When I landed in Copenhagen for a year long exchange program I expected to leave with some great stories to tell. Stories of me visiting Venice for the first time, raving in Budapest, guzzling beers by the liter in Munich and making questionable decisions in Amsterdam. But while I did have a blast, the most memorable moment of my whole time there had nothing to do with partying or drinking or traveling.
It was always in my plan to do an exchange in Europe. I loved my hometown of Perth, but I struggled to kid myself that it was small. I was born there and then went on to study there too and it felt as though I knew all the places to eat or drink or dance. Almost everywhere I went I was seeing the same people I had known for what felt like forever.
I had Milan and Paris as my top choices but I wasn’t going to be picky and accepting my exchange in Copenhagen wasn’t something I had to think much about.
I was housed in a student dorm, situated in a decent location in the city, and was able to cycle both to class or to the city center. It was a stark change from Perth, I had only been to Europe once before and while I had arrived in early September I found the late Danish summer chilly.
There was one other person from my university back home that was on the same exchange as me. Her name was Michelle, she studied Communications, while I studied Design so I hadn’t seen her around campus before. We had messaged a few times before leaving for Copenhagen but I only saw her in person for the first time when we arrived. She was a bubbly Korean-Australian with a septum piercing and bleached blonde hair. We kicked it off almost the moment we met and with both of us not being the most social of people we found ourself sticking together a lot of the time. My first month in Copenhagen I found myself often hanging out late in her room.
My roommate wasn’t the most engaging of conversationists. His name was Charlie, a rather small guy from Toronto. While he had moved from halfway across the world, Charlie seemed surprisingly happy to spend most of his time in his room, ferociously clicking at his laptop as he played League of Legends. In fact I don’t think I ever really saw him outside of the student dorms the whole year I was there.
Having such a recluse as a roommate made me extra grateful for my friendship with Michelle. She was easygoing, her room was a lot more spacious then mine and through her I was meeting cool people. I would be lying however if I didn’t mention maybe the best part of our friendship, that being her roommate Lucia. Lucia was a petite Brazilian, with a warm smile and dazzling eyes. She was clearly smart and she a lot more social than Michelle and I, often being the one to drag us to events or gatherings. And then there was her hair. A mass of blonde waves plummmeting down her back. On days when I guessed she has just washed it, it would form these gorgeous ringlets, but most of the time it was a slightly frizzy mane that she would pull back in a ponytail or up in a bun. It hung to a point between her bra strap and waist.
I couldn’t deny my almost instant attraction to her and I felt my heart drop after learning she had a boyfriend back in Brazil. After seeing a photo of her boyfriend, a tanned, tattooed, 25 year old surfer I felt almost ill. There wasn’t much chance my scrawny frame wound be competing.
Despite this the three of us became a bit of a trio. I had made some friends from class or dorm parties and socials but I would normally find myself returning to Michelle and Lucia’s room almost by muscle memory at the end of the night. We chatted, played music, drank beers, rolled joints and on the rare occasion tried studying. The three of us had become a tight friend group.
It was about a month into my exchange, the weather had gone past what I would consider chilly and was now definitely cold and I had settled into my new life in Copenhagen. It was a Sunday afternoon and I had met some classmates at a cafe in the center to work on a group project. After we finished I took a stroll around the area, still trying to familiarize myself with the city. As I wandered around I saw across the street a sign above a storefront. Malke Cutters it read. Unable to resist taking a peek I crossed the road to take a closer look at what I assumed was a hair salon.
I peered into the window. It was a small salon but it looked warm and inviting. Exposed brick made up the walls and the lighting made the space look cosy. Against one wall running almost the whole length of the salon was a leather bench which faced 2 large salon chairs. There was only one client at the moment, a middle aged women and I went to turn away and continue on my way when I noticed a piece of paper against the door. At the top of the sheet in bold I read the words: No pay no say.
Curious I skimmed down the sheet to the english section.
Have long hair but want a short haircut? We are looking for people who will allow us artistic freedom in designing a short haircut for you free of charge. Come inside for more information.
Just reading those words excited me. It was an interesting proposition and I wondered how often they received interest regarding it. I had an idea of somehow camping out nearby one day, on the off chance I would see some long haired girl read the sign and walk into the salon. I disregarded this idea almost instantly and continued my walk.
