The door clicked open on the 3rd knock, and I was welcomed by mum who appeared from behind the door.
Upon first sight, it seems as though time has stolen a part of her. Most of her hair had turned white, and she seemed frailer than the last time I saw her.
Realistically though, this should have been expected. It’s been almost ten years since we last met. As a member of an expedition team exploring the Aleutian Islands back at Alaska, the opportunity was too rare to miss and we had to finish the exploration & research all at one go. And in return, most of the team spent a decade living on that island.
Back to the meeting of my mum for the first time in ten years, it was emotional and we embraced each other tightly. We have never been closer, more so since dad passed away fifteen years ago to cancer.
Mum led me in, where she had already prepared dinner ahead of time, knowing that I will be back today. We sat down, enjoyed the wide spread, and shared stories about our lives for the past decade.
It was also then, she saw that my hair had grown out significantly. Before I went with the expedition team to the islands, I always kept my hair cropped short, especially with the local weather being so humid and unforgivingly warm.
“You know girl, maybe you should get your hair fixed up while back in town. The weather’s been pretty nasty these days,” she finally commented after a long stare at my curly locks. I reached up to caress my unruly mane, and she may have been right. The prolonged neglecting of my hair has resulted in loads of split ends and I could even feel certain areas were quite fried as well. It was inevitable as I had to flat iron my hair straight most of the days back then, to keep it simple to upkeep at the islands.
I told mum that I would consider it, and brought the topic to an abrupt close, before continuing to talk about the volcanic explorations which I made back at the Aleutian Islands.
Bloated from the meal, I offered to bring mum out for a stroll by the downtown stretch of stores. It would also be a good time to catch up with the changes in town, since I’ve been gone for so long.
“Nah, it’s alright. You go ahead, age is catching up for this old lady here,” mum said in response, using a casual tone. I nodded and did not want to ask her further.
I changed into a casual top and jeans, before making my way downtown.
As I strolled along the pathway, checking out the new stores that had appeared while I was away, a barbershop could be seen not far away down the road. Curious, I walked over and peered through the windows.
Several blacks could be seen inside, working on their customers, all draped in black barbering capes. I was mesmerised, and at the same time reminded of my mum’s suggestion earlier. Perhaps, it was the time to lose the mane.
Without further thought, I pushed open the door by the side of the glass window, and stepped onto the checkered tiles inside the barbershop.
Upon my entrance, the barbers turned over and appeared to be shocked briefly. This was expected, since barbershops serve mostly male customers. Nonetheless, it was a short moment of awkwardness before they went back to business.
Just then, a barber stood up and guided me to the chair closest to the entrance. He had a neatly trimmed beard, and wore a trendy cap to mask his receded hair line.
He proceeded to place one of the barber capes on my lap, and tore a piece of neck strip off a roll, wrapping it around my neck. The cape was then pulled up, and draped partially over the neck strip, and fastened tightly by the back of my neck. The visible part of the neck strip was then folded down over the cape. This was a first-time experience for me as neck strips were never used on me before when I got my haircuts in salons back in the days.
As he prepped his haircutting tools, I noticed that I haven’t thought about what I would want to do with my hair. In such a masculine environment, I suddenly recalled my past moments with my dad, and realised that I have never done anything much for him, or in fact with him. It was then I thought that, perhaps I could do something in memory of my dad.
This was then a perfect idea came to mind.
The barber then timely popped the question. “So lady, what’s it for you today, a trim perhaps?” He asked.
“No, just take it all off,” I told him instead. He looked surprised, but did not question further. “I’m going to use the No. 2 guard so that there will be stubble left to cover the scalp from showing through,” was all he said before he prepared to begin the chop.
He picked a pair of clippers hooked up beneath the attached shelf, and oiled it with a bottle off the table. It was then turned on with a thud, probably to test if it is working smoothly, before it was switched off again.
When all was set, he was now standing behind me, and straightened out the cape over the chair corners, to ensure that the loose hairs won’t fall through onto my clothes.
The clippers came back to life, as the barber combed from the crown down to my nape. The teeth of the hair clippers touched my nape, and changed tones as he directed it upwards, only stopping short of the crown. The clipped hair accumulated on the clipper teeth as it was pushed upwards, and was swiped off onto the tiled floor with the barber’s motion. All that was left in the mown path up the nape was short stubbly hairs.
With the ceremonial clipping done, he pushed my head forward, putting my chin close to my chest. More passes were made up my nape with the clippers, sending locks of my curly hair cascading down my shoulders, gathering at my lap above the cape. The mild vibrations of the clipper blades running over my scalp were strangely arousing.
As all the bulk was removed off the back, he shifted my head back upright. He pushed the clippers over my ears, and began to hold onto the clipped locks. The clippers then ran up my sides and over the temples. He was now gripping onto a huge pile of my locks which were freshly cropped.
To finish off the chop, with the bulk of collected locks still in hand, the barber placed the clippers at my crown, and pushed it forward. The tresses that were sheared off the top added onto the already large pile.
As he made the final few swipes over the top, the last lock of my long curly hair was released from my head. The barber then tossed the mound of hair collected onto my lap. There was so much hair I could barely see the cape anymore beneath the locks. It felt liberating to be rid of all that hair.
I reached up from beneath the cape to caress my new stubbly head of hair, and oh it have never felt so good, never when I had that thick pile of locks covering over my head.
Satisfied with my new look, I gave the barber an approving nod, and he proceeded to unfasten the cape off me. The used neck strip was then used to clean off any stray hairs by my nape.
I stood up from the cosy barber chair, feeling lighter than ever. I handed the barber a 50 dollar bill, and told him to keep the change. He thanked me for the generosity, and welcomed me back anytime for another round of shearing. I smiled.