The Speakeasy

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The Speakeasy
Ginger Herten

I hadn’t planned to ever go back to bar tending, but since my business collapsed while I was stuck on bedrest most of my pregnancy, it was my only option in this lousy economy.  Especially considering I needed a job with hours opposite my husband’s so every penny I made plus some wouldn’t go to childcare.  So here I am at The Speakeasy, interviewing.

“Could you start tomorrow night?” Jake, the manager asks.

“Sure, I can arrange that.”  I say with a smile.  I obviously have this job in the bag.

“It’s enough time to for you to get your hair cut?”

“Wait, what?”  I am now totally confused.

“To fit in with the theme…”  He looks at me like I should know what he’s talking about.  “Didn’t Laura tell you about this on the phone before she scheduled the interview?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Great”  He says sarcastically, and sighs while rubbing his face.  “You’re aware that ‘Speakeasy’ refers to illicit bars during prohibition?”

I nod.

“Well the whole bar and restaurant has a prohibition era theme.  Decor, the music we play, we even try to do the food as close to prohibition era as possible.  It’s not like we aim for total historical accuracy, but we try really hard to incorporate the theme fully throughout the restaurant.”

“So you’re telling me…”  I begin tentatively.

“Our staff dresses in period appropriate high fashion, including hairstyles.”  He finishes.  “Laura should have made it clear before she scheduled your interview, that if you got this job you would need to have a period appropriate haircut.”

I just sat there feeling a bit shocked.  I did not know what to say.

“Listen, I’ll give you a few minutes to think it over while I go have a word with Laura.”  He got up and went to the back.

I was glad I wasn’t in Laura’s shoes, not that my own shoes were comfortable at the moment.  I didn’t hear any really loud yelling from the back, so I guess he wasn’t too bad a boss to work for.  I did catch a few bits of the conversation here and there.  “If she says no, I’ve just wasted a half hour.”

I am so confused.  I really need a job.  John, my husband, only covered the absolute basics, mortgage, car insurance, etc, with his salary.  Last month, the refrigerator broke and we had no choice but to replace it wiping out the last of our savings.  We are just one emergency away from being underwater financially.  It’s not a good feeling.

I really didn’t want to cut my hair though.  Thoughts were rushing through my head.  What would John say?  Will the baby recognize me?  Will I look awful?

If Laura had told me over the phone, I would have just declined the interview.  It’s a lot easier to say no to the vague possibility of a job, than an actual job offer though.  I really need a job.

“So,”  Jake comes back and sat down again.  “Do you want the job?”

“Yes.”  I say and put on a fake smile.  “What time should I come in tomorrow night?”

“So, did you get the job?”  John asks with excited hope as I walk in.  He’d taken the afternoon off to watch the baby while I was at the interview.

“Yes.”  I say quietly as I put my stuff down.

“You don’t sound as happy as I expected.”

I go over and sit on the couch.  John sits down next to me.

“I have to get a haircut.”

“Does this have something to do with the job?”

“I have to look high fashion from the twenties.”  I put my head on his shoulder as I finish saying it.

“We’ll manage if you don’t want to do it.”  He wraps his arm around me and kisses the top of my head.  “There are other jobs, we can scrape by for a few more months till something comes along.”

“Just so long as the car doesn’t break down, or the house doesn’t need repairs beyond my skills, or god only knows.”  I point out.

I sit there for a few minutes just enjoying the comfort of John’s arm around me and his shoulder under my head.  My long hair hangs down over his chest and into his lap.  It’s a lovely chestnut brown, with a slight wave.  I’ve never cut it short.  Even when the baby started yanking it, and all the other moms were cutting their hair, I just kept it up out of his reach.

I play with the ends of my hair for a few more minutes then sigh and sit up straight.

“Will you be upset if I keep the job?”

“I won’t be angry.  It’s up to you if you want to, but really we can manage.”

“‘Not angry’ isn’t the same as not upset.”

“I love your long hair, but you want a job.”  He strokes my hair.  “It’s a bit of a no win situation.”

“Yeah, sure is.”

I get up and open the laptop and start looking through hair salon reviews.  Everywhere with good reviews also is listed as expensive.  I do not have nearly a hundred dollars to drop on a haircut right now.

“Honey?”  I call to John who has gone to the other room to fold laundry.  “How much does it cost for you to get a haircut?”

“Fifteen dollars, why?”

“Do you ever see women there getting haircuts?”

“Once in a blue moon.”  He calls back.

“Think I could just go there?”  I get up from the computer and stand in the doorway.  “We can’t afford some fancy salon.”

“Considering how little you have spent on haircuts over the years, we can manage to splurge this one time if it will make you happy.”

“Thanks, but it’s not like I’m going to enjoy it anyway, so we might as well save money.”  I point out.  “How late are they open.  Should I call for an appointment.”

