It was graduation night—it was going to be a long night. It had taken Charlie a long time to get through school. Most of the kids his age had long since graduated and moved on; it wasn’t really that interesting or exciting to be the oldest boy—all right, man—in his class.
Charlie didn’t want to run into other young men his own age when he went out, but maybe if he was drunk enough it wouldn’t matter to him. The cheapest way was to pre-load at home. Since Charlie was legally of age, unlike his classmates, this part wasn’t difficult.
Charlie didn’t really like the taste of the strong spirits that would get him drunker quicker, but efficiency was key. He would start with several tall cans of good dark porter, then move on to Irish Mist, by which time he would be ready to handle some proper whiskey, to be chased with whatever cans of porter he had left. That way, he wouldn’t need to buy more than a few drinks when he went out.
That was the plan, anyway. What actually happened was something else entirely. Charlie did start drinking at home, but then his old friend Kevin popped round. They used to get into all sorts of mischief together, which was part of the reason that Charlie had gotten so far behind in school. Of course the difference was that Charlie got caught while Kevin didn’t, so that Kevin had graduated a few years ago.
“Finally graduating, are you, old boy? Pre-loading at home, good idea. I see you still have the Rod Stewart hair.”
Charlie ran his fingers through his hair. He had shaggy, nearly shoulder-length blond hair with green tips from when he had drunkenly thought that dying his hair green for St. Patrick’s Day was a good idea. If he spent any amount of time or effort on his hair, he might have managed to look like a knockoff version of Owen Wilson, but the actual effect was more like a hobo.
In fact, Charlie had once been skipped when a real hobo was panhandling on the train. Apparently the man thought Charlie was no better off than he was. Not that he cared, however. His longish hair had been in his eyes anyway, blocking his view of the situation.
Rod Stewart was not the celebrity comparison Charlie would have liked, but coming from Kevin, it was actually funny. If it had been Maggie who said it, Charlie would have been devastated. Maggie was the best of the cheerleaders, after all. Every boy in the school had a crush on her.
“Let’s get going!” Kevin grabbed Charlie’s arm. He was already a bit unsteady on his feet.
The rest of the evening was a blur. Charlie had already experienced a blackout once before, so he wasn’t too alarmed, but he would never know what chain of events led to him finding himself no longer with Kevin or any of the boys he knew, or stumbling into a tattoo parlor.
The next morning, Charlie discovered that he had gotten the entire left side of his hair shaved off, and a large shamrock tattooed there. This would be difficult to cover. He didn’t remember anything that happened with any clarity, but there were snippets, like when he felt clippers against the left side of his head, followed by sensations involving warm shaving foam. He didn’t remember the actual tattoo process itself, but had a vague recollection of having told the tattooist that he was proud of his heritage, and wanted to wear it prominently on his scalp, since dying his hair green hadn’t been permanent enough.
Oh yeah. Now, with his throbbing head, dizziness, and the hedgehogs dancing in his stomach, the whole thing didn’t seem so much badass as lame. He had been considering getting a haircut soon, but now he would have to keep his hair long to cover the tattoo, at least until the left side grew back. Then if he dyed it all green again, he might be able to camouflage it even with a shorter haircut, since blond hair wasn’t good at hiding color on the scalp.
That’s it, I’m never drinking again. Not if I can’t trust myself to not do something colossally stupid like this.
Over the next few months, Charlie started to feel better about the tattoo as the left side grew back under the long crown hair that he had parted to cover the shaved part. He also found that not drinking was surprisingly good for his bank account, too.
When Charlie finally went to the complex that housed his barber, he noticed the dermatology clinic next door. “Laser tattoo removal done here.”
Instead of the barber, Charlie found himself walking into the clinic. “Are walk-ins welcome?”
“Yes, of course. Please have a seat and the doctor will see you for your consultation. First, though, I need you to fill out this form.”
When it was his turn, the doctor had already seen Charlie’s form. “So you’re interested in tattoo removal. Where is the tattoo?”
Charlie pointed to the side of his head, lifting the long crown hair up to give a better view.
“I see it. I can still see the green through the hair. Little wonder you want to get rid of this. You can’t go around with this kind of long, shaggy hair forever. Besides, I suspect you’d look and feel pretty good with a nice short crewcut.” The doctor winked. Was she being flirtatious, or was Charlie imagining things?
Either way, they decided to start that very day. “I’ve a got a laser with just the right wavelength to remove green, but I’m afraid it’ll work better if the tattoo is exposed. Can you go to the barbershop next door and have them shave the affected area? Just the affected area.”
Charlie was going to have a very strange haircut, but maybe it was worth it. Since this was a new tattoo in a hard-to-remove color, he had just been told that it would likely take seven or eight sessions every six to eight weeks. That was almost two years. All for one night of folly!
