, the spiky bristles rasping against her palm.
“Pricilla? Your beautiful hair?” She had a point. Everyone had always complimented her on her full chestnut hair, which nearly grazed the top of her jeans. “You cannot be serious.” She dismissed, moving to cross the street and corralling the boys.
“Mom. I’ve never been more serious in my life.” Priss insisted, standing her ground, and bringing her mother back from the edge of the sidewalk.
Flustered, and maybe a little caught off guard, Priss’s mother fumbled in her purse for a moment, pulling out a twenty-dollar bill. She held it out in her daughter’s direction, depositing the crumpled bill into her outstretched fingers. “You’re going to regret this,” She chided. “…but I won’t stop you. I’m taking the boys home because there’s no way I can watch you do this to yourself.”
Priss watched as her mother and two brothers crossed the street, climbed into the mini-van, and drove away. She was on her own, with the unwilling permission of her mother, to do, what in her mind at least, was the unthinkable. She stared down at the money in her hand, a real ticket for her to finally sit in a barber’s chair.
Steeling herself, she was determined not to be one of the women that ran away, only to return. The bell over her head startled her as she pushed back into Walter’s barbershop.
“She’s back.” The one barber chuckled, holding out his hand as if expecting something. To Priss’s amusement, the other barber reached into his pocket and paid up on an obvious wager, undoubtedly something to do with her. The shop was empty at that moment, save for her and the two men. “So, who would you like to cut your hair, little girl, the winner, or the loser?”
She knew that either one was perfectly capable of giving her the haircut she needed, and deserved. “I guess I’ll be your consolation prize.” Priss moved towards the loser of the bet.
The man chuckled. “You may have won the bet,” The man prodded, “but I have the pleasure of cutting all this off.” He reached out, toying with Priss’s hair as she took a seat in the large swivel chair.
“How do you know that’s what I want?” Priss asked, smiling.
“I know exactly what you want, kid.” He grinned. “All I want to know is if you want to save any of it?” He swept the cape around her, fastening it around her neck, and then pulling her cascading hair from within.
She imagined the look on her mother’s face as she laid the long gathering of hair in her hands, and shook her head. “Nope. The floor is where it belongs. Just sweep it up with the rest.” Resolute, but suddenly nervous over her impending sacrifice. It was a sacrifice, she thought. She was surrendering her hair to satisfy a longing as relentless as any she had ever had.
As the barber cleaned the clipper he intended to use, he made sure to show off the shiny anodized instrument as Priss watched with intent. She knew that in no time at all those very same clippers would be gliding effortlessly over her head. Then the barber said something that caught her completely off guard.
“We’ve been watching you, you know.” He informed her. “We saw you on your safe little perch across the street. Walter, there, was convinced some time ago that you’d find your way into one of our chairs.” He flipped the switch on the end of the cylindrical machine, the ascending whir of the blades bringing Priss to attention.
“You may have been watching us, Priss, but we were certainly watching you.” The barber brought the humming blades to the top of her forehead, holding them there for what seemed like an eternity. “Are you sure?” He whispered.
Priss’s answer was more physical than verbal as she pressed her head forward, driving the gnawing teeth of the clipper into her own hair. The delicate wisps of hair slithered over her face, off the cape, and onto the linoleum floor. In the mirror, she could see the damage wrought by her aggressive move, but it was nothing compared to what immediately followed.
Spurred on by Priss’s enthusiasm, the barber made four rapid-fire sweeps over the top of her head. A veritable waterfall of chestnut locks slipped away from her head, severed mercilessly at the root.
Priss smiled, witnessing the event, amused by the wide strip of naked white scalp left in the clippers wake. “Hurry, please.” She gasped, not certain what had given her the courage to speak.
His actions so much louder than her softly spoken plea, the barber began a systematic peeling of the young girl’s head. Pass, after relentless pass, created a spectacle neither barber had ever seen in all their days. Priss’s luscious mane was quite literally flying off her head, some of the strands launched high in the air by the frenzied way in which the barber worked.