“They’re open till seven.  I never bother with an appointment.”  John looks at his watch as he replies.  “My mom should be home from work by now.  We could drop off the baby on the way.”

When we pull up in front and park, John puts his hand on my arm stopping me from getting out for a moment.  So we can talk before going in.

“I know we need the money, but you don’t have to do this.”  John reminds me.

“It’s not just the money, working will be good for me.”  I say trying to make it easier.  “Are you really going to hate it?”

John shrugs.  “I’ll get used to it, and I’m sure you’ll still be beautiful.”

He gives me a reassuring peck on the cheek, before we get out of the car.

We walk into the barbershop.  It’s a bit busy, which I wish it wasn’t.  I don’t really want to be watched by a bunch of people, but I need to get this done tonight since John’s working during the day tomorrow and I don’t want to try to do it with the baby, so I follow John to the waiting area.

The wait is excruciating.  I try distracting myself playing games on my phone, but I’m too nervous, so I just hold John’s hand.  Finally it’s my turn and I walk over to the chair, only a little shaky.

“So what’ll it be?”  The barber is just a little past middle age, with short white hair.

“I need a haircut.”  My voice is weak from nerves.  “It’s for my job.  It has to be period appropriate high fashion between 1920 and 1933.”

“Ok” The barber nods and shakes out a cape.  “My grandfather used to tell me stories about how in the ’20s there were no beauty parlors in town yet, so he’d have young girls come to his barbershop to bob their hair.”

I guess, I had accidentally picked the perfect place for this.  I took a deep breath as the cape was fastened tightly around my neck.  This was my last chance to back out and turn down the job, I was seriously considering it looking at myself in the mirror.  I really needed this job though.  If I didn’t take this one, I’d have to start looking at bars much further away.  Too long a commute and the cost of gas, time spent commuting and wear on the car would start making it not worth it.

I look at John through the mirror and smile at him.  I’m not sure if I’m trying to convince him or myself that I want to do this.  Probably both of us.  He looks as nervous as I feel.

The barber begins combing my long hair while squirting it with water from a spray bottle.  I watch in the mirror as he makes sure my part is straight and everything is laying naturally.  Then he parts my hair down the back of my head.  He takes the hair from one side of the parting and combs a bit of it straight down in back.  Then he twirls the rest of the hair and places it in front of my ear.  He repeats the process on the other side.

He tilts my head down with his hands, and combs the back smooth one more time.  That’s when I feel the cold scissors slip behind the hair against my neck.  I can’t see what is happening, but I can hear the sound of the scissors slice through the hair with a schnick.

My stomach clenches, and my breath is caught.  I look at the twists of my damp hair hanging down the sides of my head.  My eyes feel warm, but I manage to blink back the tears as I bite my lip.

I feel the teeth of the comb scrape down my neck.  I can still feel a fair amount of my long hair against my neck, but then the cold metal of the scissors returns with the schnick sound again.  The funny thing is I can still feel the hair there, till the comb scrapes by again, and the hair is suddenly gone.  My neck feels very cold now.

I feel the scissors’ blades laid flat against my neck, and the barber opens and closes them repeatedly.  It is so weird feeling all this, but not really knowing how short it is going to look yet.  I look up slightly.

He untwists the hair on one side, combs a little of my long hair down my back, then retwists it and put it back in front of my ear.  Then of course, he repeats the process on the other side.  After combing the long hair smooth again, he tilts my head back down again.

The barber starts cutting again.  The tip of the scissors poke me ever so slightly as he slides them under the hair again before cutting it off.

He repeats the process of combing down a bit of hair then cutting it off again.  My neck is really starting to get tired, and I still have no idea what it all looks like.  Two more times though, and he finally lets me up to look straight ahead.  Not that I can really see anything anyway, but it’s more comfortable and a bit less scary.

While I look at the mirror, he combs the hair in back a few times, patting it upward with his hand a few times, then tilts my head back down.  I guess he’s not done with the back yet.  I let out another sigh.

He starts combing it upward and snipping at it with his scissors.  I don’t really understand what’s going on, but I know more cutting has to mean it’s getting shorter.  I worry it is going to look very severe.

He lets my head up, and I can only sort of see what’s going on in the mirror.  Or more accurately, I can see what isn’t going on, which is no hair from the back is long enough to be seen from the front.  Nothing sticks out or under my ears.  That’s my only clue.

He untwists the hair again, and starts combing it all out.  I don’t look like I’ve changed now.  My hair still looks long, where he’s been cutting is hidden behind and under the long hair I still have on the front and crown of my head.

He finally combs down through the left front of my hair stopping when he reaches that spot where my ear ends and my jaw begins.  He holds the comb lined up to the jaw, but touching my earlobe, and begins slicing the hair under the comb off.  The chestnut hair slithers down the front of the cape to land in my lap.

