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At Mr. Lee's - Matthew's Business by Manny
As he sat on the subway commuting home, Matthew could feel the tension growing. The nervousness, the excitement, the fear.... He glanced at hazy reflection of himself in the window pane of the Metro car. He looked the part -- business executive in a conservative suit and tie with a distinguished executive hairstyle to complement his corporate look. His thick, well groomed mane was brushed perfectly into place. His crowning glory was an exquisite quiff that gave him a bit of a flair.
Matthew's attention was diverted by a few military personnel moving to the subway door to get off at Pentagon City. Their heads were clipped very close to the scalp all the way up to the crown, and the small patch of stubble on top was obliterated as they put on their caps before exiting.
Matthew pictured himself having his business coif peeled off to that amazingly short length. To be brutally shorn down! He pictured himself with a high 'n tight or a short flattop! A surge of energy and anxiety pulsed through his body. It was a fantasy that always fired him up....it was something he desperately wanted, but was scared to pursue. An abrupt transformation. A no-nonsense barber staring disdainfully at the effete, fussy style before taking a powerful set of fastfeed clippers to it for a brutally short end to the Wall Street look.
As the subway came to a stop at Roslyn, Matthew dared himself to walk into Mr. Lee's Barber Shop, which was located at the top of the escalator. Mr. Lee's proudly advertised that the shop specialized in "military haircuts". As he stood waiting to exit the car, Matthew felt his legs wobble. Oh! Was he succumbing to the dare?! Would today be the day a no-nonsense barber took a set of clippers to his coif?!
Matt felt his groin stir. The fantasy was overwhelming. He needed to finally give in and do it! He needed to enter the bastion of ultra-short haircuts looking like a confident business executive in a Canali advertisement with his elegant mane and slink out looking and feeling like a vulnerable marine recruit at the very bottom of the totem pole on Parris Island! All of his pretty locks strewn about the linoleum floor at Mr. Lee's feet by the end of his transformation. Mr. Lee would give a smug, satisfied look as he watched his emasculated client creeping out of the barber shop door, feeling so vulnerable and uncertain with his near-bald head.
As he walked toward the escalator, Matthew's legs felt like jelly. Grasping the escalator's handrail, Matthew felt a bolt of stimulation as he mentally accepted his dare. Yes, today was the day! That was it -- everything was settled. Today was the day! He was being propelled up to Mr. Lee's Barber Shop by the escalator. There was no turning back. Matthew's heart raced furiously. At that moment, he was certain he would have the courage to push open the door and take a seat in one of the huge, traditional, throne-like chairs. He steeled his nerves and gave himself a pep-talk -- "Head straight to Mr. Lee's Barber Shop! Stride quickly and with purpose. Pull open the glass door and enter. Do not dawdle. Do not waiver. And that's an order!"
After years of walking by and momentarily studying the activity in the shop -- the barbers in their matching tunics wielding clippers, giving their specialty "military length" haircuts -- today Matthew would enter the shop. He hoped it would be the young muscular barber in the first chair, who he took to be Mr. Lee (or perhaps his son), that would direct him to take a seat. He would get a $17 haircut that was heavy on the clipper action instead of a $75 trim at the fancy salon. Matthew was determined that, at a minimum, he would feel the clippers at his nape, pushing up through his lush locks that currently overlapped his dress collar in a liberal manner. He imagined clumps of his soft, silken chestnut colored hair with fiery auburn highlights falling to the cape.
Matthew had practiced his little speech for months, even years. "Taper it short, around the ears and up the back. And, on top, take off a few inches -- just long enough to lay down." If he could muster up the courage, about half his hair would fall on his first visit to Mr. Lee's. He would leave with a very "barbered" look!
As Matthew rode the escalator up to the station's plaza, a brisk wind rippled through his styled locks. The dense forelock that was swept into the exquisite quiff was dislodged momentarily and fell down across his forehead. Matthew pushed back the massive forelock. Soon the forelock would be barely long enough to grasp between two fingers. No more long, floppy hair left anywhere! And, one day, he would sport a short crewcut like Mr. Lee's -- and after that just a patch of stubble on top!
At the top of the escalator, Matthew set off directly for the barber shop, per his intention. His legs still felt like jelly, but he was still determined to follow through.
As he approached the glass door, he again saw a hazy vision of his executive hairstyle in the reflection. But, he looked right through it and fixed his gaze on Mr. Lee who was milling about the counter, straightening things up, unoccupied. Matthew's hand gripped the cold metal handle and he pulled the door open with determination.
The bell tinkled and the blast of air conditioning invited him into the shop.
Mr. Lee looked up and gave him a slight grin. The other two barbers were busy on clients and no one was in the waiting area.
Matthew's heart raced wildly. It would be straight to the chair! No time in the waiting area to develop cold feet or amend the instruction. He would leave today with a short taper!
Mr. Lee greeted him and indicated the seat was ready for him by dusting some stray snippets of hair off the leather upholstery. The young barber gave him a somewhat disapproving look as he studied the effete coif.
