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Shaved Head and No Shirt - Part 3 by Mark


Hi! My name’s Mark. I’m from the UK and work as a labourer on a building site fetching and carrying for the builders and other tradesmen. I live with my girlfriend and our two sons, Alec who is 15 months and Brandon who is new born. I have a good life and am really grateful for what I have now as, in the past, I’ve had a relationship break down, got divorced, been unemployed and had depression.

I’ve already written about the story when I had my head shaved for the first time when I went on holiday and another story about how a haircut played a part in me getting my job and meeting my girlfriend. This story is about two haircuts and the events surrounding the birth of two babies!

Over the past few months the building site where I worked had become really busy. When I started there had been two builders and a permanent tradesman who did woodwork and plumbing. I laboured for all three of them and we got on really, really well as a close-knit team of four. There was a lot of interest in the flats we were building and, in order to speed up completion, our boss had taken on another builder and a dedicated joiner. They were great guys and I still enjoyed my job immensely but there was just too much work for me to fetch and carry for all five of them without slowing them down. Fortunately, my boss noticed this and advertised for another labourer.

Alan arrived on site one Monday morning. I noticed that he was younger than me and quite small. I remembered how much my body had ached during the first six months I had worked onsite as my muscles had developed due to the heavy work involved and didn’t envy him the pain he would be in over the next few weeks as his strength increased. The other thing about Alan was that he had long, brown hair which brushed his shoulders. I wondered how this would fair on the site " out of our existing team of six, four (including me) had clipper cuts or head shaves and the other two had ‘short back and sides’. They were good cuts for summer when it was hot and for winter when it was cold and wet.

Pete, our boss, introduced us and we shook hands. Over the next few days, we got to know each other. Apart from our age " Alan was 20, I was 32 " we had an incredible amount in common. Alan lived in a flat with his girlfriend on the other side of the city. He had impregnated his girlfriend, just like I had mine, and we were both expecting babies although his would be their first and was due a few weeks after ours. The other thing was that, despite his slight build, he worked extremely hard. I really noticed the difference he made to our workload and, although I had always enjoyed my job, having Alan around to share the work made me look forward to each day even more.

The only thing we differed on was haircuts. To be fair to him, when it was clean and tidy away from work, it looked good. But it was totally impractical for work on a building site and we had many conversations about him having it cut. He would always refuse stating that he liked it and it was a style his girlfriend favoured particularly when she ran he fingers through it! I often joked that she would enjoy the feel of a shaved head or a little bit of stubble even more but he would always grin and politely refuse to accompany me every time I went on my fortnightly visit to see Moz, my barber.

When he started the job, it was winter and it was particularly wet. The work had to be done regardless of the weather and, whilst cover could be created for the skilled men, the ones of us that did the fetching and carrying had no option but to get wet. During that time, Alan’s hair was always saturated. Lank, wet strands hung around his head dripping cold water onto his face. A hat didn’t really help and, of course, this was also at the time that his body was hurting, his muscles having to make the adjustment required for the heavy work he was now doing. I felt sorry for his discomfort.

The strange thing about that year was that it was a long, long winter then what felt like a really short spring before summer arrived. As the weather warmed up we started working in shorts rather than trousers and, when it became really hot, left our shirts at home. I thought that things might be better for Alan with no rain but sweating in the hot weather caused his hair to mat together. He tried tying it back but this made it worse so settled for leaving it loose which mean it became filthy as he had to push it back off his face with his dirty hands frequently.

The wonderful thing about the birth of a second child is that the parents have a good idea of what is happening so it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that my girlfriend woke me up early on a June morning and told me that baby number two was on the way. I called my boss and told him that I wouldn’t be at work. It was midweek which made the timing perfect. Others think it a little strange but I have my left ear pierced twice and my right once and wear a little gold stud or ring through each one. Each stud is a physical, visible reminder to me of a new start in my life " the third one representing the day Alec was born. It’s a ‘side line’ that Moz, my barber, does and, if everything worked out, I would visit him later that day to be studded again for this new birth.

