When Nitro asked me to come with her to her hair appointment, I wasn’t totally on-board initially- going out requires a lot of prep, like putting a bra on. That was before Nitro told me why; her stylist is giving her tickets to the Dagger Notes concert, and I should be there to personally thank her, since I’ll be going. When I hop into the passenger side of her car, I immediately start bobbing my head with the music, and we start singing as soon as the car starts moving.
After ten minutes rocking the road, we pull up to a brick building, and Nitro stops the car. She pulls off her sunglasses and smiles at me. With her black band tee, black jeans, and buzzed-side haircut, plus her smile, I feel like she’s too cool to be with me. I usually just throw on sweat pants and a hoodie, and today is no exception. My brunette hair is pulled back into a low ponytail. When she gets out of the car, you can see the old pink highlights in her delicate blonde hair- the light catches it as it flutters in the wind. I keep my head down when I get out of the car, and follow her to the shop.
When we go in, the burst of cool air is nice. A woman sitting across the room in a chair smiles, and waves at Nitro, who waves back. She’s cute, although obviously very into the punk scene. Her makeup is a vibrant palette of greens and yellows, topped by an electric green mohawk, fluffed up slightly and hanging just above her eyebrows. It compliments her bright green eyes quite well. She’s dressed in a leather jacket, tight-fitting black jeans, and boots. When Nitro walks up to her, she stands up and closes the distance herself. She stands several inches taller than Nitro, which is intimidating when Nitro is several inches taller than me. The two chat for a moment before I can hear Nitro tell her, “This is Kell. She’s the one going to the concert with me.”
I wave while standing in place, but the woman walks up to me- I feel like I have to look up to see her face. “Good to meet you,” she tells me, “I’m Spring. Are you totally sure this concert is something you want to go to, though? It’s pretty hardcore. You look like you’d be more at home somewhere else.”
I want to tell her off, but I instead just thank her for the tickets. Nitro chimes in, “Oh, trust me- you’ve never seen a girl who likes hardcore music more than she does. She may not look like it, but this is the face of an angry rebel.”
Nitro grabs my cheeks and pulls them for a second, and I playfully snap at her hand, before smiling at her. Spring raises an eyebrow, and asks, “Then why the plain style?”
I shrug. “It’s a lot of effort to get the fashion right, and I don’t have a lot of effort to give.”
Spring nods, before asking quickly, “It’s never too late to start being fashionable. Autumn is in the other room on break, but do you want me to see if she can fit you in for a makeover right now?”
I stutter for a moment before Nitro interjects- “You’re stuck here anyway while I get worked on. You might as well.”
I sigh, asking, “What kind of makeover are you talking about?”
“We can do pretty much anything that’s not actually taking you shopping for clothes,” Spring responds, “Hair, makeup, piercings. It’s too bad Summer’s out, she’s a tat artist.”
“Yes, yes, yes, and double yes,” Nitro interjects, sticking her tongue out at me playfully. I roll my eyes, and tell her, “I guess it’d be pretty nice to look cool for once. I don’t want anything too dramatic though- or anything too high-maintenance for that matter.”
Spring nods, telling me she has the perfect artist for me, and walks off to the back of the shop. When she returns, a woman with tanned skin is following her, and my mouth hangs open a little bit- she’s dressed the same way as Spring, but with a deep violet mohawk brushed down the side of her head. Her makeup is applied lighter, but it’s a stunning mix of pink and purple. She looks amazing. I wish I looked that good on a regular basis.
When she approaches me and gives me a hand, she tells me, “Hey. I’m Autumn. I hear you need something low-maintenance, pretty normal, but hitting on the fringes of punk culture. Good you’ve got me- I like to keep things low-key.” She pats my back and subtlety pushes me toward the chair, and I find myself walking there on numb-feeling legs. Nitro is already in the chair, and I watch as Spring puts a strip of paper around her neck. As Spring goes to grab a cape, I swing myself up and into my chair, sinking deep into it. Autumn grabs the roll of neck paper, and gently but tightly runs a piece around me, pulling my ponytail out to ensure it doesn’t loosen the paper’s grip on my neck, before tearing off the strip and securing it.
