The lift door opened, and I paced towards the apartment’s door. As I reached for my keys within my skinny’s left pocket, the phone vibrated. I lose grip of the keys temporarily and checked the phone.
‘Hey babe, will be flying in early morning tomorrow to meet you. See you.’ The message reads. The first thought that came to mind was oh my god. My man was flying in to meet me, and tomorrow morning at that?
It took me moments to ease my shock, but excitement soon followed. It’s been months since we had met. I had been living as an expat in this country since I graduated last year, as I didn’t qualify for a local university back home.
Speaking of meeting him, I should make myself presentable for the occasion tomorrow. After all, it was going to be a rare opportunity to be able to meet him at this time of the year.
I went into the apartment, and headed for my room. Sitting down in front of the dressing table, I pondered over what to wear for tomorrow. As I inspected each dress, nothing seemed to match well. Have I matured too much to fit in these dresses? I wondered.
It was then I noticed how much I have neglected my tresses. It was long, very long at that. Halfway down my back, it bore a darkish brown colour naturally and was quite straight. However, months of mistreatment due to school has led to my hair becoming unkempt and ruffled. I combed through from root to tip, and pulled several times at tangles. Ouch.
Realisation sat in. I had to do something about my hair. I checked the mini clock placed beside the dressing table. 7.30PM. It was already reasonably dark outside.
I grabbed my purse and headed out. Strolling along the shop houses lain across the apartments, I bore hopes that a salon was still open to accommodate me.
As I walked along the pavements, checking the shops for an open salon, it seemed as if all hopes were lost. Almost all the shops had closed for the day, and the earliest they would have opened again was tomorrow morning.
Miraculously, as I was about to make a turn and head back to the apartment, drowned in disappointment, I spotted dim lights emerging from one of the shop windows not far ahead. I prayed it was a hair salon. It had to be one.
My prayers were answered. Well, partially. As I reached the shop entrance, I realised it was one of the traditional hair salons, usually owned by the older generations. They serve primarily the seniors, and I wasn’t exactly sure it fitted my description of a hair salon.
I made another time-check at my watch. 8.00PM. ‘It’s all or nothing girl,’ I thought to myself. I wandered around the entrance briefly, trying to shrug off the nervousness. Eventually, I bucked up enough courage and made a push at the salon door. It shrieked slightly as I pushed.
Once inside, I felt almost perplexed by the scene. There were two females working on their clients’ hair. Simple black chairs face wide mirrors covering both sides of the salon. On one side, an elderly woman was getting her hair trimmed by one of the female hairdressers. The other client was strangely a young lady getting a haircut on the other side, served by the other hairdresser.
I was pretty native to the looks of the salon equipment used here, as they looked like they were from the last era, so much that I could hardly decipher the modern equivalent. I decided not to pay too much attention, and took a seat at one of the chairs beside the young lady, unofficially branding it the ‘younger zone’.
Before long, the elderly woman was done and off after making payment. The plump hairdresser turned over and exchanged looks with me through the mirror. The barrier of language immediately hindered the conversation. With my modest grasp of chinese, I took out my phone, pulled out a photo of Anne Hathaway with gorgeous soft curls, and explained what I wanted. She smiled, as if understanding what I was going for. I certainly hoped so.
She pushed a salon trolley loaded with equipment and solutions over to my side, and reached for a hairdressing cape. The cape was draped over me, and fastened snuggly around my neck. She even reached forward to pull the cape over to cover my legs completey. For a moment, it felt like the experience was going to be a great one.
Rollers were then instantly used on my locks, and were all rolled up close to my head after tying a perm paper onto each roller. She worked quickly as the work was done in less than fifteen minutes, or perhaps I had too little hair. I worried as I did not remember having rollers placed so close to my scalp for loose curls. Nevertheless, I realised it was too late to turn back, and went ahead with the perm. She added the perm solution between the rollers, and excused herself briefly while it worked its magic.
With nothing on hand to read or such, I took to observing the haircut going on beside me discreetly. The female snipped off a couple of inches across, and was slowly building into a sleek pixie cut. Perhaps I had been mistaken in judging these hairdressers too early. After all, don’t the older generations have more experience?
All these thoughts were fully withdrawn, the moment I saw the mess the hairdresser had made of my hair. After she removed the rollers and brought me for a shampoo to rinse off the solution, I saw how tight the curls were! They looked just short of corkscrew curls, and I stared in disbelief at the monstrosity I had become. My waist-length hair was now reduced to a bunch of curls that barely touched my shoulders, many thanks to the hairdresser’s work.
But this was not the time for blame. I had to do something to salvage the situation. With my terrible chinese, I blurted out broken messages of ‘No! Wash away!’ to her. She looked confused at what I was trying to get at, but somehow got part of my message. She brought me back to the washing basin, and shampooed my hair twice to try and rinse out the tightness of the curls since the perm solution had just taken effect not long ago. There might still be hope.
