Displacement

Displacement

Displacement

– a story by 0.

Hanna could somehow sense the anxiousness of the young girl to her right. Well, young… Hanna estimated her age to be sixteen, which was only four years younger than she was. Of course, there were signs as well – like the fact that she was biting her nails, that a close friend was holding her hand, and the hairstyle magazine lying on her lap. Hanna couldn’t resist the urge to take a peep, and saw just what she had expected: pictures of rather short hairstyles.

The left page depicted a style that could best be described as a spiky crop, hazel in color, but with the occasional purple tuft providing contrast. The back and sides had been cut very short at the bottom, but progressively longer upwards where they blended seamlessly into the messily spiked top.

The right page depicted a style so extremely short Hanna wondered if the woman on the picture had been in her right mind when she had her hair done. It was cut to a uniform length, less than a centimeter all over. The woman’s hair was extremely blonde, though it seemed to be her natural color, and a ring, maybe a centimeter in diameter, separated her lower lip into two equal parts.

The latter style reminded Hanna of a period of time she hadn’t experienced very consciously, the eighties. She had thought the Punk attitude towards hairstyles and the piercing of body parts to be disgusting when she was seven, and her opinion hadn’t changed since then. Thankfully, the “lifestyle” seemed to be going the way of the dinosaur, with the occasional fossil – like the girl in the picture – reminding her of it every now and then.

Her gaze turned to the row of willow trees standing on the opposite side of the street. A man with a chainsaw had just begun to pollard them, cutting of the young sprouts so that the tree as a whole would survive. Hanna had always thought it a shame to cut off these younger, more healthy branches. Somehow the trees seemed less graceful without them.

It was also a shame to forsake your long tresses in favour of fashion. Sure, the short brown cut looked interesting and vibrant. Even the cut on the opposite page had its own aesthetic appeal, and of course Hanna had, at several points in her life, considered cutting her own straight black hair short. But she had always thought the better of it. Fashions and trends changed. But long hair was always beautiful. It was a constant.

Leslie – the hairdresser’s 6-year old who was running around the shop, ignoring her mother’s pleas to be quiet – illustrated Hanna’s thoughts. Long blonde curls fell halfway past her back. Surely the beauty of long hair was universal.

Of course, the fact that women generally wore their hair long was a mere cultural phenomenon – A large, very invasive fashion that had lasted for more than four millennia, and probably even longer than that. Hanna was able to admit to herself that a world in which women were expected to wear their hair short was conceivable.

At this point something happened. It is hard to describe, as Hanna was the only one who noticed it, and barely so. The most likely explanation is that Hanna’s imagination played a trick on her. A bizarre explanation is that Hanna’s mental leap caused a timewarp. Whatever the cause, Hanna was suddenly – vaguely – aware that everything had changed.

Or perhaps only the shape of everything. She was still sitting in the same room. The pollard-willows still greeted her from the opposite side of the road, although they had no branches, and the top of the trees seemed bulkier, older. The weather had changed, too, as dark, large clouds began to form the beginning of a storm.

The shop had changed too. The soft curves that had dominated the interior had been changed into sleek lines, the warm reds and yellows on the wall had given place to cool pastels.

Of course, Hanna was only consciously aware of the changes. Her feelings told her that this was the way it was supposed to be, that the shop had always looked like this. Hanna looked at one of the magazines on the table in front of her. The front page depicted a woman with her hair cut slightly above her chin line. The headline caused her to raise an eyebrow however. “Supermodels lead the way”, it proclaimed, and in slightly smaller text: “Will long hair become the trend of the tens?” Hanna re-read the sentence, wondering if she had somehow misread it. Of course she hadn’t. Then she noticed that the headline mentioned the word “tens”. Quickly, she looked at the date on the magazine.

It said June 21, 2016.

Hanna could only express some intellectual curiosity about this, the same as she could only barely grasp that what she considered a short haircut was dubbed long hair by this magazine.

We always like to think that our reasoning somehow takes precedence over our feelings, but that is because reason and emotion often agree on things. Hanna experienced first-hand what a real conflict between reason and instinct is like: She knew rationally that reality had been altered somehow. But her instincts told her everything was right. She could barely experience wonder, let alone the fear and disorientation one would expect her to feel.

She flicked open the magazine, and began to read the article that corresponded with the headline.

