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Going native by Manny

I had anxiously awaited Wayne's arrival at the outpost in Darfur province to have some companionship. In the three months that I'd been there doing relief work for Oxfam, loneliness had been the hardest thing to deal with. Of course, I knew it was a gamble. What if the two of us didn't get along? I might be pining away for the days of solitude.

But Wayne proved to be everything and more I could have hoped for -- congenial, witty, smart, resourceful, and....very handsome! Plus, he arrived with an abundance of food, books, gadgets, battery packs and other things I really needed or enjoyed.

He also arrived with an abundance of hair! Thick, wave blond hair that flowed down to just above his shoulders.

After settling into his space and eating the meal I'd had the houseboy prepare, Wayne asked about bathroom facilities. "I'd like to take a relaxing shower or bath. Riding in the open Jeep was fun, but I feel a little wind-whipped and my hair is full of sand."

"You'll need to get one of those head scarfs the men wear if your goal is clean hair. And I hate to inform you of this, but that bucket in the kitchen is our bathing facility! Sorry, Wayne, you're going to have to do without a lot of creature comforts," I said.

"Well, that's disappointing," he said with a laugh, "but I wanted something totally different when I signed up to work out here. And, it seems, I got it! No shower or bath tub, eh?"

"Hey, and what's in that bucket there needs to last for both of us for three days, understand? So don't pour it all out, rinsing that mane of yours! You should've gotten a haircut before coming out here, you know. There are no barbers that deal with our kind of hair. Just a street barber in the village. The men squat in the dusty street and he takes a manual handclippers to them -- down to the wood and then razor shaved with a straight edge and some soap."

Wayne ran his fingers through his amazing locks. "Well, I won't be visiting the street barber. I'm planning to grow this out. If I'm here for a full year, it should get down to my shoulder blades! Always wanted to do that.... But scarce water, hmmmm, that'll be a problem."

"There is a small reservoir if you care to walk 45 minutes in each direction and carry extra water back on your head," I noted.

"Or hire someone? I could afford that, I imagine," Wayne said.

And he did just that. He paid the houseboy extra to swing by the reservoir on his way in to work. He had fresh water daily, and Wayne was able to wash his long hair every day. He would let it dry naturally in the sun, which brought out amazing highlights.

About five months into the year, Wayne awoke one morning full of energy. "That thicket in the back. It's unsightly and blocks our perfect desert sunset. I'm going to clear it out today. Want to help me?"

"Are you kidding? Those thorns are awful! I got my shirt snagged in them once and completely ruined it. And there are lots of spiders and scorpions back there! Awful stuff prowling about. Snakes too, I would imagine. Just let the thicket be...." I urged him.

But Wayne was determined. I watched his lovely blond locks, that were now just past his shoulders shifting about past his shoulders as he strode to the thicket with no shirt on. "Don't want to ruin a shirt like happened to you," he had explained as he stripped it off to reveal his well-chiseled chest.

The gentle wind ruffled his wavy locks as he neared the thicket. He tucked the flowing mass behind his ears after he dropped his pruning instruments.

Without delay, Wayne plunged into his task with gusto. In short time he made significant progress. Wayne saw me watching and turned toward the house to wave. "Come on out and help me," he called.

And, as he did, his foot slipped on the pebbled path and Wayne went down. His hair fell into a patch of thorns and he was snagged into a losing battle to free himself of the brambles.

I jumped up to see if he was hurt. "Wayne, are you all right?"

He turned to see his predicament better, and as he did his long hair got further ensnared in the copious thorns.

"Help me," he called out in desperation. "My hair is caught in the thorns!"

The more he struggled to free himself, the more ensnared he was to the unforgiving thicket.

As I was running out to help, he screamed, "Bring scissors. Quick! There are termites and spiders crawling all over me. In my hair too. I need to get out of this fast!"

I did as he instructed, arriving with a huge set of shears.

"Cut me out of here," he urged.

"But your hair!" I stammered.

"I don't care. Chop it off whatever is necessary," he snapped.

I did not need any more encouragement. The scissors plunged into his copious locks and I began hacking away. At first, my approach was to cut as little as needed....but then, I thought, perhaps it was time for Wayne to experience the local culture more fully. He always stuck out with his long blond hair in the village. I took the shears to the base of his massive forelock and sawed it off right at the roots. There would be no alternative for Wayne, but the street barber! I kept cutting and cutting and cutting.

