The rock star wannabe by Zero
"Kurt Rosenfeld, where the hell are you? We’re all already here, we’ll be on stage in an hour, get your ass over here now!"
Kurt heard the voice message on his phone and hurried to get dressed, while frenetically throwing clothes inside a worn backpack "I’m sorry, Pat! I fell asleep! But I’m on my way"
"Well you better be, because if not, then we’ll have no lead guitar!"
Right then, Kurt was seventeen years old, having a heart attack and mentally mapping bus routes and stops to get there as soon as possible and absolutely stressed over everything. He had spent the past night up practicing and rehearsing the songs they would play at the Rock Fest that night and had completely overslept.
He didn’t realize it had gotten so late. He rushed downstairs, almost skipping steps and looking at his wristwatch obsessively while he tried to handle his guitar case, earphones plugs, keys, and his messy hair that kept getting on his eyes and backpack at the same time.
As he reached the door, Kurt finally managed to push his long bangs away from his face and heard the faint AC/DC track playing on his earphones. His long red hair fell over his shoulders and made his nape hot and sweaty. He needed a hair tie, but he had forgotten entirely and didn’t have time to get it.
"Where ya goin’, lad?"
His dad was downstairs.
God. Damn it.
Kurt felt his muscles freezing. He tried to overcome the churn of his stomach as he heard his footsteps on the wooden floor "I have a show with the band tonight" he replied.
His dad scoffed and even though he was not anywhere near him yet, Kurt could smell the alcohol on his breath "Don’t waste your time, lad. I heard you play that noise all night long, you know? Your uncle David shouldn’t encourage you so much or given you that guitar… You have no musical talent at all, you’re just like me…".
No, I’m not. Kurt felt the words forming at the back of his throat and he was glad he didn’t say them out loud, he locked his eyes with him in the mirror beside the door "I have to go. Goodbye, dad".
"No, you sit down here with your old man. It’s time we had a talk"
He turned around and saw his dad walking to the kitchen and pouring himself a glass of water. He glanced at his phone, Patrick was still messaging him like crazy "Dad, please, I have to go. We’ll talk tomorrow, ok?"
"Put your foot out of that door and I’ll call the cops saying you ran away" his dad’s tone was threatening "You got that?"
Reluctantly, he let go of the door knob. His dad sat down at the kitchen table and motioned him to join in the seat next to him. He gulped and walked towards him.
"So, you still with those weed smokers?" his tone was accusing, like he had committed a crime.
"They’re not weed smokers" he defended them quietly.
"Of course they f***ing are" his dad shot back "Look at you. Dressed in black all the time, ripped jeans. Whatcha’ think you’re doin’, lad?" he glared at him "You’re never around anymore, this whole band thing has to stop, kid".
He didn’t reply, maybe if he let his dad mouth him off, he would let him go sooner and he could still make it in time.
"And your hair…" his dad got up and reached for his mane with his hand, pushing his bangs back with his fingers "I saw you from behind and I thought it was your mother, I almost called you Barbara and everything".
His mom passed away when he was eleven. Kurt didn’t know what kind of reaction his dad was trying to get from him, if the comment was supposed to be humorous or just drunk rambling, so he remained silent.
"The girls, Kurt… Do they run their fingers through your hair when you’re making out with them?" his dad dug his fingertips all the way to his scalp and he could feel the tug of his grip. Then he let him go.
Out of the corner of his eye, Kurt saw his father leaning his back on the kitchen counter behind him, near the drawers. God, it was getting late, why was his dad making him waste time on this pointless conversation?
"Listen, I don’t give a f*** if it’s part of your rock star wannabe style or whatever" he heard him opening the drawer "I think a haircut is overdue, lad".
It was true that he had gone a long time without getting a haircut. He had juggled part time jobs, band practice and school and that hardly left him spare time for anything else. Besides, he wasn’t violating school policy or anything by keeping his hair a couple inches past his shoulders.
So, his dad wanted him to cut his hair. That was the point of this speech. He figured out that he now that his dad had taken that off his chest, it was over.
