This story began in Nat’s Barbershop (Part 1)
I open and close my eyes, breathe slowly in and out, awaiting Nat’s answer. I look up at her, my eyes slightly dilating as they start to tear up. As I see her look me up and down, I can see that she means well, she really cares about how I feel about the end result of my haircut. Even though I desperately don’t want to cut my hair, I calm down as I feel Nat’s hand running slowly through my hair.
Nat turns toward Jen in an instant.
“Well, she asked you. What do you want to do?”
Jen looked at me, then blushed, her usually pale face turning as red as a sunset.
“Me.. I don’t know…”
She looked expectantly at Nat, but was met by nothing but reproach.
“I think you know, this is what I’ve been teaching you to do. You can do it Jenny.”
Hearing this I felt a strange thrill at the thought that I would be some sort of test for Jen, that I might be immortalized in her memory. I start to imagine what my new haircut would look like, how it would feel to not have to carry around a sweat soaked security blanket with me on the hot summer days. My dreamy imaginings are interrupted by Nat’s voice.
“Well… start with a #3 on the back and sides, taper to a #1 in the back, and leave a couple inches on top. If that’s okay with her I mean.”
Right as I’m about to say that I don’t know what any of that means, Nat says,
“Of course she’s okay with that, she wouldn’t have walked into a barber shop without expecting a short haircut, isn’t that right sweetheart?”
I try to squeak out a “no,” but a stern look from Nat compels me into giving a shallow yet affirmative nod.
“Well there you have it Jenny. SARA! Get this young lady prepped while I talk to Jen.”
In a flurry Sara got up from the pile of pink and purple hairs surrounding her feet, getting a strip of something that looked like toilet paper before removing the cape she was wearing, and shaking it out thoroughly. She then beckoned me to the same chair I had seen Jen clipper the blond woman in the day I first came here.
“Hey, over here,” I heard Sara exclaim from across the shop. Without thinking I started to walk across the tiles, thinking more about Sara than my uncertain fate. I sit down, and look up at Sara from the comfy pleather chair. As our eyes meet, Sara says,”Hey, haven’t we already met?”
“Oh… I came here about a month ago… I’m surprised that you remembered…” I trail off, lightly blushing, but to my surprise, Sara says,
“Yeah, but don’t I know you from somewhere else? Do you go to Wright High, a couple miles east of here? I feel like we had classes together. What did you say your name was?”
“Sam.. I mean Samantha. Samantha Finch.”
“Oh, of course! We had sophomore history together. Do you remember me, Sara Södurlund? I guess I look pretty different now.”
I try to think back to that, over two years ago. I do remember a girl named Sara in that class, but she looked nothing like the Sara I saw before me today. She would only wear dress sweaters and blue jeans, and had dark brown virgin hair reaching her waist. I wonder what had resulted in her appearance so radically changing.
“Of course, yeah, I remember you. I just didn’t recognise you. Didn’t you used to love that band, Satyr Electronica? I listened to some of their stuff a couple months ago, it’s really good.”
“Well, maybe we can talk about it after you’re done in here. By the way, don’t worry about how the cut will turn out. In my opinion, my sister is the second best barber in this whole city, only bested by auntie Nat.”
A thrill rushes through my body as she ties the paper around my neck, and puts the cape over my chest. I look down, seeing a few short Blue hairs still stuck to the cape, a reminder of the lengthy braid that had adorned her head only a few minutes before. She starts to walk away, but I call out to her,
She turns around, seeing the fear in my eyes.
“How do I… how do I know it’ll be good?”
Sara walks briskly to the other side of the room, picks up her severed braid off the floor and hands it to me, bumping her hand against my leg as she places it in my hands.
“Do you feel this Sam? This used to be on my head, but now what is it? Just some trash. You might not realize it Sam, but your long hair has been holding you back. When I look at you, I see you actively avoiding taking the risks that could define you. You need to take some risks, Sam, or else your life isn’t worth living. You have to live for yourself. You came back in here, and I think you knew at heart that you would leave here looking better than when you came in.”
Sara paused to take a breath before asking,
“Are you still scared?”
“No!” I said, emphatically for the first time since I had come in here.
Part 2: The First Cut
Jen knew I was ready, she didn’t hesitate. She put my glasses on the counter, and picked up her shears right when she got to the station. In an instant, she put my hair into a pseudo-pony tail, and sliced through in one fell swoop. I could barely make out my reflection, as I was basically blind without my glasses, but I could make out that a large orange shape had just become infinitely smaller. My heart was beating 160 beats a minute, not out of fear, but out of excitement. I feel Jen sectioning my hair into only two sections: top and bottom, before getting a jet black object from the drawer. I realize what it is just as she turns it on. A Bzzzzz sound fills the room, changing to a sort of chewing sound when they touch my skull. As Jen runs the clippers slowly up my head, the warm sensation of their blades permeates throughout my entire body. I feel myself start to smile as it goes they go around my entire head, and I sigh as the relief of being unburdened of a great weight comes to me. Jen forces my head toward my lap, saying, “Just doing the back, Ma’am.” I watch, engrossed, as short red hairs replace the short blue hairs on my lap tenfold. After almost 15 minutes (Jen takes her time), She lifts up my head, and hands me my glasses.