After an excessive dosage of shampoo to my pre-damaged tresses, the salvaging session concluded as she wiped dry my hair, and led me back to the chair. Fortunately and unfortunately, the curls were no longer as tight, but were no longer its previous glory as well. It However, it looked nowhere near presentable. Furthermore, the perm solution had done its toll to my hair. Coupled with the multiple rinses of shampoo, the ends of my hair looked fried, and rough to the touch.
I pointed out the damaged area to her, but she simply shaked her head, as if meaning that it was a gone case. Looks like the length has to go.
She reached for a pair of haircutting scissors off the front table, and detangled the gentler curls with her comb. Upon the last comb, snipping sounds were heard. And it was done. In a matter of seconds, the years I painstakingly took to grow out my hair were wasted.
The hairdresser unfastened the cape off me, and looked upset as she seemed to realise that the curls were not to my expectations. I figured that it wouldn’t be right to blame her solely for the mistake, and thus paid her for the services, which she accepted humbly.
I left the salon, and the emotions started to set in. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I come to terms with the fact that my hair was now nothing but ruined. Out of the blue, my phone rang.
I checked the caller, and realised it was my roommate, Sandy. I wiped my eyes dry quickly and held in the tears, before getting to the call. ‘Hey Sandy, what’s up?’ I said in a teary tone.
With the many years of friendship between Sandy and I, nothing could be hidden well enough to be undetected by her. As she probed about what had happened, I came clean on the entire story. She consoled me and offered to call one of her friends, who was a hairdresser living here as an expat. I initially rejected Sandy’s offer for fears of another screw-up, but reluctantly agreed to meet the friend after much persuasion.
Sandy had arranged for the friend, Jane to meet at our apartment in thirty minutes, and so made my way back to the apartment as fast as possible. By the time I reached, Jane was already there with Sandy. She was a beautiful woman, with strawberry blonde hair tied up in a loose ponytail, and dressed casually in a pale pink tee.
We skipped the pleasantries, knowing how dire my situation was. Jane told me to sit in front of the dressing table, and began to consult me on the possible options. ‘Well, we are quite limited in options here. The perm solution has damaged your hair too much, so it is not possible to straighten it back right now. We could take it to a chin-length bob, but it wouldn’t be the prime solution. Another option is to take it all off, perhaps with a #4 blade on the clippers. That would be best.’ Jane advised.
Chin-length bob of curls or shear it all off down to half an inch. Both sounded pretty extreme to me. But if I had to make a choice, then certainly the buzzcut. I knew the curls had to come off today, by hook or by crook. With my mind set, I was ready for it. ‘Take it all off then.’ I answered Jane.
Certainly, Jane obliged. She reached for her hairdressing kit, and took out a hairdressing cape. It was cute and funky with a scissors pattern, something one does not usually see at the hair salons. As part of standard procedure, the cape was thrown over me, and tightened around my neck. Jane made sure it was firm enough so that the shorn locks wouldn’t slip through onto my clothes.
The clippers were plugged into the socket by the table, and turned on with a thud. Jane gave the unguarded blades a few swipes from a brush and offed it briefly to attach the #4 blade.
It roared alive once again, this time the sound closer to my ears. Jane combed out the curls at my back briefly, before making the first move. The clippers changed tunes as it plunged into the thick curls, and stopped short of the crown. Jane repeated the motion several times, dislodging all the curls at my nape up to the crown section, sending them falling to the floor.
Jane then shifted the shearing gradually, directing the motion towards my right. She pulled down my ear gently so that the clipper blade can reach the areas covered behind the ear. The clippers then ran up my side, past the temple area, all the way up to the parietal ridge. The shorn locks cascaded down the cape, and gathered on my lap. I tried not to pay too much attention to it.
She then subsequently switched sides, and let the clippers sever off the curls on my left. All that was left now was the crown section. Jane combed back the tresses from the front so that she could see my hairline. Placing the clippers at my hairline, she pushed it back straight, sending a huge pile of my hair down to the floor. I looked hilarious, as if a lawn mower had just ran past the centre of my head. Jane made quick work of the remaining curls, shaving them down to half an inch with her trusty clippers.
The shearing process was officially ended, as I greeted my super short hair via the small mirror by the table. I reached up to caress my new buzzcut. While it was very short, it felt soft and nice to touch. Both Sandy and Jane commended me for taking it all off and that it accentuated my facial features better now. I not only felt beautiful, I thought I looked beautiful.
The next day arrived quickly, and I met him at the airport. He couldn’t recognise me. As I shouted for his name and we exchanged gazes, he looked surprised, but quickly smiled brightly upon noticing my awesome hair makeover. He lifted my up on his arm, and caressed my hair in the other. He must have loved seeing me in super short hair. We had a great night that day, bringing the dramatic story about my hair disaster to its end.