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For the barber's son by Storyteller
Since I was six years old, I got used to always going to the same barbershop, it was very close to where I lived, the barber was a friendly man, in his sixties. When I was eight years old I got permission from my parents to let my hair grow longer, it was the fashion of the 70s and 80s here. The barber, by then, only trimmed my hair a little on the rare visits I made to the barbershop, every three or four months, and in winter even, sometimes, after six months.
The barbershop was small and simple, it was located at the bottom of a small townhouse, where it would be the garage, which was transformed into a barbershop. There was a small waiting couch and a very old barber chair. There was a large mirror in front of the barberchair, and a counter with lots of equipment and products, almost all of them very old.
I normally didn't need to tell the barber what I wanted, he just asked "The same as always?", and I nodded, after twelve years old I sometimes said "a little longer" when he asked " the same?". I always talked a lot with the barber, because he knew me well, he knew which soccer team I supported and knew I liked soccer, he knew he was a studious boy and so he asked how my studies were going, and asked about my father and my brother.
When I was seventeen, on one of those visits to the barber, I arrived, greeted him politely, and since he had no clients, he was already telling me to sit in the barber chair. I sat down politely, as always, he put on the light blue fabric cape that he always used, with a tissue around my neck, closed with a pin, taking care to keep my long hair outside the cape. My hair was quite long, six months since my last haircut, which was already longer than usual.
The barber asked, "The usual?" and I nodded. He took the scissors and started doing the cut as usual, cutting just a little bit off the ends. While he was cutting my hair we were talking as usual. He commented how I had grown up and asked how old I was, I replied that I was seventeen. He then told me that I was looking like his son. I said I didn't know he had a son. He then started to get emotional.
He then told me the story of his late son who always dreamed of going to the army and when he had just joined the army, (and had got his first military haircut form the barber) he was involved in an accident on the way to the barracks and died. I realized that he was very moved and stopped cutting for a moment. I tried to talk to him, trying to give him words of comfort. I said he could interrupt the cut if he wanted to, if he wasn't feeling well.
He, then, a little overhauled from the moment of emotion, said to me "You know, I have known you for so long, you are almost like a son to me, and now you are looking like my son at the time I lost him" I smiled and he went on "and you are such a nice boy, so polite, any parent wants to have a child like you", and I smiled and thanked him.
It was then that he said something that really surprised me. "Look, I'm going to make you a request. I know you probably won't accept it " and stopped. And I said, "Please, you can say, I'm sure I'll be happy to do something for you, Sir" He then said "I know how much you like to wear your hair, like that, long" and I smiled "but, would you accept that I give you a military haircut like I did for my son before he passed away? It would be something very special for me ".
It took me by surprise, I was ready to say yes to anything he asked of me, but I didn't think I was going to have to cut my hair that I was so used to being long. I was hesitant, a little bit, he was looking at me and he was starting to say "no, so it's okay", when at the same time I said "Ok, Sir, I accept, you can give me a military haircut". He then broke into a huge smile and said "Wow, thank you very much"
He then picked up the scissors again and started cutting the hair on the top of my head. First he cut my bangs, he cut them very short, he cut them in a line above half of my forehead, the hair that was falling was very long because my bangs were huge. I thought he was going to keep using the scissors, but he then dropped the scissors and got the clippers. I've never seen him use clippers before.
I could see that he put a # 2 blade on the clippers, held my head very tight and started running the clippers over the top of my head, he kept my head firmly with one hand while moving the clippers with the other. Wow! It was a huge amount of hair that was falling, he just dropped it on the floor beside the chair. And in the mirror I was seeing my hair, on top, changing.
So, he continued working with firmness and precision, at the top, he remained very focused on the cut and did not look or speak to me. I understood that I shouldn't get in the way and I also thought that he was probably thrilled with the whole situation. After a few moves of the clippers, the top was completely done with a # 2 clippers cut.
He then turned off the clippers a little bit, took out the # 2 blade and I saw him put on a # 00000 blade. He then put a hand on the top of my head, it was quite different to feel his hand without the amount of hair I had before. He lowered my head, making my chin touch my chest. He switched on the clippers and started moving them from nape to crown. An immense amount of hair started to fall on my lap, over the cape. And I started to feel that blade running close over my scalp, at the back of my head.
And after the clippers' first pass, others came in the same way. I noticed how the barber was doing his job with precision and care. And the hair was accumulating on the cape. Then he tilted my head a little and started running the clippers on the right side, from the sideburns to the crown, it took a few strokes there and soon I could see that the hair was almost as if it was shaved there on that side. And quickly, he tilted my head the other way and started doing exactly the same steps on the left side.
When he finished the left side he put my head upright again and I found myself in the mirror with a military haircut for the first time. The barber showed, with a hand mirror, the cut from all angles, ran a duster brush to dust my head, shook the cape to make all the hair fall on the floor and then opened the cape and said "Ready".
I looked at myself again in the mirror and got out of the chair. I said "Thank you, Sir" and paid for the cut. The barber said to me "Thank you so much for this sacrifice you made for me. I know that now you will go a long time without coming back so you can let your hair grow the way you like it, but, okay. I understand". I just smiled and said "See you, Sir" ...
...the following week, I arrived at the barbershop. The barber saw me and said "Good morning, I'm glad you came by to say hello" And I said "I came to get my military haircut again, sir" and I sat in the barberchair. The barber was very surprised and said, "Are you sure?" And I said "Sir, yes, Sir" and then said "Sir, the military haircut needs to be redone weekly, Sir". He said nothing else, caped me and started to cut, this time a lot easier than the first, because my hair was already very short.
From there I started to visit the barbershop weekly keeping the same haircut, we got even closer, always talking a lot, now with a lot more to say because we saw each other often. I got used to the haircut and the people who knew me also did. As I had entered the University that week, my colleagues only met me with the military haircut and thought that cut was the normal one for me.
A few months later, when I turned eighteen I announced to the barber, "Sir, I came here to tell you that I will honor your son's memory and will join the army." The barber was very happy and told me "You will certainly be a very honorable member of the army" ...