It was late summer of 2021. At last the Covid-19 virus was under control and we could move freely and do things we hadn’t been able to for a long while.
So, I had decided to visit a small salon in the old town of Antwerp. I had not been there in about two years. The salon was operated by a single barberette called Eileen, who gave every customer plenty of attention. There was something mysterious about her. Hard to explain. On one hand she was very friendly and empathic on the other she also kept her distance.
What’s engraved in my memory is that the only time I asked her to cut my hair shorter (I am used to having it longish), she literarily jumped up and asked ‘You wanna shave it?’
That really came as a surprise, but thank God I remained on my guard. I showed her picture of a previous shorter style I had. She had a brief look and said ‘I can do that one with me eyes closed’.
And so Eileen gave my hair a tender washing and cut it. The result was a indeed a shorter style, but I my opinion she could have gone shorter. Or maybe I wished for that. Anyway I decided in that moment it was okay. When leaving the salon, Eileen thanked me for having trusted her and ‘this was surely a major cut.’
With that visit in mind I travelled to Antwerp once again. If there was any barberette that I would trust to cut my hair short, shorter than it ever was maybe. Then that would be Eileen.
It was late afternoon when I rang the doorbell to her salon and she opened greeting me with a hug. I immediately noticed she was not alone. On a single chair, somehow in the back of the place there was another woman. Eileen was a beautiful women in her mid-forties, but the this woman was a striking beauty. Tall, slender and with dark short hair.
Eileen introduced us. ‘This is a friend of mine, Jane. As you are my last customer for today, she’s waiting for me to finish and close the place and after that we’ll have bite together. Hope you don’t mind her being here?’
‘No of course not.’ Was my more than polite answer. To be honest – I didn’t say so – for me it was a kind of thrill. That beauty watching me having my hair cut.
‘So what have you got in mind for today?’ Eileen asked. ‘Just a trim or ….?’ She didn’t finish that sentence.
‘Or ..?’ I replied.
‘Or, maybe go short? Like we did quite a while ago. I was thinking you might like a change of style with summer coming up. Otherwise if you like we can do something in between that cut and your regular if you think I cut it too short that day? ‘
‘Oh no Eileen, don’t worry. On the contrary. It indeed was as you mentioned that day, a major haircut. But as I look back at it, surely not too short compared to my expectations then.’
‘I’m glad for that. Wouldn’t feel okay for me. I admit I was careful not to go too short. Then of course you could have asked me to cut more when I was finished. No problem at all.’
‘So as for today, what have you got in mind. Do like a revisit to that afternoon, this time cutting slightly more? Asked Eileen.
I answered ‘As usual I’m indecisive. What do YOU suggest? ‘
‘I guess more off this time. Not slightly though … ‘
That sounded scary.
Eileen turned to Jane: ‘What do you think Jane?’
Jane replied with a smile ‘Better not ask me. You know short hair is my favorite in any case. And when I say short, I mean really short. Better not frighten him …’
‘Clear’ Eileen responded. ‘But if up to you, how short would you go for him?’
Jane rose from her chair and approached the barber chair I was sitting on. She carefully moved her fingers through my hair. ‘Well, how short can you go …. The shorter the better. But of course the question is, how short is he willing to go?’
We all turned silent. I had two women looking me in the eye, waiting for an answer.
Jane touched my hair again and asks ‘Would you trust someone else but Eileen to cut your hair?‘
‘Probably not I guess’ I replied.
‘Would you trust ME …. And let ME decide on how to cut it?’ As Jane said this, Eileen was making a funny face as if she wanted to express ‘better realize what you are going for if you agree’.
I looked at Eileen. ‘No problem for me if you let Jane cut your hair. So do not feel like guilty or so. ‘
I agreed on Jane’s proposal. Eileen caped me and showed Jane her toolbox.
As Eileen was explaining about the shears and such, the sole thing I heard Jane saying was ‘No need, I’ll just need these.’
Eileen sat down and in anticipation of what was coming. As if she didn’t know, being friends with Jane for years and years.
Jane took off her woolen sweater ‘better take these off, little hairs easily stick on this’ which left her in a tight black sleeveless shirt with a quite deep cut in the front, showing cleavage. She walked up to the barber chair, holding a pair of clippers low beside her slim body. She came very close to me. Close enough to feel her breasts pushing against the back of my head.
Without further warning she raised her left arm, with her hand pushing the hair on my forehead to the back. Her right hand joined in, holding the clippers. She stopped for five seconds or so. Giving me a last chance to back out. Then she turned on the machine, running it right down the middle. Holding her hand over the path she made, I could not clearly see how short she was going. But it felt short for sure. As Jane moved to the front again, to make her second pass, it became clear. She left like a quarter of an inch of my long grey hair. In the mirror I saw Eileen, hand before her mouth in a state amazement.
Jane gave me a smile in the mirror and Eileen was walking towards us. Holding another pair of clippers. ‘You don’t take this one away from me Jane. I wanted to do this to him for years. Let’s do this together.’
Jane didn’t answer but moved to my left hand side and waited for Eileen to come to the opposite side. This was beyond off what I ever dreamed of or wished for.
In perfect harmony the both of them turned on the clippers and simultaneously moved the clippers upward. Starting with my sideburns and then turning left above my ears. Step by step working the sides and then continuing with was left on top. Eileen solely finish the back of my head while Jane stood before me, her hand resting on the arm posts of the barber chair. Preventing me to escape from the chair. If I had wanted to. I didn’t think of that for the smallest instant.
Eileen was very precise in what she did. She repeated her passes with the machine to catch the small locks that tried to avoid the clippers. When she appeared to be ready, she moved back a little. What I could see in the mirror, Eileen and Jane looked at each other as if they were in a jury. Eileen pressed her lips together and shook her head as if she wanted to express ‘ … this isn’t it …’
Jane made nodded ‘yes’ and stretched her arm towards Eileen. I saw Eileen removing the guard from the machine and handing it to Jane. Jane pushed my legs together, making room to get on the chair. One knee on each side of me. Moving her body very, very close to me. Jane caressed my head. I could still feel the hair there. Not for long. Jane bended over, and from the back of my neck she made a pass to the front. Leaving no hair at all.
Slowly – in my mind it lasted an hour – she carefully let the clippers do its job on every square inch of my head. Leaving a nearly bare skin, with a slight fade of the grey hair that was there only minutes ago. During this commotion I lost complete awareness of what Eileen was doing at the back of the salon.
The instant Jane stepped down from her kneeled position on the chair, Eileen approached from the back, holding a small bowl in her hands. The bowl was filled with a nice smelling foam. Like an artist she started to ‘paint’ my head. Soft strokes. Using an abundance of foam.
When ready she handed a safety razor to Jane. Once again I was in the hands of not one, but two fantastic barberettes. Smiling at each other and clearly enjoying this. Maybe even more than I did myself.
In the end, Eileen out a warm towel on my bare skull. Left it there for a few minutes. Both Eileen and Jane disappeared to the back of the salon. Sitting there on my own, facing the mirror, I felt scared about what to see when the towel was removed. As Eileen returned and took away the towel, I didn’t dare to look and came standing, turning my face away from my mirror image.
Jane joined us ‘wow, I like this. I mean I really really love it’. She climbed into the barber chair, looked my right in the eye and said ‘will you please return me the favor? ‘ Eileen handed me the clippers. What happened next, not hard to guess.