Matthew set down his brief case and strode over to the big upholstered leather chair. He mounted the foot rest. As he sunk into the upholstery, he noticed how his chestnut colored hair shimmered in the neon lighting that framed the counter. His locks looked ripe for the harvest. The forelock, in particular, which was perched like a tiara, needed to whacked down to a much more manageable length. Matthew desperately wanted to see it fall to the cape.
Mr. Lee snapped open a big white cape and cast it with ease, concealing any hint of nervousness that might be exposed it a jiggling leg or twiddling thumb. A vast expanse of white cloth topped with an exquisite array of hair ornamented by a fussy quiff. But now, the long-protected helmet of hair was on the endangered species list. Matthew studied the huge array of clippers hanging from the counter. Any one of them would quickly transform him into something radically different!
"So, what'll it be for you today?" Mr. Lee asked, surveying the longish executive coif.
Matthew's throat felt constricted. He couldn't remember the well-rehearsed instruction. He forced out a simple instruction, "Short."
"So more than a trim," Mr. Lee said, taking a brush to the glistening mane. "How long has it been since your last haircut?" The young barber's fingers lingered a big in the lush collection of locks at the nape.
Matthew worked to overcome his hesitation. "About two weeks. But, actually, I'm ready for a change. A big one." He reached out from under the cape and fingered his quiff. "This, in particularly, has gotten way too long and heavy."
"I see, you want something short and practical. No fuss in the morning?" suggested Mr. Lee.
"Yes," he affirmed quickly. "I saw on the window that the shop specializes in military-length haircuts." Matthew saw the barber reaching for a set of shears.
OMG! The haircut was going to start. And he had unleashed Mr. Lee by his casual comment about the shop!
The barber combed down the forelock, veiling Matthew's eyes.
Matthew heard the shears being primed. He gripped the arms of the chair. Mr. Lee's opening salvo was like a bolt of electricity.
High on the forehead the shears went SNIP, SNIP, SNIP, SNIP.
In a mere few moments, the forelock lay on Matthew's lap! He was stunned. The barber had just chopped off his fussy quiff.
"There!" announced the young barber. "That won't bother you any more."
Matthew blinked in stunned surprise as he looked at himself in the mirror. The forelock was gone! The fringe has been hacked off near the hairline.
Then, Mr. Lee reached for the clippers. "So, for you today, it will be a very short haircut. Military length."
Matthew squirmed with restrained excitement under the cape. Good bye executive helmet hair....
"Yes, short," Matthew repeated.
The forceful barber cocked Matthew's head to the side. In an instant the machine sprang to life and was driven tightly up the side of Matthew's head. The caped client watched the determined barber peel off the first massive chunk of soft, glimmering hair. With a professional flick, the first chink in the helmet hair landed on the cape just above the severed forelock.
Matthew looked aghast at the clipped side of the head. He was getting taken down to a very short pelt on the sides!
The barber noticed the alarmed look. "You want it short, right? Practical, no fuss?"
Matthew reaffirmed his instruction in a numbed, blank manner.
"A #2 on top and the sides to zero okay?" Mr. Lee asked.
That length was waaaaaay shorter than he'd ever imagined getting on his first trip to Mr. Lee's. Matthew's heart raced wildly. He thought of the military personnel in the subway car putting their caps on to cover the tidy patch of stubble.
"Yes, that is a good length. Like you said, a short military length." His stomach churned at the boldness of his statement.
Mr. Lee did not hesitate. With a quick maneuver he ran the clippers straight down the top of Matthew's head, from forehead to cowlick, pushing off a mass of wonderfully soft, shiny locks. Part of the severed mass rested momentarily on Matthew's shoulder before sliding down the cape and collecting in his lap.
The next flurry of activity was carried out so fast, Matthew felt for sure Mr. Lee had learned his professional skills at the marine base on Parris Island. It was like a scene out of Tribes!
Matthew savored the whole show. His nice, groomed hair all coming off. Pretty soon the cape was almost totally covered with his cut hair.
Just then, the door of the shop opened and a tall, imposing man dressed in an immaculate business suit and tie stepped in. His head was shaved clean! It gleamed like a tan egg. The large, green eyes shone like beacons.
"Mr. Lee, did I leave my cell phone here?" the man asked.
Matthew could not take his eyes off the gorgeous hunk of a man with the chromedome look.
"Yes, it's in the back. I'll go get it for you," said the barber.
Matthew had to speak to the bald man. "That's a perfect haircut for you...."
The man smiled. He brushed his hand over the bare scalp. "I think so too. Bald by choice! So cool, so commanding...."
Then he looked down at the hair laden cape. "Looks like you've got a transformation going on!" Then he took the liberty of fondling the clipped pelt that was left on top. "Have Mr. Lee scrape this clean like mine. You won't regret it."
Mr. Lee came back into the shop with the phone. "Here it is."
"Thanks, Mr. Lee! One last favor. This gentleman was admiring the way you scraped me clean. Lather him up....he loves my bald by choice look."
Mr. Lee did not hesitate to reach for the lather. Matthew squirmed beneath the cape. The whole experience had been beyond his wildest dreams.
"Are you ready?" Mr. Lee asked.
"Yes," groaned Matthew. "Make me bald by choice....."