Waiting My Turn – Anon
It’s late Saturday afternoon and I’m by myself at a barbershop watching a young couple apparently having quite a time. The young man is sporting a buzz cut, just sheared, I gather, since he keeps looking at himself in the mirror and rubbing his head.
The girl has taken a seat at the edge of the big chair and she could pass for Alice in Wonderland looking awkward and timid. As she sits she sweetly tilts her head slightly and pulls her pale blonde hair to fall forward over her right shoulder and for a moment caresses the cascade falling to cover her breast. “My turn?” she says smiling shyly to her friend as she hands him the band that had held her hair off her face..
She’s perched on the chair. The barber steps up with a cape that covers her quickly. She holds up the heavy weight of straight white gold hair as instructed while the barber secures the shroud at her neck. He has her settled back and drapes the cape over her and the chair. And while watching her closely, he pumps the chair up in three quick jerks and she’s sitting enthroned well off the ground.
She is quiet as she sees her reflection armless and captive beneath the cape. She stretches her neck a bit to loosen the tight band at her throat, and as she does her hair slides onto her face. She looks surprised when she realizes that with her hands beneath the cape her mane is now out of her reach, and so the pale blonde strand remains as she tries to blow it away from her eyes.
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The boy is standing by watching as the barber begins to deal with this great mass of hair now before him. He combs out the length all around, a spectacular array of shining pristine butter yellow hair with streaks so pale they are almost white and it hangs perfectly straight, it’s length reaching over the top of the chair. I expect this show will end as she has him trim off a few inches – enough for high drama for boyfriend’s benefit, but not too much to prevent an encore performance before too long.
This is not a girl who will give up her hair, I predict. I’m feeling impatient and bitchy just now. I’m the next customer, and I’m a bit anxious myself. So I wish they would just play out this act and get on with it. But the scene is compelling as the action begins.
The barber continues, indifferent as he combs her hair back over one ear and then looks at her reflection, inquiring and searching. He has asked her something seriously, she offers a nod with a quiet smile. I see the barber locate large shears, he closes quick a few times then stops. And after a brief dead silence, the barber combs again and makes then one final pass through that gorgeous hair then moves in, strictly business. He’s now very much in charge as the girl sits obediently but looking nervous, I think.
I’m shocked when I hear him matter of fact advise he will get most of it out of the way first as he combs her hair down at the side and stops the comb at about the level of her chin, then clips that silky mass to hang forward to cover her breasts. He quickly sections the other side similarly, the hair falls like a closing curtain, concealing her face. Her head is tilted down and he picks up a fistful of hair at the back and has his big shears placed at a point high on her neck.
I realize I’m squirming as he cuts through a skein with some difficulty then grabs the shorn length and discreetly tosses it into her lap, not stopping, but glancing with a raised eye in the mirror to gauge her reaction . I can see her slump slightly into the chair but the barber doesn’t miss a beat as he continues methodically and cool. And I can’t believe this is happening.
In a minute the flowing champagne gold hair that had draped over the chair comes off as he grabs section after section, cuts each hank off right at her nape and casually drops them to the floor unceremoniously. The hair is piling up by the chair as she sits bowed like a penitent, motionless well after he takes off the last great length and then snips around the bottom to leave a still uneven edge.
The barber positions her head facing center and then releases the length at one side. It hangs silky and shining past her shoulders and I notice she’s staring intently at her reflection. No more smiles, her wide eyes scan the mirror and meet his for a second, stunned.
She has just begun to realize what she’s gotten herself into, I see. And she is past a point of turning back so the barber is apparently unwilling to negotiate, he’s simply getting the job done. He avoids her eyes cleverly as he angles the chair away from the mirror and takes up the big shears again. He’s placed the blades at chin length and cuts through once slowly. Her head drops fast to see length fallen in her lap only to be centered again as the barber moves fast and cuts off the rest. The silky hair silently floats down and slides away from her as she stares straight ahead seeing nothing, I suspect.
She’s turned to face her reflection again and I notice her eyes are cast down. The barber gently positions her head and she seems to gather some courage as she looks in the mirror to see him approach with the shears again. The blades are worked through this last vestige of her mane removing the length that had hung gloriously on the left side. She’s got a steely look as she gets the courage to watch this last cut and the barber works slower. Comb, schnick, schnick – six times. And it’s over.
