“Hey Samantha, I need a hand over here,” I hear my mother say, calling me into the living room.
“What is it now mom?”
As I walk in, I am greeted by a very familiar sight, my mother, again trying to turn on her computer, with little success. It was a gift from her new boyfriend Tony, a hustler con man in my eyes, but an angel in my mother’s. While I explain to my mother for the thousandth time how rebooting makes her laptop work again, Tony drives into the driveway, in what I like to call the destroyer of worlds, his old van, spray painted with an ad for whatever “business” he is scheming next. Although I’m used to his presence, that doesn’t make him any easier to deal with. I tell my mom that I have to get ready for school, and even though she probably knows that I have the day off, she lets me go, knowing how much I despise Tony. I go to the bathroom after getting dressed, quickly glancing in the mirror. My baseball cap covers my bangs, which mom cut way too short after I complained about them getting in my eyes too much. I put on some lip gloss and clean my glasses before heading out, ready for the day.
In an effort to avoid Tony, I sneak out my bedroom window, walking through the side garden to get to the street. I decided already that I wanted to go to get a bubble tea at my favorite spot downtown, Delicate Moon. The walk downtown is pretty far, but I’m used to it, seeing as I go fairly often. However, today is pretty hot compared to the usual walk. I check my phone for the temperature. 115 degrees farenhieght. Even though the walk is pretty short, only about a mile and a quarter I start feeling the heat immediately, as sweat quickly drips down the back of my shirt. My long hair starts to stick to my back, which I don’t mind at first, but soon starts to get to me. I keep on walking, and walking, until I can’t handle it any more. I say to myself quietly, “I have to stop the next place with AC.” I continue walking on for what feels like eternity but I know can’t be much longer than ten minutes, when I catch something in the corner of my eye. Among a bunch of houses, hotels and office buildings, a small two story building with a sign in bright blue neon, “Nat’s Barbershop,” and below that in smaller but still prominent letters, “all are welcome.” I sprint in, causing a loud ringing noise to reverberate throughout the shop. I exhale deeply, feeling the cool AC makes me shiver at first, but it feels great to finally be out of the heat.
“Hi, how can I help you?”
I nearly jump when I hear the voice, quickly glancing around the room to see where it’s coming from.
“I’m over here,” the voice says and I now see it, as a woman in her early 20s waves out to me.
“Can’t talk now, but Sara will be back from lunch in a minute and can help you out.”
“Oh that’s ok-“ I start to say, but stop as I see what the woman is doing. I could tell immediately that she was a hairdresser, her sky blue short inverted bob gave it away, but I’m surprised to see her pick up a pair of jet black clippers, zipping them through her client’s hair. I watch as nearly 4ft of shiny blond hair comes tumbling onto the waxy linoleum floor. I nearly jump as I hear the bells chime out loudly again. I turn to see a girl barely older than me walk through the door.
“Sara, can you help this girl out,” I hear a familiar voice exclaim. As the girl, Sara walks toward me, I am completely hypnotized by her. She is wearing a purple miniskirt, black tights, and a bomber jacket over a t-shirt that has a rainbow colored pair of scissors printed on the front. But what really makes her impossible to look away from is her hair. The side of her head is shaved, and the rest of her hair is in a long braid, dyed into a gradient from aquamarine to bright pink.
As I stare into her eclipsing eyes the only words I can get out are,
“I… only ummm wanted to ummm… get out of the hot weather for a few seconds.”
At that Moment I dart from the room, out of the building and down the street before they can say another word.
Only weeks after that do I work up the courage to go back. After that day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the barbershop. I remembered every detail, the old red bricks that made up the shop, the Bright neon sign, but most of all the people that worked there. Although I didn’t know if I had met “Nat” yet, I knew the faces of the shop like the back of my hand. And I knew their hairstyles even better.
One morning, about a week after school has ended, I’ve finally built up the courage to go back to the shop. Even though it’s been almost a month, I cross my fingers and hope that Sara still remembers me. I know that I made a fool of myself in front of her, but I don’t think I could deal with her not Recognising my face. I don’t wear the cap this time, as my bangs are now more embarrassingly long than embarrassingly short. I say goodby to mom (no need to sneak without Tony around) and head out on my bike. I cycle fast, breaking a sweat immediately, but I don’t notice. I’m so excited to go in again. As I enter downtown, I nearly scream inside as I see the sign in the distance. I am so curious to learn more about the barbers, after being so drawn in by the shop before. I park my bike quickly outside, and reflect for a second on what I’m doing. I have no intention of getting a haircut here. My hair has been long for my whole life, and I don’t plan on changing it anytime soon. I start to walk away from the shop… but then I remember, the hairstylists both had dyed hair – they must also do hair dyeing here, I can just ask for that! Without skipping a beat I walk in to the barbershop.
When I walk in, I am greeted by a somewhat unfamiliar site. I see the same 4 massive barber chairs, with three empty, and one occupied by Sara. I watch in shock and awe as a woman with a short black pixie gets some shears from the counter and slices right through Sara’s long mermaid braid in an instant. In slow motion, I continue hearing Sara’s hair fall to the ground with a smack well after it is over. I almost start crying, until I look more closely, noticing the smile on Sara’s face. Horror turns to confusion as I watch carefully as Sara’s braided style is transformed in an instant by the woman into an asymmetrical short bob. I watch as Sara’s grin increases when the woman gets out the black clippers, takes them to Sara’s head, and begins shaving. Eventually however, my attention is diverted by an ever repeating voice.
“Hello ma’am, how can I help you today?” I turn around to see the woman who had asked me the same question ages ago, but I gasp when I see her hair. What once had been a bob was now an undercut pixie in deep purple. Clearly she noticed my curiosity, stating, “Oh, my hair… auntie says we have to cut it every few weeks in order keep it orderly. I think she just loves to cut it though.”
“Auntie?” I asked.
“Oh, I mean Nat. She’s the owner of the shop and Sara and my Aunt. I’m Jen.” She reached out her hand for me to shake. I thought this odd for a barbershop, but every moment since I had entered this place for the first time had been surprising, so this was the least of my concern.
I shook her hand vigorously, and responded with,
“Sam, nice to meet you.”
“Hey.. weren’t you in the shop bef-“Jen started to say, but I cut her off, saying, “So what sorts of stuff do you guys do? Is it just cuts, or other stuff too.. like colours?”
“Oh, um we just do short cuts. Sorry if my and Sara’s hair misled you, we just color our hair at home.”
The instant that came out of her mouth a million thoughts started popping into my head, “Sara’s hair…” “We don’t do Colours here” “we only do short cuts.” After about 30 seconds of me standing in front of Jen, I had to say something to break the silence. Without thinking, I blurted out, “WHAT HAIRCUT DO YOU THINK WOULD SUIT ME?” I immediately regretted it the moment I said it, as all three women turned to face me. Nat set down her clippers, stood up, and started slowly walking towards me. Despite her small oval shaped glasses obscuring her eyes, I could tell that she was looking right at me, scanning my head for the perfect haircut. As she got closer, I shivered, running my hands through my long red hair for what I feared would be the last time. I look up at her with eyes on the brink of tears, hoping beyond my wildest dreams that I would get to keep even a strand of my copper locks.
At that moment she spoke out, saying in a strict, yet somehow kind voice,
“I know just what to do with you.”
This story is continued in Nat’s Barbershop (Part 2)