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Curls Are History by Roy



"Are you sure you can handle this?"

I nodded, probably for the fifth time, and assured him, "I got this, Uncle Jack. I have to go down to this barbershop," I lifted the piece of paper where he scribbled the address of the 'The Men's Mane Barbershop', "and ask for Marcel Blair, deliver him the box and come back."

"Right. I think you got this," Uncle Jack said with a solemn nod.

Smiling, I picked up the box and left for my destination. I have a few vivid memories of this town I had often visited in my childhood to spend time with Uncle Jack, Aunt Cora, and two of my cousins. I found the charm and serenity of the place quite endearing.

IRVING TOOLS, the name of my uncle's shop, dealt mostly with tools and pieces of equipment used in barbershops and salons. It was renowned for the impeccable quality of products and customer support, earning my uncle a widespread reputation in the business. He had a couple of regular clients, and among them was Mr. Marcel Blair, the owner of 'The Men's Mane Barbershop'.

And right now, I was staring at the spinning barber pole in front of the very shop. That's quite old-schooled, I muttered to myself before pushing the door and stepping my way in. The interior was slightly dated with giant, quintessential barber chairs, a whiff of aftershave and counter full of combs, clippers, and scissors.

"Thursday afternoons are generally slow," my uncle told me before coming here. "So you can quickly go in, hand him the box, and come back."

As expected, there was a man in his late thirties, in a white coat who quickly set aside the paper and greeted. "Good afternoon. What can I do for you?"

"Good afternoon. I was looking for Mr. Marcel Blair. Is he here?"

"He will be back in a minute or so. I hope you won't mind waiting or I can take care of you what you want."

Trying not to be rude, I flashed a polite smile. "I would like to wait."

"Sure." His eyes drifted over to the waiting area, which was surprisingly empty and came back to mine. "That part is under renovation," he explained. "You may sit on the chair itself." He patted the giant barber chair.

"Thank you." Planting the box on the nearby table, I came over to perch on the chair as a wave of nostalgic haircutting experience floated into my mind.

The classic short, back-to-school haircut was administered several times till I was eleven or twelve, then I began to take the matter into my own hands. Since my parents had no qualms with my curly blond mop, way past the collar, and over the ears, I kept the longish style to this date.

You see, when you have somewhat between curly and wavy locks, it is a little challenging to find the right look and after several styles when I did, I never bothered to change. It became my identity in a way â€" a comfort blanket and without it, it was difficult to imagine who I was.

In a moment, the door swung open, and in walked Mr. Marcel Blair. "You have a customer waiting for you," the other man informed him.

"Sorry, you had to wait, young man." Mr. Blaire gave a professional smile. He was around my uncle's age, maybe a little younger with salt-pepper hair cropped short.

"It's alright; I don't mind, Mr. Blair." I was about to climb down the chair when he placed a determined hand on my shoulder and pulled me back to place.

"No, no, just sit there." Swiftly, he banded a tissue around my neck.

"There is a little misunderstanding—" The cape floated in, cutting the rest of my words and snapped close. I felt like a trapped bird in a cage.

"I understand it is summer and you are probably dying to rid of that unruly mop of hair, son. But you shouldn't have let it grow it in the first place!" he chided, running his fingers through my hair to assess the length.

Squirming, I tried to turn my head. "Sir, I appreciate that, but I am not here for a haircut!" -- There! I said it! Phew!

"You are not?"

"No, Sir. I am here to deliver you the equipment you ordered from Irving Tools. Uncle Jack sent me."

"Jack sent you." He finally registered. "Uncle Jack?" he mused. "So I take it, you are the nephew?"

"Yes, sir. I am Skyler," I introduced.

"Well, nice to meet you, young man." He pointed at the box on the table. "And that's the package you are referring to?"

Caped there, it was a little difficult to move and reach out, so I simply nodded. Mr. Blair opened the box himself, laying out the contents on the counter. There, I had the chance to finally look at the types of equipment: shiny professional scissors with a pointy tip, a couple of steel combs various sizes, cut-throat razor with wooden handle, and my uncle's shop logo on it, and two manual clippers.

Who uses that in this era of the electric clipper with attachments? I thought.

Mr. Blair plucked the clipper and held it up with great satisfaction on his face. "I tell you, Skyler," he addressed me by name, implying we developed some kind of bond in the past few minutes. "Nothing cuts the hair as precisely as this one. I am glad your uncle keeps a good stock."

"Thank you." I half-smiled. "I hope you have all the items in there you ordered. If so, Sir, I'd best be on my way."

"Oh, yes, absolutely. Your uncle Jack is always a perfectionist. So, would you be staying here with him for long?"