It was going to cost a pretty penny, too. Charlie was lucky that he was interested in a field that didn’t require a sharp, business-like appearance. Being a sound mixer for a small independent record label was a good fit for someone with a strange, lopsided longish hairstyle.
This first session had been in mid-June. Charlie hated having to keep his crown hair long to cover the tattoo, since it was so hot. On the other hand, he had gotten himself a pair of clippers to mow down the affected area. It was funny to just be buzzing an area the size of a softball. It was ticklish and oddly satisfying as a ritual.
When Charlie returned to the dermatologist for his second appointment at the beginning of August, he had taken pains to shave the affected area with a razor himself, which hadn’t been easy, since he needed several mirrors to see it.
“Ah, I see it’s going well. It’s getting lighter. Good.”
By the time of his third appointment in mid-October, the black outline of the shamrock was completely gone. “Time to target the dark green.”
After Christmas when Charlie went to his fourth appointment, the dark green had lightened considerably, and Charlie had gotten used to keeping the affected area shaved. He had to wait a week or so after each appointment before he could apply a razor to it, but he realized that he now looked forward to this part.
On Valentine’s Day, Charlie was surprised that the doctor was so full of smiles for his fifth appointment. It was pretty clear to him now that she really liked him. “Good boy, fading that dark green all the way! Now for the rest of the light green.”
At the end of March, the day before Easter, Charlie went in for his sixth appointment. There was still a green tint to his hair, from the temporary color he had put in for St. Patrick’s Day, but this year he had been sober, and thus able to think ahead. He made much better decisions without alcohol clouding his judgement.
The doctor helped herself to pushing aside his hair to see the tattoo. “You’re doing so well with this, I almost hate to see you go.”
“I can’t wait to be rid of this tattoo so that I can get a decent haircut. I got myself a pair of clippers, and I found that I actually enjoy the feeling.”
The doctor smiled even more as she gingerly prepared the affected area for laser treatment. It occurred to Charlie that she would probably enjoy clippering him. She had made it clear that she thought he would suit short hair.
After Charlie’s final appointment in mid-May, the doctor seemed a little sad. “It’s my birthday today. It’s a great present to me that we finally finished this process on this day, but I’m really going to miss you.”
Charlie looked at his watch. He knew that the clinic closed in the afternoon on Saturdays, but the barbershop next door did not. He had been getting the long crown hair trimmed every second appointment. Now he would be able to just chop it all off. When Charlie was a kid, he dreaded having to get flat tops, but now he actually wanted one.
“I guess the next stop is the barbershop next door.” If the doctor wanted to come watch, she could, as far as Charlie was concerned.
Charlie was not surprised when the familiar figure followed him as far as the door to the barbershop and then pressed her nose against the window. She should just come in. Honestly he didn’t mind.
“What are we doing today, sir? The usual?” The barberette had already scooped up his hair into her hands in order to cape him. She had her red curls loosely clasped back.
“No, I want to go really short. I want a flat top.”
The barberette grinned. “That’s what I do best.” The best part was that the doctor would not know what he was going to do with his hair, since she couldn’t possibly hear the consultation. She would be watching the drama unfold in real-time.
The barberette started by running her clippers up and down the already- somewhat- short right side. Even then, she was still removing most of the hair. The cuttings on the cape were longer than the hairs left on his head.
Then she moved around to the left and lifted off the long crown hair. “We’ll be dealing with this later,” she said as she pushed it out of the way, parting it on the other side. This side was mostly grown in, except for the affected area, which was still shaved. She could blend this in if she opted for whitewalls, or maybe he could do the honors at home in a couple of weeks. Wait a minute, the doctor would enjoy that. He smiled to think of her watching.
The barberette next picked up the scissors to hack off most of the length at the back. The quickest way was scissor-over-comb. Then she fired up the clippers to blend the back into the sides.
“And now, the top. You asked for a flat top. It’ll be just barely long enough to stand up even without product.” Without further ado, she began hacking at it with the scissors, obviously enjoying making it rain hair onto Charlie’s lap.
Charlie closed his eyes in pleasure as he felt the clippers plow through the hair on the top of his head. He had dreamed of this moment for a long time.
Once the barberette had edged his nape and sideburns and gone up and over around his ears, Charlie knew it was finished. Finally, the man in the mirror looked like the man Charlie wanted to be, and not the drunken fool who had bad hair and a stupid tattoo he didn’t remember getting.
When Charlie left the barbershop, he almost collided with the doctor, who had been watching outside the whole time. She gasped. “Wow, you look great! And there’s no sign of the tattoo at all on the left side.” She was feigning a professional interest.
“There’s still a little shaved patch. Would you like to be involved in helping me maintain this look, once the shaved part grows out? Here’s my address.” The doctor blushed, then grinned.