When he was finally freed from the thicket, there were many near-bald patches amid the clumps of matted, long hair.

"Oh, Wayne, your hair!" I exclaimed. He looked so different since he'd first sauntered out to the thicket with his marvelous waves cascading past his shoulders.

"Very bad?" he asked with a sort of sick tone of voice.

"I had to get you out quickly; the spiders looked poisonous," I stammered.

Wayne felt his head, especially the hacked patch that once anchored his dreamy forelock.

He looked down at it on the pebbled path and noted dryly, "Huh, there don't seem to be any thorns in some chunks of hair down there. But thanks for coming to my rescue. I know we were both agitated and in a frenzy."

"If I had more time, I could've kept the damage down, I suppose," I said in a hesitating voice.

We walked a bit in silence.

Then, I dropped the bombshell. "I think a visit to the street barber is going to be necessary....."

Wayne took off like a bolt toward the house. I could see him examining his hair in the mirror inside.

When I entered the house, he confirmed, "Yep, you're right. The street barber...those manual hand clippers! I never imagined myself squatting down in the road and having him take them to my hair."

"The men always look so submissive to the street barber," I added.

"Especially when he is pulling that razor across their scalp," Wayne gulped.

We both paused, momentarily, taking it in.

Wayne continued, "You know, I might just be glad I'm going to have a genuine local experience. I can write about it in my blog -- street barber shaves my head. Will you video it?"

"Sure," I said, thinking of poor Wayne, submissive to the street barber.

"You might want one too!" he exclaimed as he tussled my shaggy moptop.

I felt a surge of excitement. The reality was I'd always fantasized about getting the works from the local barber.

"I just might," I said nervously.

The next thing, both of us were in a state of high excitement ready to head into the village and take turns squatting in front of the street barber.

"Why don't I finish cutting off the remaining long chunks, Wayne?" I asked.

"Good idea," he said, pulling up a chair.

Again, I grasped Wayne by his wonderful, soft hair. Snip, SNIP, CRUNCH!! I hacked off all the length. A vast pile of his wavy blond locks collected at my feet. Wayne was as submissive for me as he'd be for the street barber.

Once I'd finished, Wayne sprang from the chair and examined himself in the mirror again. "Agh! My hair's never been so short."

"Get ready for the soap and straight razor!" I cackled.

"Can't wait," Wayne replied, with a tone of sarcasm in his trembling voice.

"I can't believe I'm going to lose all this either," I stammered as I ran my fingers through my mop.

"Let's go, before we chicken out! Got the phone to video our transformation?" Wayne asked rather excitedly.

We scampered into town as fast as we could, like Wayne surmised, not wanting to get cold fee about our upcoming excitement.

Then we saw him, the street barber! It felt so odd knowing that he was our destination, not someone to look at with curiosity as we strode by.

"You'll be first," Wayne said, giving me a friendly shove.

"Hey, who decided that?" I pouted.

"I did! Your thatch needs a proper shearing -- look it's getting in your eyes," he said as he batted my fringe.

Wayne manhandled me into a squatting position as soon as we were in front of the street barber.

The old man gave a toothy grin as he reached for the manual clippers.

Wayne pointed to the client who was leaving, to his bare, shaven head and then to my moptop. "Shave him bald," Wayne ordered, even though it was clear from the gestures what my fate was to be.

Then Wayne began a narration for his blog and he hit the record button, "My colleague and I are getting haircuts today. By a street barber! There will be no more hair in Jarrod's eyes when he's done here. In fact, there will be no more hair on Jarrod's head at all when he gets up from this squatting position. The old man....you see him priming the manual clippers....he's a pro at this. Jarrod's thatch is coming off! The street barber is making him bow in an almost penitent position. Oh, there he goes....those sharpened metal teeth...up, up, up through the nape. Oh, and....TIMBER! The first clump of Western hair falls to the dusty street of Marporsal. And, the clippers keep climbing up the back. The barber is very agile with the manual clippers! Oh, we have a first bald strip. And now up through the cowlick and straight down the top of his head. OMG....a massive amount of hair is streaming off in all directions. How you feeling down there, Jarrod?"

