First cut

  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Focal Length: 17mm
  • ISO: 1250
  • Shutter: 1/20 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D1H

Northport, Alabama

The fluorescent glare of a street lamp cuts across worn black and white tiles, coating the empty shop with an eerie green pallor.

So many stories buried within the fibers of those cracked old vinyl thrones. First haircuts and junior proms and wedding days and funerals. The barber sees it all. If the bartender is a man’s confessor, the barber must surely be a woman’s therapist.

Having one’s hair cut requires such a level of intimacy, such unspoken trust. The closeness. The stagnant heat of another person’s body leaning across your own. The awkward groping, the fumbling as the barber worries at some recalcitrant strand. The scraping of the hairs along the nape of the neck, the breath so close against the ear. And of course, the hands. Always the hands, framing the sharp flash of his instruments with such meaty determination.

Awe-stricken while getting my hair cut, I gaze at my reflection in the mirror, willing myself to stay glued to the seat of my chair. The other customers laugh and joke with their stylists, their frivolity driving itself into my brain to the point that I’m sure the barber must feel it ricocheting through my skull. I don’t speak. I just watch the fine strands fall onto the floor. Every once in a while, our eyes meet in the mirror. He knows I hate every minute of this. I don’t need to waste precious air stating the obvious.

At last it’s done. Catching me in a bear hug as I leap off the chair, he squeezes me tightly and shoves a hand mirror at me, urging me to appraise his skill. Maybe it’s a good cut. Maybe it’s a bad one. I don’t care. I toss a $10 down on the countertop and mumble a quick thank you, just as I have for the past decade.

“At least LOOK at it this time,” he says. “It’s flippin’ gorgeous.”

“Don’t need to,” I say, handing the mirror back to him. “I trust you.”

Walking out the door, I let it bang behind me, just for the hell of it. As I pass the picture window, I cast a quick sideways glance at my reflection, and without missing a beat, he flashes me a peace sign and grins. He knew I would look. I always do.

I never say much, but I leave a story nonetheless — scattered in red across a sea of black and white.

Music: Wild World by Cat Stevens (lyrics) 

Posted on tagged , , , ,

Leave a Reply