I thought about the salon often and found myself drawn to it, walking past it anytime I was nearby. I would walk past with baited breath, somehow convinced one day I would witness a cropping mid process. This fantasy never materialized but still I walked past with fresh hope each time.
It was late October when Lucia announced to us that her boyfriend Ramon had cheated on her. 14 months of dating clearly hadn’t meant much to him as he seemed happy to throw it all away with multiple drunken one night stands. The information had been relayed to Lucia by friends back home and she was distraught. In her distress she had considered flying back to Rio to speak to him in person. Michelle and I convinced her this was a terrible idea and I was overjoyed when Lucia decided rather solomly that their relationship was done.
It was a strange position I found myself in. It felt sleazy trying to flirt with my newly single friend so I tried my best to be the consoling friend that she probably needed.
It had been 2 weeks since the breakup and I was drunkingly lounging around in the girls room late at night. It was the usual trio plus an American guy called Reece. He lived a few doors up from me and was a stereotypical snowboarding stoner from Colorado.
Lucia was laying on her bed, her head hanging backwards off the edge of the bed as she scrolled her phone. I was enjoying the view of her hair cascading down to the carpeted floor.
Michelle and Reece were on the floor giggling as they recounted a student embarrassingly intoxicated at the bar a couple hours ago.
“You know maybe I’ll should just get this all cut off” Lucia said as she sat up in her bed.
For a moment I was convinced I had misheard. I felt my heart skip a beat and I was waiting to wake up from a dream.
“Your hair?” Michelle asked. She had an eyebrow cocked and a confused look on her face.
Lucia jingled a fistful of her hair. She had been laying on it and it was looking more frizzy then wavy at this point.
“Yeah” she made a scissor motion into the clump of hair she held out. “Just like chop it off”.
“You literally have the most beautiful hair I’ve ever seen.” Michelle said, clearly in disbelief with what her friend was saying. “Why would you want to chop it?”
“It’s just so much sometimes, I don’t know” Lucia sighed and raked her fingers through her hair.
I could only imagine how much work it was. It was a real thick head of hair and the locks fell close to her waist.
“As a friend I don’t think I can let you ever cut your hair. You’re allowed a trim and that’s all”. Michelle had a smirk on her face. “You’re clearly drunk.”
“Breakup haircut” Reece’s words were slurred as he slumped against Michelle’s bed.
“Yeah exactly” Michelle pointed as Reece. “Ramon liked your hair so now you want to cut it off just to spite him?”
Lucia crinkled up her face.
“No, no. It has nothing to do with Ramon.” she insisted.
“I struggle to believe that” Michelle said raising her eyebrows.
The conversation fizzled out but I went back to my dorm I felt almost as though I had sobered up. As I went to sleep I wished I had spoken up myself.
The next day I found it almost impossible not to think about the previous nights conversation. I tried my best to not get my hopes up. Lucia was clearly drunk and just saying whatever first came to her mind.
My hopes rose up once again however as the three of us sat down for a late lunch as a nearby sandwich place the next day.
“I was thinking what about something up to her maybe.” Lucia announced out of blue as we were mid meal. She had folded up her hair to a point somewhere between her collarbone and the top of her breasts. It was a good bit more than a foot of hair she was proposing to cut off.
“You were actually serious last night?” Michelle said having clearly disregarded what her friend been saying last night as drunken nonsense.
“Yeah why not?” she replied shrugging her shoulders.
“I mean I’m sure it would look good” Michelle said uneasily. “But… damn. Actually?”
“I think it’s a good idea” I added, feeling awkward and as though my words were unnatural.
I had butterflies in my stomach as she turned to me smiling her warm smile. She had this effect on me that if she ever smiled at me I couldn’t help but giddily grin back.
“Thank you” she said warmly and with sincerity. “I think I need to cut off some of this. It’s just…. I mean I’ve always had it long like this.”
She turned back to Michelle now.
“Don’t you think it’s kind of childish having this so long”
“I mean I don’t really agree.” Michelle replied looking up and down her friend. “But… I don’t know I guess I can see why you think that.”