"I´ll get a haircut tomorrow, sir" he said, expecting that to be enough to please his dad for the time being and get him to leave him alone "Don’t worry".
He turned his head around to see his father holding a pair of kitchen shears in his hand "No, I´m cutting that s**t off now".
Before he could react, or say anything else, his dad had a vicious grip on his hair and slammed his face against the table, forcing him to stay low. The pain of the impact expanded through his forehead across his skull like an echo.
He felt himself panic at the sight of the shears and the stench of alcohol in his father´s breath.
"Dad, please" he tried to get up and he felt him slam him much harder this time.
His dad forcefully pushed the scissors between his knuckles and his crown. His heart was pounding. His scalp ached from the tension. Kurt cursed beneath his breath. The Rock Fest. He had a presentation with his band. God damn it. The metal of the blades forced itself into his hair and pulled harder. He tried to struggle against his grip in vain.
Then, he heard the loud noise of the blades cutting through the first locks and knew he was not going to stop it. No. He thought anxiously. Please no.
He closed his eyes in pain as the felt the pull of his father´s fist nested against the back of his head and the shears hacking off his hair. The blades scratched his scalp and he felt his skin stinging in response. He winced.
"Dad, you´re hurting me, please" he begged "Stop".
The pressure on his head lessened and he saw his dad place a fistful of thick red hair over the table, right next to him. The sheer amount was unnerving. The back of his head felt awfully lighter, his crown was still burning in pain.
He tried to propel himself up using his arms to escape his grip, and his dad grabbed him by his bangs and tilted his head upwards "I´m not done yet. Don’t move".
He saw the kitchen shears come to his forehead and feared they would come through his eyes. He shut them in an instinctive reflex. His dad placed the scissors as close to his scalp as he could and brutally severed his bangs and whatever he could on top of his head. He heard the blades struggling against his thick hair.
His dad threw the severed locks in front of him. Kurt was shaking now. He could still feel some thin remains of his bangs against his forehead. Mentally, he kept pleading for his father to stop.
With the same brutality, his dad moved to the side of his head and he prayed to heavens that he didn’t cut off his earlobe. God, he just wanted him to end it. He didn’t care about his hair being butchered against his will or what he looked like. He just wanted it to be over.
Finally, he felt his dad release him. He figured he no longer had hair long enough for him to grab into. Some strands from his sideburns brushed his face softly. The hair on the back of his neck felt far too long for the rest.
"Sit up" his dad ordered him.
No. He wanted to leave. But he was terrified.
Full of fear, he did as he was told. He remained still as his dad’s fingers ran across his head, examining his handiwork. Kurt felt relieved most of the length had been taken off already and tried not to see the strands of red in front of him, over the table.
With a shiver, he felt his dad’s hand stop to lift the longer ends of what was left of his hair and cut them as close to his head as he could.
"You´re lucky I´m around, kid. Who knows what you would look like or you would be if I wasn´t" said his dad as he pressed the blades against what remained on his sideburns and nape. Then he brushed the hair off with his hand and ran his fingers across his hairline.
"There, much better now" he grabbed of couple of stray hairs and cut them off "Now, what should you tell your father, Kurt?"
He looked at all the hair his dad cut off and felt sick. All of his healthy and shiny hair laid in useless clumps "Thank you, sir".
"Get rid of all of this" he pointed at the remains of his hair on the table and the floor.
Kurt waited for him to go upstairs. He felt his shoulders, neck and face sticky with sweat and strands and tried to shake it off.
As he rushed to the door, he took a glance in the mirror and saw what his dad had done. As he expected, there were blows on his face, his lip was bleeding, but what happened to his hair…
He wished he could say his hair was uneven.
But he couldn’t.
It would be an understatement
Some parts of his hair were so short, he could see his scalp through. Others were longer and stuck out. It was all jagged lines, and rugged ends and almost hairless patches, all at the same time. He ran his hand through it and saw the shortest locks almost unmoving and the longest growing way above his fingers.
He studied his reflection in utter shock. There was no way he could fix this.
He couldn’t stop by a barbershop or a hairdresser. He had to leave. Now. It was too late.