“So,” Spring asks as Autumn goes to pick up a cape, “You never actually told me what we were planning on doing here. Either of you. What are you thinking?”
“Let’s get Chelseas!” Nitro exclaims.
“No,” I reply.
Autumn chuckles while putting the cape around me, and suggests, “What about a bobbed side-buzz, like Nitro has right now? That’s pretty low-maintenance, you just have to come back every so often to get it buzzed again, and you can pretty much just brush your hair out of your face if you don’t want to go to a lot of trouble.”
When she pins it, it feels comfortably tight around me. Her suggestion feels genuine, and it does sound like a good idea. “Sure, that sounds good,” I reply, comfortable letting my arms lay on the rests.
“I still want a Chelsea,” Nitro tells everyone. “I think it would be super cute.”
Spring walks to the counter and takes her clippers off the wall. “How short of a Chelsea?” she asks, eliciting a shrug and “I dunno, my side shave is grown out to like a #3 right? So that’d be a good length all around. Or maybe a bit shorter.”
Spring picks up a clipper attachment and hooks it on. She flicks the clippers on and leaves them on as she walks behind Nitro, and pumps her chair up quickly. I watch as she combs the hair on Nitro’s nape away and pushes the clippers up into it, quickly buzzing up the nape and to the crown, and letting a large clump of blonde hair fall backward onto the floor. As she begins another pass, Spring asks, “What gave you the idea to go for a Chelsea? This isn’t the most common style, even among this community.” As she throws another clump of hair on the floor, Nitro replies, “Oh, you know. I saw it online, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since then. Hopefully I look as good as this picture I saw, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a pink Chelsea.”
“Wait,” I interject, as Autumn starts pumping my chair up, “You’re getting dyed pink?”
“Totally. It’s a really cute color, one of my favorites… what’s your favorite color, Kell?”
I can see her smiling at me as another lock of blonde hair drops by her face.
I feel Autumn wetting my hair with a spray bottle, and combing it out gently. The sensation feels so nice that I almost forget to answer, before she tells me, “You don’t have to get it dyed, but I personally think it’s more fun. Especially when it’s a color you love- purple is my personal favorite.”
“Oh, yeah- I guess it could be a lot of fun,” I meander, as I feel scissors snip around the back of my neck, and hear wet hair thwapping down onto my cape and the chair. “I’ve always really liked blue. Maybe I should go with that.”
Autumn nods, still clipping hair carefully, and Spring replies over the buzz of clippers, “I love blue hair, you’d look super cute with it.”
She quickly throws another clump of blonde hair down Nitro’s cape, shearing up the previously long side of her head. Autumn tips my head to the side gently, and asks casually, “So. How did you get into punk music? You really don’t look like the type yet.”
She expertly cuts the hair on my right side just below my chin, and I start to reply- “Well, Nitro-”
“She was totally a preppie,” Nitro interrupts me, “But I found her and saved her from that. Some of my friends and I were playing our music at a dorm party, and she wandered in like a poor little lost puppy, talking about how she couldn’t study. I gave her some beer, and she loosened up within a half hour. Within the hour after that, we found out she was a freak, and now she’s not allowed to have more than three beers at a time.”
Nitro and I laugh, and I continue, “Wasn’t that the party where I broke the table when I tried dancing on it? And broke the microwave by trying to hold onto it on my way down?”
Nitro and I laugh again, and the stylists chuckle, although Autumn holds my head still as she clips around the back of my head. Spring holds Nitro’s head to the side as she cleans up the previously sheared side, remarking, “You probably could have left this a little longer based on how much this side has grown out, honestly. But oh well, too late now~”
Small, fuzzy bits of hair fall off her clippers every time she completes a pass, until Nitro’s side is cleanly sheared like the rest of her head. Spring quickly switches to the top, placing the clippers just behind Nitro’s bangs and running them back to her crown, throwing hair down the back of the chair and onto the growing pile before starting another pass.
Beside me, Autumn asks quietly, “Have you ever had clippers used on you, sweetie?”
“No, this is my first time,” I reply. “I’ve never done anything like this before.”