I still tried to not get my hopes up but it felt as though I was being presented with significant evidence to suggest Lucia would be cutting off a good amount of her hair. Everytime that I saw her the next few days I couldn’t stop my mind going to imagining her with the haircut she proposed.
Later that week the three of us were walking around the city, I was looking for some winter gloves, Lucia wanted to stop by a vintage store she liked and Michelle was happy to tag along and window shop. We walked lesiurely, it was a bright crisp day and we sipped on coffees as we walked.
We were engaged in a conversation about planning a trip to Berlin when I suddenly felt the hairs on the back of my neck tingle. It took me a moment to realize what was going on when I recognized a bookstore I had stopped at once. We were on the same street as Malke Cutters I realized, just a block or so up.
As we got closer and closer to the salon my stomach begun to stir. I had fallen quiet while the girls still chatted between them. I had an idea, it was ridiculous and I knew it stood no chance of working but I still felt obligated to at least try.
The girls were a few steps ahead of me as we passed the storefront, both of them completely oblivious to the salon.
I stopped took a deep breath and trying my best to act natural called out to the girls.
“Hey look at this” I was directly in front of the door, feigning curiousity.
Slowly the girls walked back to see what I was looking at.
“You can get that haircut for free I think” I looked at Lucia, mentally crossing my fingers I wasn’t coming across weird.
She moved closer and craned her neck forward to read it herself. I saw her eyebrows raise.
“Let’s ask them how that works” Lucia said matter-of-factly.
I felt a feeling of pure ecstasy pulse through me. I bit my cheeks to stop myself grinning. I had always admired Lucia’s spontaneity and it seemed it was going to greatly benefit me at this moment.
“Come” Lucia said to us both as she pushed open the front door.
I hadn’t had a chance too see what was going on inside the salon until all three of us walked through the door. The first chair had a lady with long black hair seated having her hair trimmed by another lady. The second chair was empty and there seemed to be no one else in the store.
“Hej” The stylist at the first chair greeted them. She looked to be in her late 30s or early 40s, quite short and with shoulder length blonde hair. I found her multicolored pants to be quite cool.
“Hi” Lucia, like the three of us, spoke barely a word of Danish yet. “I wondering about that sign outside. No pay no say I think it said”
The stylist paused for a second and turned to them. She pursed her lips and nodded slowly.
“Yeah I will get my colleague then, one second.” She said something to her client, and quickly moved to the back of the store where they was an opening next to the washing basins I hadn’t seen before. She called out in Danish and quickly trotted back to her chair. A moment later a man appeared at the opening. He seemed older than his colleague, probably pushing 50 and was tall, well over 6 foot. His gray hair was tied up into a bun and his rolled up flannel shirt showed some tattoos on his arms.
“You’re asking about the haircut offer?” He motioned towards Michelle who was standing closer to him.
She stood away, waving her hands.
“I was” Lucia gave her signature smile as she raised her hair slightly. “How does it work exactly?”
The man had walked closer to us and stood now with his arms crossed.
“It’s quite simple. You sit down, I give you haircut, something I think will look good on you, something short, then I’ll take some photos for my portfolio. And you don’t have to pay anything. You get a free haircut from a pretty renowned salon and you get a whole new look.”
My legs felt weak with excitement hearing his proposition. At the same time I was convinced Lucia would just turn around and walk out as easily as she had walked in.
“How does that sound?” The stylist cocked his head expectlingly.
Lucia nodded slowly.
“Seems like a good deal.” She replied confidently. “I think I only really want it to be cut to somewhere a bit below my shoulders.” She motioned to her desired length with her fingers.
He slowly shook his head.
“Well firstly, you don’t get a say remember? No say no pay. That-that’s the core of this. Also when I say short I mean short okay? Not to your shoulders.”
“Ok well I think that’s what she wanted.” Michelle butted in and at that moment I wanted more than anything to clasp my hand over her mouth and shut her up. “Like I think she just wanted a bit of it cut off.”
Lucia opened her mouth to say something but closed it again without making a sound. Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail, the wind having made it slightly unruly as it streamed down her back.
The stylist slowly shrugged his shoulders.