He snatched the first baseball cap that hung above the mirror and placed it over his head. He would take care of it later.
They were waiting for him.
"WHERE THE HELL WHERE YOU AND WHY THE F*** AREN’T YOU PICKING UP YOUR PHONE?"
To say he arrived to the stadium to a very angry Patrick Somerset, would be an understatement. The lead singer from his band, Zero Dark Thirty was beyond pissed off. His face was a color of a shade of red he didn’t think was even possible until that day and his screams were so loud, he swore his voice surpassed the sound of the metal band outside.
"Patrick, listen…" he tried to reason with him.
"Hey, look who decided to show up!" the bass player, Torres gave him a killer look.
"Guys, please, my dad…" he didn’t even know how to explain what happened.
"Your dad is a pain in the ass, we know that already, but you have to have a sense of responsibility and commitment!" Patrick yelled at him "I told you to stay in my house or Torres’, even Hedrick showed up in time!"
"One more band and you guys come next!" one of the sound technicians approached them.
"Got it! Thank you!" Torres answered for them.
"Kurt you’re my best friend and a mean guitarist" Patrick crossed his arms "But you have to tell me right here, right now. Do you take this seriously or not? Can we count on you or not?"
"Of course you can!" Kurt felt his own patience disintegrate and heard himself raise his voice. He threw his backpack on the floor and dropped his guitar case to look straight at Patrick in the eye.
Before he could stop himself, he stepped forward with violence and almost launched himself towards his band mate and lost it.
"I had to escape the goddamn psychopath of my dad to come here right after he slammed my face against a table and did this to my hair just to come here, Patrick!" he took off the baseball cap "Of course you f***ing can count on me and of course I take it seriously, because maybe if we are successful enough and get a record deal, I’ll be able to get finally away from him!"
Patrick and Torres were both speechless. They stared at him in horror.
Then, Torres let out a brief, poignant swear "Man, you can’t go out to the stage looking like that"
"You said you saw the Electro Rock guys retouching their sidecuts, right?" Patrick asked Torres.
"Yeah, I did".
"We need to find them, ASAP and get Kurt fixed up" Patrick covered his mouth "Ask them if we can borrow their hair clippers".
Torres and Patrick examined him sullenly in the changing room. The guys from White Nights and Black Days were kind enough to lent them their hair clippers, a pair of huge black ones and none of them quite knew what to do next.
They weren’t sure they could really fix Kurt’s hair, but they figured out they also couldn’t make it any worse.
"This is not going to work, Patrick" stated Torres.
"Maybe we could style it in a mohawk or an undercut could make it look better, for a quick fix. Buzz the back and the sides down to a #4 and keep the top longer, until you it gets fixed by a professional, I mean".
"Or maybe, Kurt just rocks that baseball cap tonight and he doesn’t cut more of his hair off".
Patrick rolled his eyes at his band mate. Kurt frowned "I’m not wearing a f***ing baseball cap, Torres".
"Hey, it was just an idea" the bass player shot up his hands defensively "But it’s your hair, so it’s up to you to decide" he let the clippers’ cord loose and reached for the plug on the wall behind Kurt.
"So, what’s it going to be, Kurt?" the other asked him.
Kurt ran his hand incessantly through the hair he had left and stared at the baseball cap on Patrick’s hands, not really listening anymore. The initial shock about what happened had worn off and now he felt himself boil with anger and powerlessness.
He had assaulted him so suddenly, so forcefully that he had not processed at all what he had done. He didn’t quite understand why he had butchered his hair tonight.
But now he did.
His dad didn’t really mind if his hair was long or not, he had never made a fuss about it until tonight. What he wanted was not for him to get a haircut.
His dad was just trying to keep him away from music and the band. What he expected was to break him and left him so shocked and humiliated that he wouldn’t want to get on stage, with his mane reduced to this uneven mess and him beaten and covered in its remains.
Well. F*** him.
His dad had no power over him. He was going to show up tonight. That was all that mattered.
"Shave it off".