"Just the summer, sir."

"I see." He nodded and moved behind me to untie the cape, except he DIDN'T. "Since you would be staying for the summers, you would probably need a haircut, right?"
I didn't like where this was going as the fluttering vulnerability began to suffocate me more than the unwanted cape around my neck. "Er…I guess…I mean, I actually don't need one in—"

"The haircut is on the house for you," he announced, smiling bright and enthusiastic. "You are Jack's nephew, and I have an arsenal of new tools to try on." He behaved like a kid with new toys, eager to play with them.

I grew cotton-mouthed and kept gawking at the mirror when I should have vehemently objected. The enthusiastic barber picked a wide-tooth comb and began to work on my shiny blonde hair. And STILL, I didn't find the right words to stop him.

"You are badly in need of a haircut," he commented. "Summer's quite harsh here."

"A trim would be really nice, I guess."

He entirely ignored the suggestion and went on to grab the scissor and comb off the counter. A premonition hung in the air as I watched him approach the chair and swivel it away for his convenience.

SNIP. SNIP. SNIP. There began the sharp clicking sounds of the steel blades, hacking away chunks of hair starting from the nape. In a flash, he moved on to my right, severing the curly blond chunks and send them rolling down the floor. When the assault finally stopped, I breathed a small relief that my hair still had some length for styling.

I can use the mousse to define the curls a bit more, I thought.

"Head down, please." The next thing I know, my chin was down to my chest. There was an odd sensation of cold steel against my nape, coupled with resonating 'tick-tick' of the manual clippers. It could almost feel the devious tool chewing into my hair and spitting out.

Between despair and humiliation of an unwanted haircut, I sat there like an obedient boy, letting the old barber strip off my prized mane. Any dissent on my part, I knew, would make me look like a whiny guy and add on to my disgrace.

"Your hair is quite curly," he remarked in a displeased tone. "You won't have to deal with it though after I am done with you." He maneuvered my head to the side, exposing the left and placed the clipper on the sideburn. The rhythmic flex of his fingers resumed, as the clippers mowed its way up, quite high and past the temple. The other side was stripped the same way, and though I couldn't make out, I knew the transformation would be too extreme for my liking.

"Finally, this is manageable," he said and began to douse the remaining top of my head. Mutely, I took comfort in the knowledge that I have some length of hair left on my head. Something, ANYTHING, at this point was a relief. Wait...was it?

He returned with his trusted steel comb and pointy scissors and began to lift a section and promptly sliced off. The restlessness returned when I watched a thick mass of blond curls â€" at least three-four inches â€" rolling down the stripped cape, followed by some more. The barber then combed down the fringe before hacking it off and exposed my forehead. Mentally, I surrendered and began to accept the fate of my shorn head. The meticulous snipping went on and on until he finally placed them down and turned the chair to face the mirror.

The sight was mind-numbing. The sides of my head were nothing but stubble, except the blonde roots made it look bald. And the top was cropped as short as scissors could do, barely half-inch or one, and tapered tight around the crown. My beloved curls were now HISTORY.

"This would give you a sharp look," he declared, slathering white foam all around the back and sides. Since my opinion wasn't welcomed in any way, I let him carry on in resigned silence. Unfolding the old-school cutthroat razor, he began to shave a two-inch swathe above the ears. It continued all around my head, carving a new hairline as if giving me a new identity.

"There, all done!" he announced, quite proudly I must add. "Now you won't have to worry about the curly mop anymore."

"No, I guess not," I replied sullenly and managed to climb out of the chair. I immediately felt the back: smooth and faded stubble and the top was merely a soft pelt.

"If you come back every two weeks, I will make sure you wouldn't even remember that you had a curly mop on your head, son. Now, go along. Jack must be waiting for you."

That day, when I hurried out of the barbershop, I vowed never to be back again. But you know how they say: never say never?

A little over three weeks, the sides grew out to longish stubble and the top was a little messy. No amount of stylish gel could tame the hair, and before I know anything else, I was standing in front of 'The Men's Mane Barbershop' on a similar Thursday afternoon.

"You have allowed it to grow messy again," Mr. Blaire, the barber, noted with the same disapproving tone.

I simply nodded and submitted to his judgment. Apparently, he was the judge, jury, and executioner. When my haircut was over, and I was released, my hair was cropped shorter than before. Mr. Blaire took the liberty of my silence and reduced the top to manually-clippered stubble and the back and sides were ruthlessly white-walled - as if this extreme short haircut was a punishment for growing out my hair beyond his standards.

For the next two weeks, I kept rubbing the shorn head and accepted that my curls were history now.

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Thank you for reading my story. Any suggestion/remark/comment would be appreciated.





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