It is a good thing I am sitting down, because I suddenly feel rather lightheaded and a bit dizzy.  I take another deep breath and remind myself how much we need the money.  Even though he had already cut a ton of hair in the back, the hair he just cut from the front is a much bigger shock, since I can finally see it.

My hair is going to be so so short.  I could see it now.  The hair he had cut along the side of my face barely brushed my jaw, and was angling up even higher in the back.

He repositions the comb so that it lines up to the bottom of the hair he cut in the front and something I can’t see in the back.  He slices off all the hair under the comb again.  Long strands hang on my shoulder, now detached from my head.

He moves to my other side and combs down once again lining up the comb.  The new hair joins the rest on my lap.  There is a lot of hair there.  It’s so long, much longer than what’s left on my head.

I have so little long hair left now, I feel empty as he lines up the comb one last time and the last of my hair falls away.

He starts combing it and taking little snips here and there.  He looks at my face for a moment in the mirror.

“I think bangs would be good.”  The barber suggests.  “Would you like them?”

“I don’t know.”  I’m having a really hard time imagining it, though the cut is a bit blah as is and maybe bangs would give it a bit more pizzazz.  “John what do you think?”

The deer caught in headlights look comes over John’s face.  He just shrugs.

I look away from John and back to the barber.  “You really think the bangs will look best?”

He nobs and starts separating out some of the hair at the front of my head.  I can just see light through the curtain of hair in front of my face.  The ends of my hair brush against my chin.

I feel the point of the scissors against my forehead, just above my eye brows as he slides them under the curtain of hair.  I hear little snips, and the curtain begins to fall away.

I can see myself now, and the bangs totally change the way I look.  Since the long hair had hung below my face, though the change in length was shocking I still looked like me, the bangs though are changing the shape of my face.  The proportions have changed, and there is a whole new line.  The line brings attention to my eyes in a whole new way.

The bangs have really made the cut, I’m glad I went for it.  I think to myself I’ll keep the bangs when I have long hair again.  Suddenly, I realize this isn’t a one-time thing.  I’m going to have to keep my hair short for as long as I work at The Speakeasy, unless they decided to stop doing the prohibition theme.  I take a deep shaky breath.

There is so much hair piled up in my lap now.  It’s too late to change my mind.

The barber has put down the scissors and has picked up the clippers.  He tilts my head down again.

He is making the back even shorter.  The buzzing sound fills my ears as I stare at the hair in my lap.  Did we really need the second income this badly?

The barber finishes with the clippers, and I raise my head to look in the mirror.  Much as I am missing my long hair, the way the short hair frames it is making my face look very delicate.

He starts drying my hair, which between the fact that it was only damp and I now have so little hair, takes just a minute or so.  When it’s dry, the sides brush against my cheeks highlighting the bones there, which I must admit is very flattering.

He’s back again with a small edger.  He is running it along my still slightly sore neck.  They whine at a much higher tone than the clippers had, but he is soon finished.

The barber puts some powder on a brush and starts dusting me off.  I sneeze.

“Bless you.”  He says as he unfastens the cape.   He removes it carefully so the pile of hair from my lap slides off to the side, and not onto my feet.

He turns me around so the mirror is behind me, and holds up a hand mirror so I can see the very short back.  The neckline ends in a delicate point.  I reach up to feel it.  It’s feels even better than when I feel John’s after he’s gotten a haircut.  My hair is softer, silkier and fuller than John’s, so the short hair feels more velvety and plush.

“You’ll probably need to get a haircut ever six weeks to maintain it, but you can come in for bang trims between cuts.”  He’s telling me as he puts away his hand mirror, and turns the chair back to face the large mirror.

“I guess I’ll see you soon then.”  I say trying to sound casual, instead of like I’m dreading it.  “Thank you.”

As I am walking to where John is now standing, I look down and see the pile of hair on the floor behind the chair is much much bigger than the one in my lap had been.  I get lightheaded again and stumble slightly.  John catches my elbow and steadies me.  He keeps his arm around me as me finish up in the shop.

Outside, I snuggle into John as we walk to the car.   I’m scared he hates the haircut.  I know it shouldn’t matter, but what he thinks of it means the world to me at this moment.  We get to the car, and I lean against it and look at John before we get in.

“Do you really hate it.”  I ask hoping he’ll say he it isn’t that bad.

“Actually it’s pretty adorable.”  He says with a real smile on his face.  “Your neck looks so long.”

A few quiet tears of relief roll down my cheek.  We get into the car.

As I buckle my seat belt, John brushes a tear off my cheek.  “I didn’t expect telling you it was adorable would make you cry.”  He says with a chuckle.

“I told mom I wanted to take you out for dinner to celebrate getting the job.”  He says as he starts the engine.  “Since you decided not to splurge on an expensive salon, we can afford to go somewhere nice.  Mom’s not expecting us back for hours.  So we could just spend a little time with each other afterwards.”

For the first time, I actually feel good about having taken the job.

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