As the last of her hair was stripped from her pale white scalp, they both had to laugh. Looking in the mirror, both she and the barber were draped with the remnants of her once-glorious mane. It was when Priss finally got a good look at herself in the mirror, that the gravity of what she had done really sank in.
Where once was a lovely young girl, with hair the envy of many, now sat what she could only describe as a boy, their head shaved as close as her brother’s had been. In fact, without the billowy curls of chestnut brown, one would be hard-pressed to tell her apart from either one of them.
“I look like my brothers.” She finally murmured, bringing a smile to the barber’s face.
“Not really. Your hair is a lot shorter than theirs. They got crewcuts, but you, little Priss, you’ve been shaved to the bone.” He hung up the clippers, brushing her displaced hair from his shoulders.
Priss brought her hand out from under the cape, shuddering slightly, as her fingers danced over the surface, the minute stubble almost imperceptible to the touch. Something about the sensation rekindled that warm glow in her belly, and she suddenly knew, as odd as she looked, that this was not a mistake. “I don’t like the stubble.” She admitted, almost freely, as the barber began to unfasten the cape.
“You don’t, huh? Well, then I guess there’s only one thing for it, then.” He mused, pulling a moist towel from a container at the far end of the counter. It was very warm as he wrapped it around Priss’s head, almost too warm. She could see the steam rising off the turban of white terrycloth, which felt rough against her freshly shorn head.
After a minute, the barber unwrapped the towel with a flourish, the cold air suddenly a shock against her scalp. With a whine, he dispensed a white foam from a silver machine and spread the minty-smelling lather over her head.
Priss giggled with the sensation, as the menthol infused into her sensitive skin. Distracted by the blade the barber suddenly wielded, her wide eyes followed the shiny instrument as it was brought to rest against her temple.
The gentle scraping of the blade over her head was almost more than she was prepared for. As exciting as the clippers had been as they danced over her head, the blade of the razor was a stark reminder of her feelings, and her breath caught with each long stroke. Nothing had ever made her feel like that.
Opening her eyes, she was reminded of where she was, and centered herself as best she could. Across the room, two boys waited their turn in the chair, and she could see them whispering to each other as they watched, what to them, must have been one hell of a show. She was sure they were from her grade at school, although their names escaped her. In fact, she wasn’t certain she could remember her own name, were it asked of her at that moment.
Shrugging off the obvious amusement of her apparent audience, she reminded herself that it was her girlfriend’s reactions that she would have to be most concerned about. What on earth would they think? Her reverie was broken by another hot towel being wrapped gently over her head, although this time simply to remove any foam that still remained.
“See if you like that better.” The barber coaxed, as he removed the cape. Her hands quite literally flew to her head, and she couldn’t help but smile, feeling the silky-smooth surface of her freshly shaven scalp.
Reaching into her pocket, Priss retrieved the crumpled twenty-dollar bill and held it out to the barber, who quickly held up his hand. “On the house.” He grinned.
Smiling, she slipped the money back into her pocket, wondering whether or not she would give it back to her mother. Strange that this was what she concerned herself with when she was about to step out onto Main Street with a completely bald head.
“Nice haircut, Prissy.” She heard one of the boys snicker, sarcastically, giggling aloud as she slipped out of the shop. She paid them no mind, as she stepped onto the sidewalk.
Eyeing her favorite bench, Priss was surprised to see a young girl perched on the edge of the wooden slats, her long blonde curls flowing over her shoulders. She watched, intently as Priss walked past. Smiling, Priss knowingly ran a hand over her starkly naked head, certain she saw the girl’s mouth form a perfect ‘O’ out of the corner of her eye. Priss giggled, fondly, wondering how long it would be before those perfect blonde locks would be gracing the floor of Walter’s barbershop.
She walked on, one foot in front of the other, knowing that every eye was certainly trained on her. The summer breeze felt incredibly exciting as it caressed the freshly exposed skin, and that insistent warm buzz returned to her belly. In the back of her mind, she wondered what her friends would say, what her mother would say.
All of it, for the moment, was usurped by the overpowering flood of sensations welling up inside her. Standing still for an instant, she closed her eyes, raising both hands to her scalp and allowing them to explore. She didn’t care who was watching, or what they thought.