“Well then you’ll have to pay unfortunately.” He begun rubbing his hands together. “It depends what you want. If you want to completely change your look, and if you ask me, to change your life, I can do that. I don’t have my next appointment until an hour from now. But look you have long hair. If you’re attached to it I get it. A lot of long haired girls, you know they are very attached and I understand that.”
Lucia was nodding slowly. I was desperately trying to read what she was thinking.
“Well what sort of haircut would you think of?” Lucia said. She was speaking slowly, being deliberate with her words.
He smiled and held his hands up with his palms open.
“That’s the fun of it right? I need to properly look at your hair, I can see it’s long but I know nothing about it at this moment. I need to see how it sits, I need to see how thick or thin it is. I need to see if you want something low mantainince or not. But,” He held up a finger. “I will make sure to personalize it to you, to suit your face shape or your lifestyle. That’s really what I can guarantee.
Lucia was nodding slowly and constantly.
“And that is what I can really pride myself on and what I can promise you” he continued. “That customization aspect of it. And I’m very happy to say that out of all the people that have taken part in this, they are all pleased with the outcome.”
“Okay,okay.” Lucia said seeming to be weighing up her options.
I felt as though he couldn’t have pitched it well enough but I felt a pit in my stomach, knowing she would surely refuse his offer.
“What do you think?” He ran his fingers through his hair, slicking back strands that had come loose.
“Can I see a haircut you did before maybe?”
Michelle was standing watching this all unfold, her eyebrows furrowed. I imagined she couldn’t believe what her friend was considering.
“Of course, I cut a girls hair just this morning.” He reached into his pocket and took out his phone. “She had hair to just around her shoulders I think. We did what’s called a mixie cut, very textured and layered. I wouldn’t do this style on you, I’ll think of something different.”
He held out the phone and I watched Lucia take in the image infront of her. Michelle craned over to look and the phone was turned so give her a better view.
“Something that short Lucia?” Michelle touched her friends arm as she asked.
“I think it would be cute.” Lucia did a half shrug. “I don’t know, I think I want a complete change.”
I felt faint. I could feel sweat forming under my armpits.
“You’re sure?” Michelle’s eyebrows were still furrowed.
“It’ll look good, like it’s definitely going to look good?” Lucia had turned back to the stylist.
He was grinning. “Definitely”.
“Let’s do it” Lucia said breathlessly.
“Amazing”. He motioned to Lucia. “Let me take your jacket.”
Lucia unzipped her puffer and handed it over. She has on a knitted cream colored sweater on underneath.
“Take a seat and if your friends want to watch they can sit” he pointed at the bench.
I felt almost too stunned to speak at what was happening before my eyes but was glad to sink into the leather of the bench.
Lucia lowered herself into the black chair as the stylist took the jacket into the back room.
Michelle was still standing, in an awkward limbo.
“Lucia” Michelle said. “I- I think I’m gonna go walk around a bit, I just feel so nervous watching this. Is that okay? Max is gonna stay, are you Max?”
She had turned to me.
“Yeah I’m staying.” I said sitting up slightly.
“Okay” Lucia smiled calmly. “That’s fine”
“Okay, I’m sorry, good luck babe” And Michelle bristly walked out of the salon.
“My name is Lukas by the way” The stylist said as he returned to the chair.
“Lucia” she responded.
Lukas cocked his head and smirked.
“Very similar names huh? And where are you from?”
“Rio di Janiero”
“Amazing, beautiful beautiful country Brazil.”
Lucia smiled back.
“So so so.” Lukas strummed the back of the chair. “I’ll take your hair down quickly okay?”
Lukas pulled the ponytail through the elastic band. He let go of the hair and watched as it unfurled down her back. Even though I had seen it plenty, it still took my breath away seeing it in all it’s glory. It truly was a mane.
Lukas was slowing running his fingers through the locks, clearly trying to gauge how the hair lay.
“It looks a bit wild now I think” Lucia said sheepishly. “In the wind it just gets a bit crazy.”
“Hmmm I can tell” Lukas replied.
I was lucky that the store was so narrow, it couldn’t have been more than 4 meters wide so from my seat I had a great view of everything.
“Right now it’s a lot of work I’m guessing?” Lukas asked, he had stopped running his fingers through it, seemingly happy with the information he had guaged already.