I tried to look up to answer (to say I felt a bit queasy), but the barber hissed, and I was made to remain submissively staring at the street, watching clumps of my light brown hair hit the dusty road.

Wayne continued his narration of my first street barber experience. "The street barber is in total control, and there is only one result for every client -- bald! First, he clears away the thatch, like he's doing now, with the manual clippers, on Jarrod. Clients must not move and must crouch submissively. Jarrod is doing a great job...and I'll be next! This is a long way from the washing station at my salon back home in Minnesota! Remember how some of you called me Thor when I began letting my hair grow out? I thought I would come from Darfur with a thick blond braid dangling down my back. But, instead, I'll probably be coming back totally BALD! I had a mishap in the thicket behind our house this morning. Approached it with flowing locks, but an untimely fall, coupled with a bit of wind and complicated by an infestation of termites, spiders and scorpions, set a series of unfortunate events in motion. By the time Jarrod had freed me with the aid of some desk scissors, my Kevin Sorbo look was in tatters! I rather think he was overly careless with the shears as he was cutting me free, but he's making up for it now."

He knew! I had chopped off more than needed, on purpose!

When the street barber finished with the manual clippers, Wayne made me look up at the camera. I felt shy and vulnerable.

"Look, a baldy cut, like we got as boys on the first day of summer vacation!" Wayne chirped.

Then the street barber doused my head with some stagnant water and rubbed some awful smelling lye soap on it.

"Uh, oh!" Wayne laughed. "Phase two for Jarrod. The straight edge.....and nothing but smooth scalp at the end of it."

I almost jumped out of my hide when the street barber quickly scraped the razor down the top of my head. It felt like nothing I'd ever experience before. An electrifying sting!

"Look folks, the first patch of gleaming white scalp! Virgin skin that's never seen the light of day. Oh, what a contrast to Jarrod's tanned face. He's going to end up with a 1950's stylish bathing cap for women, I imagine."

Wayne laughed hysterically as he continued to record. Then he added, "I'm beginning to think one street barber haircut for the Western boys today will suffice. Now that I see that scalp...."

"Wayne!" I stammered. "You...you...!"

"Me what?" he demanded.

"You were supposed to get this head shave....I just came along on a lark," I protested.

The street barber hissed and thumped my ear slightly to make his point. No talking or moving!

The rest of my head shaving transpired in silence. When the last splash of water rinsed the lather from my head, Wayne's commentary resumed, "And there he is, people, Jarrod the bald!"

I stood and felt dizzy from having crouched so long....and dreading what I'd see in the tiny broken mirror the street barber handed me. I blanched when I saw myself with a clean head. "Oh, oh my goodness....I can't believe it!"

Wayne stroked my naked scalp tenderly. "It suits you, Bald-boy!" he smirked.

He paid the street barber. Then, my suspicion was confirmed. Wayne would not be getting a head shave from the street barber at all. He began walking silently back home. I felt ashamed about what I had done. My head shave was an appropriate punishment. But, as Wayne's fingers stroked my tender, newly exposed scalp, I knew he'd evened things up.

"Do you want to say anything to me, Jarrod?" Wayne asked. "Do you have anything to confess?"

With a very thin, airy voice, I admitted, "I cut off much more hair than I needed to. Especially your forelock. I knew if I took it off at the scalp, you would end up completely shorn."

"And why did you do that," he asked. "Were you jealous of my long, beautiful hair?"

"Sort of?" I admitted. "And tired of all your fussing with it. Making Abdo carry all that water every day...."

"I'm paying him!" Wayne snapped, in a sudden flash of anger.

"And carelessly wasting precious village water that could be used to sustain life and cattle and irrigate garden plots! We're supposed to be here to help these people....."

Wayne became silent and his gait slowed. Finally, he stopped all together.

He turned around and faced toward the village. "You're right. I've been an ass..... No more long hair for me. No more hair for me period. This privileged, self-absorbed pretty boy needs to learn a lesson at the street barber's. Nothing but exposed scalp. Just like yours, Jarrod!" Wayne slipped his hand into mine, the way the village men walked together hand-in-hand. "After my scalp is white and tender, just like yours, let's go to the cloth souq and buy some traditional head scarves. My skin is so fair, I wouldn't want a severe sunburn."

"Sure thing, Thor!" I said giving his hand a squeeze, wondering what other surprises the day (and evening) might hold for me.

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