While the short haircut seems to have a firm grasp on fashion, with women around the world going to the hairdresser every six weeks to ensure their hair stays cropped, the avant-garde is already commencing its return to the style that dominated women until the beginning of this century.

The article further explained that the new trend was unlikely to enter the mainstream, as most women were reluctant to commit themselves to growing their hair – a long, careful process that by no means guaranteed the perfect and instantaneous result of a short haircut.

Somehow, it all seemed perfectly rational to Hanna, and even her consciousness began to accept this new reality. She saw her reflection in a mirror – she seemed to be the only thing in the room that hadn’t changed – and noticed her hair. Against her will, her mind supplied that she must have been growing it out for the last 5 years. But she knew her hair had been this long, or longer, since childhood.

She began to notice the two girls to her right. Their anxiousness hadn’t changed. But they weren’t the same girls Hanna had noticed earlier. Their presence parallelled the function, not the form of the girls she had seen – she knew she had seen – earlier. Both girls had their hair cropped extremely short (but wasn’t this normal for girls their age?), the anxious one to about four centimeters overall, her friend to a uniform length of 2 centimeters. While the girl with the (slightly) longer hair was a natural blonde, lilacs, reds and the occasional blue dominated the head of her friend, in patterns most comparable to those of a lava lamp, but with a slightly oil-like glow to it. When she moved her head, the patterns seemed to change too.

Both girls also had a full complement of rings through their ears, at least those that were visible to Hanna. Again, Hanna thought how nice those adornments looked on the two young girls, and how well they complemented their facial features. She quickly suppressed that thought. She hated piercings, she knew that. But guarding her sanity seemed a difficult task…

She began listening to the conversation the two girls were having.

“I don’t know if I have the guts to go through with this…”

“Sure you do, you like your hair short, don’t you?”

“No, I said I didn’t like my hair as long as this.”

“Yeah, right. You’ve always had your hair extremely short, and I know you. This is what you want.”

“Well, ok, but I’m really nervous about this.”

“It’ll look great, look at Leslie.”

With that comment, she pointed at the hairdresser, a young woman. With a shock, Hanna realised that this was the Leslie she knew as a 6-year-old. If this really was 2016, Leslie would be 21 years old now – older than herself. And the woman standing there bore a striking resemblance to Leslie’s mother – stark blue eyes, a small but straight nose, the exceptionally dark eyebrows – but without her mother’s chubbiness. Leslie had a figure that might have said `ballet dancer’ if it weren’t for her height- almost 1.80 meters. But what really surprised Hanna was her hair, or better, lack of hair. Because Leslie’s head was completely smooth.

Well, not completely. A strand of poison ivy seemed to climb from her collar and wrap itself around her ear. It didn’t look tattooed, though. More like painted. But aside from that her scalp was hairless, and the tan suggested that it had been hairless for quite a while.

Even though her emotions didn’t seem to correspond to her thoughts, Hanna began to feel a detached anxiety now. The wrongness of it all should have caused her to run away, or scream, or make a scene. But her emotional response to Leslie’s shaven scalp was simply that it was normal for a girl her age, and that it suited her.

Was the girl with the long (nay, longer) hair seriously considering shaving her head? Hanna was about to find out, because Leslie had just finished her work on her previous client, a woman in her fifties with a short, grey bob with buzzed sides and back. The woman wore a piercing in her left eyebrow, which didn’t surprise Hanna. Apparently, body piercings had become socially acceptable in the future.

The girl with the long hair took a seat in the chair, and waited for Leslie to take her position behind her.

“Gee Lara, it’s been a long time since the last time I saw you. Who cut your hair?” she said, brushing Lara’s ragged hair with her hands.

“I did. It hung to my chin yesterday, but I just couldn’t stand it anymore, so I cut it off. I’ve decided I hate long hair.”

“I see. You’re ready for the big S then?” she asked.

“Yup. Give me the full treatment.”

Leslie picked up a device that seemed like a cross between a hair dryer and a food processor, and flicked it on. The device began to emit a high-pitched humming, which modulated to a slightly lower frequency when she applied it to Lara’s head. Immediately, hair began to fall off her head from that spot. Then she slowly moved the device backwards, revealing that the spot was now completely smooth.

Even though the device allowed her to make wide paths of scalp in Lara’s hair, Leslie had to make several passes to rid her head of hair completely. Even so, Hanna estimated that the whole procedure lasted less than two minutes.