We went to the hospital. My poor, brave girlfriend worked so, so hard and delivered me a second son just after lunch time whom we called Brandon. Everything was perfect and they were taken to the ward a couple of hours later. I went into the corridor to fetch a drink and had a big surprise. Walking the other way, straight off the building site dressed only in his work boots and work shorts was Alan. His hair was filthy as was his face and upper body but the other thing that was so noticeable was that he was crying. When he noticed I was there, he ran to me and, despite the location and the fact that he was such a tough man, embraced me and sobbed even more. Eventually I managed to understand from him that a call had come to the building site. Alan’s girlfriend had gone into labour seven weeks early. Alan had dropped everything and our boss had taken him to the hospital where the baby, another little boy called Jackson, had been born only five minutes after Alan had arrived! Although his arrival was a shock and despite being very small, the doctors had described the baby’s arrival and condition as ‘textbook’. Alan asked me to come and see the baby and we crept back into the room for me to meet this tiny human being for the first time.

Amidst the cocktail of stress, surprise and euphoria, Alan appeared to have forgotten how dirty and in need of clothes he was. I offered to take him home explaining that, strange as it seemed, I was going to visit the barber later that afternoon. It was then that Alan totally surprised me. ‘Mate, I’ve been thinking a lot about this new baby and becoming a dad,’ he said, ‘and I reckon I could learn a lot from you.’ Needless to say I was pretty stunned and totally unprepared for what was about to come. ‘And I reckon that starts with a haircut like yours!’ he continued, ‘would you take me to your barbers on the way home? New baby, new start and all that?’

There was a parking space directly outside Moz’s little shop. I walked in confidently with Alan behind, a little more hesitant. Moz looked at us both, rather amazed at the shabby look of Alan, before I explained the reasons for our visit. As always, Moz took control. ‘This young man needs time to recover from his shock,’ he said wisely. ‘He is to sit and drink my tea whilst I shave your head. Then we will decide what is to be done with him.’

I sat in the familiar leather chair and, as Moz fastened the cape around me neck, prepared myself for the ritual. First the clippers. They were a relaxing noise today as they swept across the top of my head then the back and the sides. Moz took extra care of the stray hair around my ears and neck before leaving me for a moment to make a lather. Returning he applied the lather to my head then took up his razor. A total expert in his trade, the job was complete in half an hour and I got up from the chair totally bald save for a mere shadow of a mohawk about 4cm wide down the middle of my head.

Alan had sat transfixed whilst I was in the chair. His tea had gone cold as I left the chair and Moz beckoned him forward. Moz smiled through the mirror as Alan took his place. He put fingers on either temple. ‘My friend,’ he said as he gently massaged Alan’s head, ‘today is a new start for you in so many wonderful ways. And I am privileged to be a part of that. Will you still allow me to cut your hair as I think best?’

‘Oh yes,’ replied Alan expecting a carbon copy of my cut.

Moz stood back and took stock of the dirty, shirtless young man who sat in his chair. ‘Well I might as well leave you like that, my friend,’ he grinned, ‘after all, you will make my cape very dirty!’ He paused, obviously thinking about something. ‘I think it appropriate for your boy to grow up with a reminder of how hard his father works to provide for him,’ he said. ‘You will allow?’

‘Yes,’ said Alan, although we were both confused.

‘Then let me start,’ said Moz. Alan sat back in the chair and I watched expecting Moz to take the clippers. I was surprised when the first thing he did was open one of the little drawers and take out two rubber hair bands. Next he took hold of Alan’s dirty, matted hair, sweeping it back from his face then, deftly, secured it into a pony tail with one of the bands. Still unsure what he was doing, I was the one now watching transfixed as he wrapped the other band around the very base of the tail before taking his sharp scissors and cutting it off. Immediately I could see an appreciate what Moz had done. Alan would be able to keep this wonderful, poignant, filthy, matted part of him and, one day, give it to Dylan from father to son as a memento of the day he had been born. Then Moz started the next part of his work. ‘You are a young man, my friend, now a young father’ he almost whispered, ‘so you will suit a style where your head is mostly shaved but not totally. Are you OK to trust me?’