As she clips away the final few long hairs, Autumn replies with a smile, “Seriously? So this is like baby punk’s first makeover. That’s adorable. Well, I’ll make sure to go slowly so you don’t get too startled.”
Spring chimes in, “This is your first makeover? Oh my god, this is totally special then! You should get a selfie with Autumn afterward, to remember this by.”
Autumn clips off the last few long hairs, and brushes the hair on my left side out a few more times with the comb, wringing all the moisture out, before she goes back to the counter. She puts her scissors down and picks up the clippers, brushing them off and putting a small attachment on them. She turns them on and walks back to me quickly.
Holding them up to my ear, she tells me, “They don’t hurt or anything. I’ll let you get used to them for a second.”
I shiver with the vibration so close to me and close my eyes. When I feel warm pressure against the side of my head, I open them and watch a fluffy brown clump of hair fall down my cape. Slowly, Autumn pushes the clippers up the side of my head, exposing a sheared strip, before dumping the hair stuck on them, and starting from the bottom again. Within a few passes, the side of my head is completely sheared, and she is running the clippers up it again and again to ensure there are no stray hairs. It quickly feels nice, but it feels better when she stops the clippers and runs her fingers over the sheared spot. Her nails glide over the sensitive scalp gently, giving me a soothing, caring feeling. With her other hand, she runs her fingers through the bobbed part of my hair, fluffing it out and detangling it gently. I close my eyes for a few seconds so I can feel her fingers and nails against me, but she quickly asks, “What do you think?”
I open my eyes to hair partially fluffed up, with the left side close to the scalp. It looks good. Autumn is smiling, and I smile back at her, telling her, “You did a great job. This looks great.”
I look over at Nitro- she looks incredibly different, but she looks good as well. She smiles at me, before Spring takes her hand, and tells her, “Okay, let’s go ahead and dye next.”
I look back at Autumn, who nods. She takes my hand and helps me up, letting the pile of hair sitting on my lap fall off my cape and down onto the floor. We walk over to a row of chairs in front of sinks. Nitro hops in her chair, and I sit down gently.
“So, what shade of blue were you thinking?” Autumn asks, pulling on gloves.
“I was thinking pretty dark,” I reply, “I know my hair is dark enough to be trouble already, but I’m hoping we don’t have to bleach it, since I know that can be really bad for your hair.”
Autumn nods and shows me a few colors. I pick out a darker but still vibrant blue variant, and Nitro picks a hot pink. Lucky for her, her hair is already pale blonde, and could probably take any dye she wanted. Autumn puts a towel around my neck, and carefully takes a lock of my hair. She dips a brush in dye, and runs it gently but firmly along my hair. I stay absolutely still, trying to respect her work, before she asks me, “So, do you normally wear makeup? Or is this going to be a rare thing for you?”
I snort, and tell her, “I wear makeup about as often as I dress up in general, very rarely. That does mean that it will be really nice to have it done professionally, though. It’ll be way better than anything I could do myself.”
She smiles at me as she continues to run her brush over locks, carefully and consistently. I watch as she turns her head to the side, then back at me. She says slightly louder, “Are you guys already done applying the dye? I’m not done with the side quite yet.”
“She doesn’t have much to dye- it’ll probably won’t take long to cook either. Here, let me help you in the meantime.”
I hear Spring changing gloves, and then feel her pick up some hair from the back of my head, running a brush along it, as Autumn finishes up the side.
“How does it feel to be doted over by two cute girls?” I hear Spring ask. Autumn rolls her eyes as I blush, and tells me, “Don’t pay attention to her. She loves to tease.”
“Like you’re not doing something totally similar,” Spring snarks back, “You practically give your clients scalp massages in addition to what they wanted.”
Autumn smiles and replies, “I can’t help that I have gentle fingers that everyone wants to feel against their skin. You should let me show you after this.”
A timer sounds off elsewhere, and Spring quickly walks off, changing her gloves, to put Nitro’s hair under running water, washing the dye out. After brushing down the sheared side of my head, Autumn tells me, “Okay, the dye is in evenly. Now we can actually let it sit for a while.”