Finally, the humming stopped.

“Nat, do you want to feel Lara’s head? Now’s the time,” Leslie called out to the other girl. Gingerly, Nat laid her hand on her friend’s scalp, who emitted a gasp of surprise.

“What is it, Lara, does it hurt?” she asked.

“No, it’s just that your hand seems so very cold suddenly,” she smiled.

“You look great, I am sooo going to try this myself someday.”

“Well, Lara, what do you think?” Leslie interjected.

Lara ran her hand over her scalp and smiled broadly. “I think I’m ready to go through with it,” she said. Leslie clacked her tongue, and a silvery flash hinted at her tongue stud. She opened a small, pink bottle and began to distribute its contents over her hands. She positioned them menacingly on opposite sides of Lara’s head, and asked her if she was ready.

Lara swallowed one last time, and nodded.

Leslie began to smear the liquid onto Lara’s scalp, distributing it evenly, and making sure she didn’t miss a spot. When she was done, she wiped it off with a towel.

“Do you want some headgloss?” she asked Lara politely.

“Ah well, why not?”

“Which color?”

“I’ll let you decide.”

Leslie walked over towards a small rack with more than fifty small jars in it, searched a while, and found the one she was looking for. She walked over to Lara once more, began to rub some of the contents of the jar between her hands as though she was trying to warm it up a little. With firm strokes she smeared the stuff on the top of Lara’s scalp. It didn’t help much, as the distribution was still uneven, and the material seemed intent on sticking together. Leslie picked up a device that looked like a hand hairdryer, and flicked it on. Hanna realised from the sound that the device was a hand hairdryer. Leslie used the device with precision and carefulness, discretely melting the headgloss over Lara’s head. When she was done, Lara’s head shone with a silver gleam, and an occasional silver sparkle. Leslie then sprayed something over the gleam.

“Nice…” Lara exclaimed. “What’s this color called?”

Leslie picked up the jar, and read its label out loud.

“L’Oréal Gleam – sparkling silver”

“How long will my hair stay put?”

“Your head will stay completely smooth for six weeks, after that, your hair will begin to grow out quite fast.”

“Great.” She smiled. “I’ll be back in five weeks.”

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” Nat remarked. “This hair is coming off too.”

The two had already left the shop when Hanna realised it was now her turn in the chair. Slowly, she walked towards the chair. Surely even futuristic hairdressers knew how to do a trim?

“What’ll it be, Hanna, the usual 2 cm. trim?”

“Yes,” she said hesitantly, wondering if a trim meant something else in the future.

“That’s what I like about you, Hanna. You don’t need to follow fashion like the rest of us. You know who you are.”

“Actually,” she said, “I have been thinking about changing my look a little.”

“Oh. In what way?”

“How about cutting it to one centimeter all over?”

How could she say this? Was she – no, she knew she was out of her mind. She just suddenly hoped this was a dream.

Something bumped into her, and startled her. Looking to her left, she saw Leslie. Little Leslie. She had been running around the shop, and hit her head on the chair she was sitting in. She sat on the floor, dazed, and Hanna knew that this was the moment of silence that told every experienced parent that – Leslie’s crying interrupted that thought, but her mother was already with her, comforting her and carrying her to the door in the back of the shop.

Reality seemed to have been restored. The shop was normal, Leslie was normal again, and, most importantly, her hair was normal again.

Hanna looked into the mirror, her long ebony tresses hanging reassuringly over her shoulders. But was this normal? She was pretty sure her feelings reacted properly now. For example, she no longer considered chin-length hair to be extremely long. But the length of her own hair seemed to bother her. It seemed as if its continuity had been breached, the fact that she had asked to have it cut off seemed to be just as final as the actual cutting.

Leslie’s mother had returned, and asked her politely how she wanted it cut.

The vibrato of tension permeated her voice when she said what she wanted.

The willow trees outside the shop had been liberated from their branches, and the sun shone brightly on Hanna’s head. A head that was now considerably lighter. She had decided to have it cut even shorter, to little more than half a centimeter all over, and she hadn’t regretted it. It did look a bit severe though. Now that her ears were fully exposed, having more than one earring seemed an attractive prospect. Her next stop would be the tattoo shop.

Somehow, she mused, the future didn’t seem very distant anymore.

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