“Yeah” she nodded rapidly. “It’s alot to make it look nice.”
“So…” he then began pulling her hair back behind her head. “I’m thinking of something quite low mantainance. You wake up, wash it and then it’s good to go.”
With her hair pulled back her face was fully on display.
“How does that sound?”
“Sounds pretty good” Lucia said. I watched her swallow before giving a slight smile. The first signs of nerves I deduced.
“Amazing. You’re going to love it.”
Lukas wheeled across a trolley from which he pulled out a large hair clip. Expertly he grabbed Lucia’s hair and wound it atop her head, clipping it in place. He took a white cape hanging next to the mirror and shook it out.
“First I’ll cut off most of the hair while it’s dry. Then I’ll wash it and shape it.”
He flung the cape over her and clipped in into place.
“No point washing all this hair just to cut it off.” He remarked. He removed the clip and I watched with intently as the hair unwound itself down the back of the cape. Lukas took a comb and raked it through the hair a few times spreading it out across the cape.
“Ready?” Lukas asked as he put the comb down on the trolley.
Lucia exhaled deeply and nodded.
I watched as Lukas opened a drawer from the trolley and pulled out a pair of long silver scissors. I held my breath as he clicked them together a few times.
Without warning he began cutting into the hair, directly in the center of the hairline. I watched in disbelief as golden strands ever so slowly drifted to the floor. He moved fast, using the scissors to carve into the mass of hair. I could see he was taking the length up higher than her shoulders.
More and more snipping continued and Lukas started to move to the left from the center. The chopping was steady and rhythmical and I was mesmerized by the constant flow of soft strands falling almost in slow motion to the floor.
Lucia was silent, still unable to see the damage but I was sure she could feel how high up against her neck the scissors were.
Lukas continued his chopping and with a few more snips had reached the leftmost point of her head. All the hair from the middle to the left was now a choppy bob length, reaching a bit past her chin.
Lucia turned her head to see just how much hair had been cut and I could see the shock settling onto her face once she realized what she had signed up for.
Lukas didn’t waste time working on the right side and again he was steadily snipping into the mass of hair. More and more hair rained down the back of the cape. Never had I even dreamed of watching so much hair come off in one go. Lucia had her eyes glued to her reflection.
Just like that Lukas reached the right most section and paused before cutting away the last bit of long hair. In a matter of 2 minutes he had reduced the wavy mass to a bob. The remnants of her long hair were scattered around in the chair in a semicircle.
“Feel a bit lighter?” Lukas said as she ran his finger under the freshly chopped ends.
“Yeah” was all Lucia managed as she turned her head back and forth taking in the dramatic change.
Lukas reached forward and removed the cape. Then used his foot to crudely push the mounds of hair surrounding the chair off to the side.
“Let’s wash you.” He announced and Lucia rose and was ushered away to the basin.
I was left staring at the mountain of hair next to the chair. I struggled to wrap my mind around just how much hair there was sitting limply in front of me. I wondered what was going through the mind of Lucia, as I watched shampoo being massaged into her hair, it had all come off so fast.
After a few minutes Lucia and Lukas were back, Lucia with a towel wrapped around her head. She was caped again and when the towel was removed her wet hair just about reached her shoulders. Lukas began to comb through the wet hair before sectioning away the top, letting the sides and back hang down.
Lukas didn’t say a word as he picked up his scissors again. Using his comb and took a section next to her right ear. I watched closely as he took the section between his fingers and brought his scissors up.
Three quick snips and I watched 5 or 6 inches of her damp hair roll down the side of her cape. The hair that was left was short. So short it stuck out from her head. I was almost feeling lightheaded at this point, I was not expecting this.
Lucia was also clearly in shock and I watched as she tilted her head to look with her mouth agape.
“Wait” she began. “That’s really, really short.”
“Don’t worry” Lukas said softly. He continued to take another section behind the first one as he spoke. “Just trust me.”
He snipped away more hair, a thick chunk rolled to the floor.
“Okay but wait” Lucia was stressed and if I wasn’t so aroused I would’ve felt bad for her. “It’s so short I wasn’t expecting this.”