She turns lamps around me on and continues, “Let me know if this is too hot- I can turn them down if I need to. And while your dye is in, I can do your makeup.” She quickly takes her gloves off.
“Yeah,” I reply, “That sounds like a good use of this time… Woo. Those lamps are really hot.”
“Do you need me to turn them down?”
“No, they’re just… Actually, it feels kinda good. Are they special?”
“Yeah, these are heat lamps. They’re really useful for making the dye work better.”
I nod, and notice Autumn taking the cape off Nitro- Nitro looks stunning with pink bangs hanging down, framing her eyes, with nothing but a pink fuzz behind them. Her light-shaded makeup makes her feel peppy, and I can only hope as she stretches that I’ll look as good as she does when I’m done. “Hey Spring,” she asks, “I think I do want that nose piercing. Let’s go do it.”
Spring smiles, and waves at us. Autumn waves back, before wetting a rag, and rubbing it gently over my face a few times- I close my eyes for her, and appreciate the warmth and gentle pressure. She pats my face dry and continues by dipping a brush into a container of powder, which she brushes gently around my face. With different brushes, she applies different powders to several places- I try my best to stay still.
After a little while, she tells me, “Okay, I’m gonna need to work on your eyes now. This might be a little uncomfortable at first, but I promise not to hurt you.”
“Yeah.. thank you,” I tell her after I close my eyes, and feel her finger gently rubbing against my eyelid. “How did you get into cosmetology?”
“Well, I’ve been doing it since I was a kid with my friends and sisters, honestly,” Autumn tells me as she runs a soft brush over my eyes. “I started the shop with Spring, Summer, and Winter after realizing that there wasn’t really anyone who catered to our style around here. I was especially angry after another stylist gave me a flat-top instead of a mohawk, and then brushed me off. She said it looked more professional, so I shouldn’t be complaining anyway. Open your eyes so I can do eyeliner, please.”
“Wow, what a total jerk!” I reply, opening my eyes. She gently runs a liner brush over my eyelids, with extreme concentration. When she withdraws the brush she replies, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure she eventually got fired for doing things like that. But still, we all figured that there absolutely needed to be someone who catered to punk stuff around here, and we just happened to be best-suited to do it.” Holding my chin, Autumn gently applies mascara, then looks at my eyes for a moment, before nodding, and switching to a different piece of makeup.
“Do you want bright lips or just an enhancement of your natural color?”
“Just an enhancement”, I tell her, as she opens a balm. Holding my chin, she gently presses the product into my lip- it feels good, I haven’t used any lip balm in a long time. As she closes the lid, she asks me to mimic her popping her lips outward. I do so, and she smiles.
“I’m thinking a dark color would work well for your nails- what do you think about indigo?”
I nod, and she rubs down my hands with a warm, wet cloth. “Your nails look like they’ve been clipped relatively recently- do you want me to do it again?”
“Nah, it’s fine,” I tell her, “I did it a couple days ago.”
She nods, and pulls out a file, expertly and delicately sanding away the rough edges of every nail from my poor job of cutting them. “Do you paint your own nails?” I ask, “Or does Spring do it? Or one of the other girls here?”
“Usually one of us does it, but I don’t really have a preference for who- we’re all pretty good at what we do. We’ve all been doing it for quite a long time.”
Autumn rubs the nails over again with a warm cloth, before pulling out a bottle of clear polish and beginning to apply it to my first thumbnail.
“How far do you guys go back?” I ask, curious.
Despite clearly focusing intensely, she absentmindedly replies, “We’ve all been friends for years now, but it started with Spring and Winter. They were friends since they were kids. I met up with them in high school because of our shared interest in this, and Summer came along a couple years ago. We met her at a concert, because of her stellar makeup skills.”
“What did she do that made you notice her?”
“It was awesome, too bad you couldn’t have seen it- she painted her entire face to look like a Day of the Dead sugar skull, complete with a bunch of floral ornamentation. We had to go talk to her after we saw that.”
I nod and try to envision it. That must have taken a lot of work if it really was as amazing as she said. We sit and chat for a few minutes, until the first coat of polish dries under the intense heat, and she’s able to start with a second coat. Looking at the timer, she moves quickly but expertly, painting every nail almost perfectly with time to spare.