"What" said Torres flatly as he plugged the clippers on the socket "Are you sure that’s what you want? I mean, it looks pretty bad, but I believe you can keep most of it" he looked at him dumbfounded.
Patrick put a hand over his shoulder. "Kurt, hold on, take it easy".
"Listen, there’s a crowd out there waiting for us" Kurt took off his black t-shirt and threw it at Patrick, who caught it midair "You wanted me to show that this matters to me, and the fastest way for us to get out there is if I just buzz it off and be done with it".
His two companions remained silent. Patrick watched Torres remove the guard from the hair clippers. The attachment made a quiet noise as it came off. It was followed by the soft click of the power switch and the growl of the machine. For a split second, he noticed Kurt startled by the sudden noise in the otherwise quiet room and his jaw clenching.
It occurred to him then that it had probably been very long since Kurt last had his hair cut with clippers and he had grown unfamiliar with its characteristic humming buzz.
"Are you really sure of this?"
He took a deep breath "Just get it over with".
Slowly at first, he heard the clippers’ buzz growing louder as they approached his hairline. He felt a knot in his stomach the second the blades encountered what was left of his bangs and changed pitch for a low, deafening and mechanic sound.
He felt his hair coming off and rolling down to his shoulders with a shudder.
He closed his eyes. The clippers were being pushed back slowly but steadily towards his crown, then with a flick of Torres’ wrist more hair rained down.
He let go of a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding. He opened his eyes. A part of him was glad there wasn’t a mirror near him. He let the tension of his shoulders go as he braced himself for a second pass of the clippers across his head.
"Our followers are going to be pissed" Torres pointed out.
"Are you seriously thinking of our social media right now?" Patrick lashed out at him.
"What? It just popped into my mind, they are always swooning over Kurt. Why do you think his personal account is the most followed of all of us?"
The clippers moved behind his ear and removed the hair on its path effortlessly. The right side of his head started to feel very cold and his eyes wandered to the shorn red hair piling on the floor. It was a lot of it.
It was then when it dawned on him that it was all the hair he had left. All that had remained from his dad’s brutality.
What was he doing?
His mother loved his hair.
He remembered it all of sudden and the thought of her made him feel a painful lump on his throat. He inhaled to calm himself down and to fight back the regret at the back of his mind. He suddenly felt breathless.
He had decided to do this.
He was doing it for his band, for the future he craved.
"You have a scar here" Torres ran the clippers up his sideburn slowly.
Kurt reached up to touch it, he felt the tense and rough line right in front of his hairline. He had almost forgotten he had it, his bangs had always covered it "My dad smashed a beer bottle against my head" he retrieved his hand "I was twelve, I think".
Silence fell over them again. Kurt remembered when it happened. He had talked back at his dad, he didn’t remember the details and the next thing he felt was the glass exploding against the side of his head and his face covered with beer and blood. His dad had panicked and rushed him into the kitchen sink to wash it off, while he cried in pain.
He didn’t take him to the hospital until the next day, once he made sure he didn’t smell or look like he had been drinking. The doctor that received them recommended his dad to take him for a haircut, because his bangs touched the wound, so it would stay clean and heal faster.
Kurt remembered them stopping by a barbershop where he thought he would get a haircut, but instead his father just borrowed money from a friend. His dad had decided that he didn’t want people looking at the cut across his face and wondering, so he never took the advice and always made sure his bangs covered it when they went out.
The clippers mowed down the hair on the top of his head down to nothing, shaving it off completely. The cord hit him on the face and he closed his eyes. A part of him felt naked without the long locks falling below his nose. The coolness on his forehead was alien, he was to used to fighting his bangs away and trying to keep them in place.
Now he didn’t have to.
The scar on his hairline was visible now. He no longer had hair to hide it.
Torres pushed his head forward so his chin met his chest and Kurt felt the cold steel stripping his nape bare. The blades went up all the way up to his crown. His head was a lot lighter and he was a lot colder, he could feel the breeze touching his scalp almost like a hand.
"I’m almost done" his impromptu barber reassured him.