Alice has vanished, and where she sat there is now a young woman tentatively turning her head to either side to see the rough cut – as if to verify that this has just happened. I think she’ll look very smart when this bob cut is finished – a kewpie doll – young and daring. She’s watching the barber sweep her mane to the trash while boyfriend is beaming and catches her eye.
The barber is spritzing her hair as he feels its weight as his hands work through the chopped length. I can feel my heart pounding as I see him begin combing again as he says something with a smirk that elicited her slight smile and there suddenly there was more air to breathe in the room. He combed up her nape and then slicked her hair off her face and looked hard at her reflection.
She looked back at him inquisitively, “Now what?”
I’m shamelessly eavesdropping now, quite intrigued and I hear him instructing her simply. “Like we said. This goes, very close in back,” as he grabbed the bulk at the back. “And the rest follows,” as he tugs the hair at her crown and holds her hair back from her face with his palm.
“Take it all. Or if you’ve had enough for one day I’ll just tidy up this – a nice little bob- very cute, ” he offered, as he flicked the hair disdainfully with his comb.
She looked like a doe caught in the headlights as she turned to her boyfriend who had been watching her intently as the barber prepared to finish the job. I realized which way this was going when rubbed his head again and grinned. “You know the deal.”
Even during this moment of truth, the barber had continued his work. He had resectioned her damp hair, parting the sides and pinning them forward and again slicking the length at the back flat against her nape, a part from the top of one ear to the top of the other over the top of her head.. He paused and waited a split second, giving her time to plead meekly, “Not too short?” I thought she looked scared.
He had pushed her head down as she spoke and offered no reply, and then easily proposed, “Here we go. Now be still.” He had picked up his clippers and popped on a guard then held them aloft as he clicked them on, and a loud buzz sang out. She jumped at the sound and he paused briefly before placing his hand on her head. “Easy now,” he crooned and slid the clippers to her nape.
I saw her head jerk quickly as the vibrating metal touched her neck, a movement stopped short as he clicked the machine to silence then pushed her head down, this time a bit roughly. He held her head in place now and ordered clearly, “Right here and don’t move.” The buzzing returned as he brought the blade back to her neck, changing pitch as he pushed up into her hair and then swooped them away. I was confused for a second since it seemed nothing had happened then I saw a mass of hair slide off down her neck.
He relentlessly repeated the process over and over again, blonde hair falling to the cape with each pass. And in just minutes there was only a dark honey-colored pelt left in his wake. The room went suddenly silent after the clippers clicked off and the girl remained fixed in position as he ran a comb up from her nape, against the grain of her clippered hair. “OK-you can relax now,” he chuckled as he lifted her chin. “All gone.”
She looked shocked as she looked up at herself in the mirror. He had slipped out the clips holding her short bob out of the way and combed her hair down all around from the crown. I watched her catch a glimpse of herself through the curtain of hair I assumed would soon be bangs of some description.
The barber had moved about, lining up tools on the counter. He stretched a bit and then stood at the back of the chair, then pushed a bit of her hair off to the side allowing her to see him at work. The clippered pelt was concealed by the length now combed down over it as he spritzed her hair. But in just seconds he’d whicked through that length all around and then nimbly combed up a piece of what was left and held it in his fingers close to her scalp then snipped it off at a sharp angle.
She looked oddly complacent to me, considering she had just lost nearly all of her hair and was apparently about to lose even more. But I realized she still had her vision of the short bob in the mirror and she could only guess about what had happened out of her view. But she’s watching closely now as he combs up the lengths at the back of her head and snips them off with perpendicular slices, dropping dark spikes to her shoulders. She hasn’t realized what’s happened, I’m sure of that. And I’m curious about the fate of that chin length bob in the mirror.
In a fluid movement he recombed the length over both ears and over her face and his shears are ready again. He stands at her right as he stretches the length down and makes one deep cut then combs and pulls her hair taut and takes two more. The chin length bob is raised to the top of her ear on one side. She closes her eyes as he moves his shears to slice off that curtain over her face and keeps them closed as he takes off the other side up over her ear. When he stops she looks in the mirror and timidly laughs as he tousles her cropped hair. She looks for all the world like a twelve-year-old boy.