‘Oh yes,’ said Alan, his confidence in Moz returned.

I sat back and watched this master at work on his creation. The initial routine was the same as he had done for me, the clippers set without a guard so that no hair was left on the sides or back of Alan’s head. The difference was that, in my case, the clippers had removed all the hair from the top of my head whilst, for Alan, the original length was allowed to remain for the time being. The lather and razor followed, removing all traces of hair in the places where the clipper had left. I was intrigued what Moz had in mind but trusted him to do a good job.
Moz didn’t usually wash my hair. It was unnecessary as he just cut it all off! But, in Alan’s case, he now beckoned him to sit forward as he wetted, washed and rinsed the remaining hair on his head. Understanding the enormity of what had happened to him he gently washed the now bare sides of his head and, taking up a small towel, wiped the dirt from his neck and shoulders also. He stood back for a moment looking at what was in front of him and picturing what was to become. Moz took up his scissors and comb and pulled the remaining strip of hair away from Alan’s face cutting and thinning as he went but leaving more length the further back he went. Turning his attention to the other end of the strip of hair, he did the same in the other direction until he held a long tuft of hair at Alan’s crown which he fastened and styled into the smartest man’s top knot I had ever seen. Previously I had never been a fan of such a style and it certainly wasn’t for me but, for a young man (and a new dad) like Alan, it was the perfect combination of trend, style and practicality. Moz took out his razor and then the clippers once again, making final adjustments, removing stray hairs. ‘Do not say anything you do not mean, my friend,’ he said addressing Alan, ‘but today I think we see the true man beneath all the hair that was there before.’

Alan overcame his speechlessness, ‘It’s fantastic,’ he said, ‘Thank you so much, I would never have asked for anything like this.’

Moz grinned. ‘And you see, your girlfriend still has a little hair to run her fingers through,’ he joked.

Moz had not forgotten the one remaining job. ‘My friend, if you can excuse me for one moment,’ he said to Alan, ‘my other friend here and I have a small tradition on days like today.’ He beckoned me forwards opening another of his drawers. He removed his ear piercing gun and loaded a gold stud into it. ‘A man needs his piercings to be asymmetrical’ he said ‘so for this new start, we stud your left ear a third time. We will not be piercing the cartilage at this stage but, as we go higher, there are a few more nerves, a little more pain, but worth it. I am sure you agree.’ He reached up and, moments later, I felt the small trauma of the shaft of the stud forcing its way through my lobe. I pondered that the slight pain was nothing compared to what my girlfriend and Brandon had encountered hours earlier. Moz removed the gun. ‘A stud for your new start, one for your new job and relationship, one for little Alec and now one for baby Brandon,’ he said. ‘And a haircut each time as well,’ he grinned.
I was ready to go but Alan had a final request. ‘Moz, as you know, I’ve become a dad today. Would you stud my ear like Mark’s?’ Moz reloaded the gun and another studded guy left his shop that day.

It is now just over seven weeks since Brandon and Dylan were born. It is actually the day Dylan was due. Both boys are doing well. It is the height of midsummer and Alan and I sit with our families in the garden to the rear of his flat. Our girlfriends are inside preparing a summer meal and Alan has set up a small paddling pool in which Alec plays. We are together on a non-workday as we have just been to see Moz to be ‘tidied up’. I have had my usual head shave but Moz has styled Alan’s hair slightly more severely. Obviously, over seven weeks, the knot has grown so Moz had left this but shaved hair from his forehead and the back of his head. Very stylish for a young man. It has been so warm this summer that neither of us can recall the last time we wore a shirt either at work on site or at home. So we sit, shaved head and shirtless holding our baby sons, surrounded by those we love. And life is good.




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