“I know but it’s gonna be great. Your hair is very thick and textured, so this is going to look best trust me.”
Lucia opened her mouth to say something but as Lukas snipped away another handful of her hair, she closed it, pherhaps realizing it would be too late to object.
Lukas loved to work fast it seemed and he made his away around her head with ease. He look large vertical sections, snipping away the bob length hair with large purposeful snips. The hair that was left behind couldn’t have been much more than 3 inches.
He snipped away the last long (relatively long that is) hair on her left side. There was a new semicircle of hair now around the chair, fat damp hunks, dark with wetness.
Lukas spent the next few minutes trimming the back and sides, small little specks of hair sticking to the cape as he worked.
He then unclipped the top and combed back the remaining length. I saw Lucia looked closely as he sectioned away some hair with his comb, took it between his fingers and snipped away without pause. This time the hair fell down the front of the cape. Another and yet another section was combed up and hacked away. More hair sprawled out across the cape.
Lucia looked slightly pale. She had walked in a modern day rapunzel and now it seemed she would walk out with shorter hair than me.
There wasn’t much hair left on top, and after another minute of Lukas’s quick snips, there was nothing left. The top was longer than the sides, but still only a few inches in length.
Lukas took his time to trim and layer as he saw fit. I watched in amazement as more and more clippings of hair landed around Lucia’s caped shoulders. I tried to imagine Michelle’s reaction when she returned.
The stylist next to us was done with her customer and stood next to Lukas. They exchanged a few words in Danish. Both had large grins on their faces and the lady raised her eyebrows, slowly shaking her head.
“Definitely not a trim then it looks like.” She laughed and looked at Lucia.
“No.” Lucia replied and I watched her swallow hard.
The lady picked up a bundle of the blonde hair off to the side of the chair. She gently dangled it up and down before letting it drop back to the floor.
“You’re fine with her cutting all this off?” She had directed this to me, pherhaps thinking I was her boyfriend.
“Yeah fine with me.” I smiled back. I looked at Lucia in the mirror, wondering if I could get a smile out of her. Instead I saw her face scrunched up, looking somewhat ill.
“Such beautiful hair.” The lady shook her hair in what looked like disappointment and walked away from the chair.
Lucia sat quietly as Lukas finished up his work, delicately snipping away hairs and tiding up the edges. The haircut was cute, so unbelievably different to the look Lucia normally sported, but still very cute. The top was just about long enough to show some of her waviness and it blended into the sides and back which sat quite tight against her head.
“What do you think?” Lukas asked as he began to remove the cape.
Lucia took a shaky breath.
“It’s a- it’s very different. But I think it’s very pretty.” She moved her head side to side as she spoke.
I felt relieved she wasn’t hating the new look.
“Just a very big change.” She continued. “I think it will take a long time to find it normal.”
“Of course, of course.” Lukas nodded acknowledgingly.
He had put some sort of product in his hands and worked it through the top of her hair. He explained to Lucia the product he was using and how she could mimic the style he was giving her.
After a few more minutes Lucia was out of the chair, running her fingers across her newly cropped head. Michelle still wasn’t back so we left to go wait at a nearby cafe. As I walked out I looked back to see Lukas beginning to sweep up the abundance of hair left on the floor.
“You like it?” Lucia said as she looked at herself via her phone camera.
“Yeah, I really do.” I said with sincerity.
She smiled back and I felt this warmth go all throughout my body.
“It’s really so short though, I can’t believe it.” She continued looking at herself, adjusting strands of hair with her fingers. “Like I really didn’t expect this. I hope I don’t cry when I get home.”
“No, you won’t, I’m sure. It’s really beautiful, trust me.”
“Thank you” she tossed her arms around me and pulled me into a hug.
I pressed her body against mine. She broke out from the hug and looked up at me with that amazing smile. She playfully ruffled my hair. I felt my stomach begin to tingle. Her eyes looked up at me expectingly and I took a leap and pecked her on her lips.
They were warm and soft. She smiled some more, I was grinning with giddiness and to my amazement she pulled me closer and kissed me back.
Hope you enjoyed!
One response to “No say no pay”
I absolutely love this one — great setup and description, and I loved the emotions from the narrator and from Lucia throughout. Just great stuff.