His face, ears, chest, shoulder and neck prickled with the millimeter-long hairs glued to his skin. Torres tilted his head from one side to the other as the clippers ran all over his head one last time, and evened out missing patches in swift motions.
"There" he heard the clippers go silent "All done".
Kurt shook off the clumps off himself as he got up. Locks of hair fell from his lap to the floor, like shiny and soft copper strands. He raised a hand to his nape and let an inaudible swear escape from his lips.
Instant regret washed over him like a tidal wave.
What the hell had he done?
His hair was gone. All of it. All his head was covered in rough stubble.
"It doesn’t look so bad, you know?" Patrick sensed his discomfort.
Kurt couldn’t stop touching his head, in utter shock and denial.
"Okay, I’ll go return these now" the bass player picked up the clippers’ cord "You hurry up and put on your shirt, we should be coming out in ten minutes!" Torres threw him his t-shirt.
Kurt thanked him. As he put it on, he unconsciously pulled his hair out of the back of his t-shirt in a motion that was second nature to him and found his shaven neck instead.
"Hey, I know you’re not going to wear it, but don’t forget your cap" Patrick gave it to him.
He caught the worn grey baseball cap in his hands and frowned "Thanks" he tossed into a garbage can.
"What are you…?"
"It’s my dad’s" he replied before Patrick could finish the question.
As he walked backstage, Hedrick, their drummer finally caught sight of him and a malicious grin spread across his face "Who is this guy, Pat?"
Kurt flipped him off.
"I can’t believe you shaved your head, man" remarked his band mate "The lead guitar of Zero Dark Thirty got a #0 buzzcut" Hedrick paused "Maybe we should all get a number zero all over once we get our record deal".
"Zero Dark Thirty?" a sound assistant, that Kurt recognized from earlier called them.
"Yes, that’s us" said Torres.
"You’re next" she gestured at them.
Hedrick took a gulp out a bottle and then extended it towards them "Water, Rosenfeld?"
"Please" Kurt caught the plastic recipient and removed the cap, he poured some of it in his hand and tried to wash off the tiny hairs off his neck.
"Kurt, I’m so glad you made it" he heard Patrick saying to him "Your dad could have really hurt you".
"Are you sure you’re okay?" his lead singer asked him once more.
He put the bottle away and strapped his guitar on "Let’s do this".
Kurt smiled at him and then he followed Patrick into the stage.
In the end, Torres was right. The following day, their feed was full of comments from their fans. Many were congratulatory cheers for their debut on their first Rock Fest and thumbs up and smileys, but a lot of them were about his hair.
Shock. Surprise. Outrage. Somehow, the feelings of their fans mirrored what he had felt the night. They demanded an explanation for why his ‘beautiful’, ‘sexy’, or ‘perfect’ hair was gone.
‘OMG! Is that @KurtRosenfeld? I can’t believe he shaved his head! But he looks fine as heck IMO! <3’
He read the comment with a smile crossing his face.
Going through the photos and the reel, he had trouble finding himself there at first. His eyes scanned the pictures for his fiery red mane out of habit, it was what set him apart from his band mates for their fans and for him as well. He had not really realized it until now.
In Patrick’s account, he found a picture of the two of them embracing each other after the show was over. His back was turned to the camera so he could only see his lead singer’s ecstatic smile in focus with Torres and Hedrick grinning behind him and the back of his hairless head.
‘So proud of you, of us, guys @KurtRosenfeld @TheOneAndOnlyTorres @HedrickDrums. Hope we’ll keep making music together for years to come #ZeroDarkThirty #RockFest18’
He glanced at his reflection. He still wasn’t used to running into mirrors and not recognizing himself. He saw the blows on his face and he also saw himself. He felt like someone else. In a way, he felt like it didn’t matter what his dad had done to him that night.
Because he was more than that.
Because even if he had cut off his hair by force, pissed off as Kurt was and all, he felt that he had regained control when he shaved the rest off. It had been his decision, not his or anyone’s else.
And he felt so much braver, so much freer.
He ran his hand across his head, feeling the texture of the stubble, somewhere between sandpaper and velvet and Kurt thought that he could get used to it.