“Well so far so good,” he chuckles and reaches for a dryer to blow away the latest collection of her hair. She’s starting to smile and he’s invited her to feel the back of her head, bringing her arm out from beneath the cape and placing her hand on the clippered nape. She’s transfixed as her fingers explore slowly, higher and higher and her face clouds as she discovers there is no length she can grab anywhere.
The barber concedes it is pretty short back there, and teases offering to take even more if she’ll just sit still and let him get back to work. He has her looking relaxed as he tucks her arm beneath the cape again and she concedes with a nervous laugh that he might as well go on since there isn’t much more he can do. Seduced, she will allow him to finish, despite her doubtful look when he tells her he still has a long way to go.
He has started in at the crown, cutting just above his fingers that he places on her scalp and then slides out just slightly before closing the blades. The ear length bowl has now been reduced to a uniform inch-long helmet of layers that seem chopped and awkward, and I think it’s really unattractive.
Then I watch as he as he takes hair off over and around her ears with tiny snips. He then moved in very close and tilted her head carefully and cuts scissor-over-comb, leaving only a fraction of an inch at first one side and then the other, and after some apparently tedious work he has the sides now matching the clippered back.
“Oh my god it’s so short,” she said blankly to her reflection as he combed through the quarter inch hairs at her temple inspecting his work. He fingered through the cropped top and smiled and after a second reassured her. “Well I warned you,” he chuckled, “You’ll get used to it. Just hang in there – it’s looking fine.”
I wasn’t sure that she had been reassured but she was almost cool as he got started again, thinning shears his final weapon. She winced as he placed them close to her scalp and crunched them closed. With that first cut she was actually pale as she watched him follow the cut with his comb and swipe off the clump of her hair. She dropped her eyes and refused to look again at the mirror as he repeatedly placed the shears so close to her scalp and chunked into her shorn head. After every cut he another gob of hair was combed out and removed. I thought she would end up looking as though she had been skinned, judging from what I saw coming off and I saw her numbly stare at the heap that had gathered in her lap.
Her little bangs remained unscathed still hanging in a straight cut high on her forehead, very odd looking, I thought. Not right with this haircut – he’d have to do something and I realized he would when he moved to stand right in front of her.
He held her chin gently and looked directly into her eyes as he combed out a piece of the remaining fringe. I had a kind of sick sinking sensation when I saw him place the jagged shears almost at her scalp right at the hairline and slowly, tortuously close the blades. He moved across her forehead cutting through piece after piece and with the last strand removed began to comb out what had removed and inspect the jagged wisps he’d left to frame her face.
Without another word, he began working fast, quick-chopping through what little remained of her hair. It seemed like a brutal lightning round as the blades opened and closed working back from the hairline and into her crown with a pass over the back of her head where enough length remained to accommodate the steel blades. There had been no combing to take out what had been hacked out this time. Just relentless chopping.
“That’s got it,” and the scissors were abandoned as he combed through her hair and chunks and spikes fell out and onto the cape. She was still as he carefully took away the cape still littered with her hair, and then she grinned when she saw her reflection and ran her fingers through the close cropped thatch. “Wow,” she said as the boyfriend and the barber stood in awe. Innocent pale-haired Alice the schoolgirl had been replaced with an incredibly gorgeous young woman with whiskey colored hair cut within an inch of its life. I saw cheekbones to die for and an aquiline nose. A fabulous beauty had emerged in the process of this haircut. She was simply exquisite.
As she climbed from the chair she fairly crackled – all legs and neck, looking a foot taller and moving like a slinky cat. I laughed out loud when I noticed the men as they stared dumbly. She grinned widely, leonine eyes sparkling as she looked their way and offered deadpan, “So I guess no more blonde jokes. So what do I owe you – let’s settle up now.”
We were all laughing hard and enjoying the moment as they headed out with the boyfriend following her devotedly. It had been a great hour’s show, and my friend the barber needed a break before his next act – and I needed time to ponder my own fate, knowing that I was about to sit in that chair.