When the hair timer goes off, she puts fresh gloves on and leans me back into the sink. It’s nice to feel her fingers running through my hair as she washes the dye out thoroughly- she really does feel like she’s giving a scalp massage, especially when she runs her fingers over the freshly sheared side. Even with her fingers protected behind gloves, they’re still gentle but forceful. After a little while, she turns the water off, and squeezes some conditioner into her hand, massaging it in in the same way.
“Conditioner can help keep your hair from getting damaged after a dye,” she tells me. “The next time you wash your hair, you’re also going to want to make sure you use sulfate-free shampoo. Sulfates will wreck the color- trust me, I’ve been there before. It sucked.”
“Yeah- I’ll make sure to look for that,” I tell her. I can’t actually remember if my shampoo at home is sulfate-free or not. I might have to make a trip to the store.
After a few minutes, she washes the conditioner out of my hair, and dries my hair thoroughly with a fresh towel. With her comb, she swishes it the way she wants it, and eventually unpins my cape and neck strip. She gives me a hand to help me step down from the chair, and leads me back to the front room.
When I first look at myself in the mirror, I’m stunned- I barely look like myself. The dye took really well, a dark but electric blue, and my dark makeup and nails compliment it well. I turn back to hug Autumn when I see myself, telling her, “You did such a great job! Thank you!”
Autumn pets my head, and when I look up at her, she’s smiling.
I let her go after a minute, and she mentions, “You know, there’s still a few more things we can do. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think a punk look is complete without at least one facial piercing.”
“I agree!” Nitro yells from across the room. I don’t know how she even heard that; she has ears like no other when she wants to.
Autumn chuckles, and tells me, “It’s your choice in the end, of course. I know what I’m doing, though, and we could make it quick and easy.”
I think for a moment, before replying, “Yeah, I can deal with pain. And a piercing will close up soon if I decide I don’t like it. Let’s do it.”
I sit back in my initial chair, and Nitro smiles over at me. She’s holding a paper towel wad up against a bloody nose, but “It’s gonna be great”, she assures me. I smile back and tell her I’m sure it will be. Autumn pulls a piercing kit up from a drawer in the counter, and quickly unsheaths a fresh needle.
“Is a stud piercing okay to start with? And where do you want this?”
I think for a moment, before telling her, “Maybe bottom lip would be good? It could put emphasis on my left side.”
She nods and pulls my lip out gently without replying, rubbing the outer part with disinfectant.
“Ready for the needle?” she asks, casually.
I nod, slowly, and she pierces me quickly. It’s painful, but not bad enough that I flinch, and she quickly pulls the needle out and stanches the bleeding with paper towels, which she asks me to hold in place. I do so, and she leans back on the counter.
“The bleeding should stop pretty quick,” she assures me, “And then we can wipe off the dried blood and check it out.”
Nitro’s bleeding stops before mine, and we get to see her nose piercing- it looks great on her, as I expected.
Soon after, my bleeding stops too- I look good with a little piece of silver in my bottom lip. It really does bring out the sheared side of my hair a little bit, and I love it.
“Now, you’re perfect,” Autumn tells me, kissing her finger and putting it against my neck for a second, making me blush. “How do you like it?”
“I totally agree,” I tell her. “I think you did an amazing job. I can feel proud of my punk look, going to the concert like this. Oh, and like Spring said-”
I grab Autumn’s arm and pull her toward me. In my other hand, I take out my phone and set it to the camera. When we’re both smiling, I take a picture.
Autumn stands straight again, and tells me “Glad you’re happy! Now that it’s done, I’m gonna go back and crash. I’ll see you later Spring. And you guys too. Come back anytime for a touch-up.”
As she vanishes behind a curtain, I’m already thinking about when I can come back. Nitro pays for both of us and retrieves the tickets, and we leave the shop after bidding Spring adieu. Nitro’s hair is even more vibrant in the sun, and she smiles at me when she notices I’m staring at her. She ruffles the short, fuzzy side of my head, and tells me, “Welcome to the punk scene. Finally.”