“I’m done with the sides. You can put these back on.”
I ask her to turn me away from the mirror before I put them on. I don’t want to see my haircut until it is finished. Jen obliges, turning me away from the mirrors, and out towards the rest of the room. I look to Nat’s chair, where to my surprise Sara is back, but this time with Nat only making the smallest of precision cuts. She sees me in the mirror, and gives an “I’m bored” look, I’m not sure to me or Jen.
I shut my eyes as Jen let’s down the top section of my hair, as my bangs get in my eyes. After a few seconds, Jen taps me on the shoulder, causing me to look over to her. She says, “It’s nothing, I just took care of your bang problem for you.” She jestures to my lap, where I see a long line of 4 inch strands of hair, the remains of my overgrown bangs. After another 20 minutes of small precision cuts, Jen tells me, “Ok, you’re all done. I swivel around to face the mirror. Although I don’t recognise the person I see in the mirror at first, I can tell that it’s me, or at least the me who was bottled inside for my whole life, the part of me that needed to be let out.
Sara walks up behind me.
“Your cut is on the house. Do you want to get a drink? I know a great tea place a couple blocks from here.”
I stand up, carefully not to step on the pile of hair beneath me, and I walk over to the other side of the room to put the cape into the closet where it originated. Sara escorts me out the door, and down the street until we get to a familiar destination, my favorite tea shop, Delicate Moon.
“How did I ever lose you Sara?” I think aloud, only realizing my mistake after seeing Sara blush. I hold the door open for her, and we step into the line. What do you want?” She asks me, “It’s my treat.” I look at the menu, and decide that I should probably go with something familiar after such an odd day. “I’ll probably go with taro.”
“Okay, I’m going to get passion fruit.”
We sit at a high table next to the window. The great thing about this place is that every table seems secluded, and yet can see every other part of the shop. Every table except this one, that is. As I look out into the shop, I see a couple people staring. I blush, but Sara comforts me.
“I just wanted people to admire your new cut.”
“So how did you end up working for Nat?”
“I was never that close to her when I was growing up. She’s my mom’s sister, and I’ve always lived with my dad. Two years ago was the first time I met her, at Jen’s high school graduation. She told me that she would help us with whatever we needed, on one condition, that we only let her cut our hair. A few months later, when dad got sick, she took me in.”
“So… why did Jen come there, and when did you start working at the shop?”
“Jen had to drop out of school -we couldn’t afford to pay for college as well as dad’s surgery. We both started working in the hope that Jen and I would be able to go to uni again. Of course, Jen really took to working in the shop, more than me at least. What I said.. that she’s one of the best in the city, it’s true.”
“But you didn’t take to it?”
“No… I just don’t have the patience for it. One thing I’ve learned from watching my aunt work is that good haircuts take time.”
I look at her. Not a single hair is out of place. Her haircut really is perfect.
“Admiring the cut? Maybe next time I can convince Nat to show her technique. If that’s the sort of thing you would be interested in. Anyway, I best be off, don’t want the others to get worried.”
She slipped off, leaving me to ponder on what she had said. I looked down at my tea. Most of the ice had melted. Maybe I had been here longer than I realized. I checked the time – almost 6:00. Mom would wonder where I was.
By the time I got home, it was getting dark out. The sun had set, but the streetlights had yet to turn on. I saw Tony’s car in the driveway, a sorry sight after the great day I had been having. I tried to sneak into the house through the kitchen, but it was too late, Tony saw me.
“Well, if it isn’t little Sammy. I see you’ve finally accepted nature and stopped trying to be attractive. I never understood how someone as hot as your mother could give birth to such an ugly little b**** like you.”
His remarks were hurtful, but I stood my ground.
“I don’t care what you think Tony. I did this for me.”
“Whatever makes your pea-brain feel better Samaaaantha,” he said mockingly. At that moment I punched him, right in the face. As I ran to my room, I could hear Tony yelling,
“You are DONE li’l Sammy! Don’t think your mother and I will stand for this anymore. The minute your mother gets done with her shift YOU ARE OUT OF HERE!”
I curl up into a ball on my bed, the pain in my hand reminding my of what I’ve just done. I rest my head on my other hand, feeling my soft new cut. I can’t get to sleep that night, not because of Tony, but because I can’t stop imagining what the next cut will be.
To be continued…