A Chance Meeting – Hartwig/Greenlee
It was a lovely spring day and I was on a break from school. I was enjoying the afternoon with a bike ride through the city and had ended up in the University District in which I used to live. The ride had pretty much demanded that I stop for lunch and I decided upon a local coffee shop. I pulled my bike through the awkward doorway and parked it by the bar. The smoking section was towards the rear so I strode to the furthest table and sat down, tossing my backpack across the table. As I raised my head I saw a lovely young lady with an extremely cropped head of bottle-dyed red hair. She acknowledged my arrival with a smile across our tables and I said, “Hi.”
This was turning into a pretty neat afternoon and I pondered to myself how I could engage her in conversation without looking like your typical weirdo on the make. I thought about the obvious “compliment of the haircut” strategy, which has worked in the past, however it tends to make me feel self-conscious and a bit odd. Is that something a normal male asks a girl? But of course I’m not normal, I have a hair fetish! The waitress came to take my order.
The girl was working on a paper, scattered around her were several texts and xeroxed journal articles. She was tall and a bit gangly, bent over her legal pad gripping a pen with her left hand. South-paws always look uncomfortable to me in this right-handed world. She would write a few sentences, look up and take in the goings on of the coffee shop, a few times vigorously running her fingers through her hair and rubbing her neck. She liked the way it felt, I thought. The waitress brought my soup.
I was thumbing through a local magazine and hurrying through my vegetable mixture when the girl got up to leave. Well, I thought to myself, speak now or never. As she walked near I said, “Excuse me, but that’s a wonderful haircut you’re sporting.”
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She seemed pleased with the compliment and replied, “Thanks, I cut it myself.”
I added, “You’re kidding me, most home haircuts rarely end up that flattering.”
She said, “The clippers came with pretty good instructions.” Then rubbing her nape she said, “The only part I screwed up is the back. It’s a bit uneven.” The waitress brought my sandwich and the girl sat down at my table.
We talked about the paper she was writing, a conversation between two Greek Philosophers, I can’t recall who they were. She was taking a Western History class and was in her early twenties. Her name was Katlin and seemed to be comfortable in conversation with a guy dressed in compression shorts, bike shoes and a microfleece jersey with pockets in the back. I was probably fifteen years her senior and even the waitress seemed intrigued by our unlikely pairing. I ate my artichoke melt and bought her a cup of coffee. She smoked Pall Malls. The chat was truly enjoyable and the tugging of her hair and rubbing of her nape helped direct the conversation back to the haircut. I asked her, “Had you ever worn your hair short before?”
“No,” she replied, “except when I was a little girl.” She continued, “I just needed to change, after all it’s spring and a time for rebirth.” I confessed that I found short hair on women attractive and that I had a bit of a thing for it, without pronouncing my fetish. She didn’t seem to think this was too weird, so I pursued the subject further. The waitress refilled our cups and cleared the table.
We finished our coffee and enjoyed a cigarette. I told her that I had a pair of clippers at my apartment and that I would be honored to “fix” the back of her head. We both laughed as she recounted to me the difficulty in which she had trying to look in the mirror and work the clippers. I assured her that I had given my girlfriend numerous haircuts and was a pretty good hand at it. Once again she surprised me with her willingness and a few minutes later we put my bike in the bed of her truck and drove across town to my apartment.
I hauled my bike up the stairs and Katlin followed cracking jokes about the “old man” and his bicycle. I fixed a pot of coffee while she went through my music library and picked out a few CDs to listen to on the stereo. We had another smoke and I went into the bathroom to get my gear. I think she was impressed to see the oversized cigar box in which were kept two pairs of clippers, scissors, thinning shears and a razor.
“Shall we begin?” I asked.
“You’re the barber,” she replied.
This remark warmed my heart and other parts better left unmentioned. I pulled a fresh towel out of the closet and draped it around her shoulders. I brushed out her hair and then combed it smooth. The crown of her hair was about an inch and a half, shorter in the bangs and the sides and back were a choppy three eighths of an inch or so. I snapped a quarter of an inch attachment on the clippers and clicked them on. As I began clipping in front of her right ear she instructed me to take them up as high as her temple. I happily obliged and told her I would blend them in with her bangs later. I carefully continued behind her ear and started clipping up her nape to the back of her head. Red hair slithered down her neck and was captured in the fold of the towel and her shoulders. The hum of the clippers filled the kitchen as I bent her head down to continue my work.
She spoke up and said, ” You have a pretty good idea of what you’re doing don’t you?” I reassured her that if I ever hit the lottery I would go to New York and become a hairstylist, a dream job in my opinion. I confessed to her I was turned on by the cutting of women’s hair and had been for as long as I could remember. She thought this was interesting and admitted that she had never met a man who was attracted to women with short hair. I pointed out to her she was still young and as time went on she would meet all kinds. I was feeling close to her and wanted to give a speech on being careful who she went home with but refrained from sounding parental. I finished over her left ear and dusted the hair off her neck and shoulders. Red hair covered the floor around the chair and she asked if I had a mirror so she could see. I dug one out and she inspected the cut so far, rubbing the freshly clipped areas approvingly. “That’s an improvement,” she said, “but can you take the hairline at the neck up a bit higher and make it more boyish?”
I replied, “Of course, I’m not finished yet.”
I took the thinning shears and a comb from the box and blended in the quarter-inch to the crown which I intended to cut next. I dampened her hair and, working in sections with comb and scissors, took a half inch off the top. When I reached the front of her head I combed down the bangs and snipped them close and choppy. They framed her face nicely, I thought. I dusted the hair off her face and she smiled.
“I thought you were only going to do the back?” she said.
“Well I guess I got carried away,” I sheepishly replied.
“Oh, I’m just fucking with you!” she said. “I would be foolish to stop you from doing such a nice job on my hair, I’m flattered,” she added.
I plugged in the edging clippers and outlined around her ears. She reminded me to bring the hairline of the nape up higher. I carefully outlined a slightly inverted line on her nape with the clippers. I took out the comb and gingerly tapered the neckline into the back. I was bold enough to run my palm up her nape and feel the prickly softness of the cut.
She asked, “How does it feel?”
I replied, “I think it feels great.”
I imagined how good it would feel against my thighs, but I kept that thought to myself. I dusted her off and removed the towel from around her shoulders. I went back into the bathroom and returned with a jar of Noxema and some talcum powder. “Now to finish you off!” I proclaimed. I smoothed some cold cream on her warm neck and took the cover off the razor. I carefully ran the straight razor along her neck, it made a faint rasping sound as the hair was being shaved close. I could see it gave her goose bumps. When I had completed I toweled off her neck and dusted her with a bit of powder. The clean smells of the soap and the talc came off her neck like a perfume.
“Wow,” she said. “That felt great. I could get used to this.” She stood up and went to the mirror. She rubbed the back of her head and ran her fingers through the top of her hair and smiled.
“Is it boy enough?” I asked.
She looked admiringly in the mirror and said, “It’s perfect!”
She found a broom in the closet and began sweeping the hair up from the floor. “Thank you,” she said. We sat and talked for another hour and I admired my handiwork. Katlin said she practically lived at the coffee shop and was going to school full-time to complete her undergraduate degree. I told her that I missed going to school and being her age. A pot of coffee later I walked her out to her truck and she pulled my face to hers and kissed my cheek. Her lips were warm and soft and the smell of talcum powder clung to her neck.
“See ya’ round,” she said. “Thanks for the haircut.”
“My pleasure!” I replied and she looked over her shoulder and smiled. As her truck pulled away I imagined Katlin telling her friends about her afternoon haircut and the “old man” with a “thing” for hair.