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Plain Ridge High: Nick by Armando94

Plain Ridge High: Nick

It was the early fall which meant a new year of school. Time for summer to draw to a close, no more late-night swims and weekend barbecues. Back the usual grind for five days a week, seven hours of the day for the young men at Plain Ridge High Academy for Boys. But this would be the last year of this usual song-and-dance for the seniors, before they all set off next spring into whatever their life had in store for them: college, work, or service. So it was important that these young men make the most out of the next ten months of their young lives before the real world set in to motion.

Nick was a budding student and a bit of an athlete, although perhaps more of a student than an athlete when you took once glance at him. He had big, black thick-rimmed glasses that definitely caught everyone’s attention when you passed him in the hallways. Having suffered the early years at this school not being called Four Eyes but rather Bug Eyes. But he just smiled and got on with it, there were worst names to be called he supposed, right? Better they called him out for that rather than his butt-chin, with the little dimple there. Although some girls might have found it cute, he didn’t get to endure the other sex’s sensitivity and support while at Plain Ridge High during the weekdays. So, just grin and bare it, as he always said.

Even if the glasses may have made him a complete dork on the face side of things, at least he had his beautiful blonde locks on the top of his head. Perfectly coiffed up and over, with a hard part on his left side, combed down and then tapered very gently almost to the skin on the sides and back. A nice and clean look he had to maintain to have a very gentleman like appearance, both for the sake of his school and his parents who were filled with pride of all the things their boy might do one day. Thus every morning he took the time after his shower to perfectly comb the strands into place, applying some gel and oil that way they may stay strong and spiffy all day long as he went about his business and then afterwards for activities.

He had some prospects of places he’d like to go to college next fall, all thinking more in the academic realm of things. Its not that he didn’t want to play basketball, but being just shy of six foot tall and never feeling the urge to be actively recruited by university scouts, he had always settled on his studies for the future. Right now, the sport was for fun and to have consistent friends. He would plan this fall though, now having his own car he earned from hard work all summer, to spend a lot more time playing with some of the guys after school, keeping himself going, maybe even try to get himself to go on solo runs in the morning before heading to school. Anything to stay in shape and have a good season ahead of him for his senior year. Memorable and enjoyable!

Nick was walking through the halls with his books and bag on the first day of school when he came across his basketball coach and stopped to chat with him. His coach asking how his summer was, Nick asking likewise, the two of them going back and forth discussing any trips they may have gone on with their families, how it was time to get back down to school business. Coach asking if Nick was excited to be a senior, what his plans were, thoughts on the upcoming season of basketball.

"You know Nick, I know basketball is still a season away. But still something to think about."

"I know, I definitely want to make sure that I keep myself in shape and don’t slack off too much until then," he laughed.

"Atta boy," his coach slapped his shoulder. "Might I even suggest a few things? Focus on some of the drills we had worked on at the end of last season. They’ll be good to think about and possibly help us strategize for plays to make and plan for the team. I know your more of a brains guy so we could use your help there."

"I can work on that," Nick could definitely think back on how last season went and look towards what they could improve on, and especially what he could.

"Great, I’d appreciate that," coach smiled. "Might I also suggest," he eyed up Nick now, "a tight butch before the season starts? I think you’d look sharp with one, think about it. I’ve always meant to say it to you. Its what my own boys used to wear when they were in season."

"Oh," Nick felt speechless, "I’ll consider it, s-sir."

"Fantastic, I’ll see ya around Nick," coach slapped him once again, this time on the back as he moved down the hall.

A tight butch? What did that mean? Of course, Nick knew coach was referring to Nick’s hair. Wasn’t the first time someone had suggested Nick change up his hairstyle, the style he took such pride in grooming each day. He wasn’t even necessarily familiar with what a "butch" was, let alone a tight one. But he shook this notion off and headed for his homeroom classroom where a few of his buddies were already seated on tops of their desks or chairs, talking with each other. After the school bell rung to get everyone to their classes, and then the Pledge had been recited, and announcements made, their homeroom teacher began to hand out a few different flyers and papers to boys in the room. One of them was for their yearbook pictures which would be taken the following week. These would be their senior portraits too, the ones in the yearbook as well as ones they would give away to family and loved ones in the spring, in either large frames or little wallet size portraits. Vintage photos on the flyer showing young men looking their best, extra sharp. Nick adjusted his glasses a bit, felt his throat lump up for a second, taking this all in. Pictures next week, coach’s comment in the hall just moments before. Maybe waiting for the basketball season for this supposed tight butch cut might not have to happen. Why wait until then when he could do it now for his portraits? Besides, coach said he always could see Nick having a haircut like that. Maybe it was meant to be?

Nick went home that day after school, had dinner with his folks, showed them all the things he got on his first day, having them sign what was necessary that he could bring back to his teachers tomorrow, before the weekend would start after the last bell. That night, before going to bed, he looked at himself in the mirror a little closer than usual, sifted his hands through his luscious locks, some of the strands still firm and stiff from the product earlier that morning, holding the outer shell of his hair in place like a piece of chocolate or something. And then the thickness within Nick’s scalp, soft and smooth strands that kept all the weight together and in proportion. His hard part still in tact like usual, he really did take good care of his hair! But at the same time, some of these hairs had probably become so toxic from all the product he put in daily, they probably weren’t the healthiest. He ought to not overdue it so much, but he couldn’t help himself. Nick liked everything in place. And besides, if he didn’t smooth it all out, to him at least in the mirror, his hair looked like it was going to frizz out. Hence why he took the time to keep it in check. But what about the new style coach had suggested? What would that be like? Maybe he wouldn’t have to use so much product anymore. Maybe a little less product would do him some good, and not in a money sense, but health wise. He did sometimes feel when he would sweat a lot during basketball practice or games that he could almost smell the hair oil from the droplets down his forehead and sides of his face.

Maybe he would have to take coach’s advice? Even though, he wasn’t all that sure what a tight butch entailed, and Nick was a little nervous to ask his dad, or any of his friends the next day at school. Just because he didn’t want to have to deal with any of their reactions. He would just see what the weekend brought, and then he’d make his decision.

Saturday morning was filled with an early pick-up game of basketball with some of the guys on his team and other kids they knew that did not play a fall sport and had the time to meet up. They met at one of the local parks and took over one of the courts and played for nearly three hours! It was a lot of fun but a lot of sweating, Nick was definitely feeling it. He’d also not applied too much product to his hair that morning, just to see how he would fair. And as expected, he definitely felt like his blonde hair was starting to curl and whack out of shape. What he gets for not carefully grooming it all back like usual. But who was to say it would have stayed in check anyways? They played a lot of basketball and it was getting hotter and hotter by the time it was after twelve and everyone had to call it quits, either get home for lunch or going somewhere like a family function or something.

When Nick got back home, his parents were both out, running separate errands, saying they’d be back later though. Nick took a quick shower after having a small sandwich just to eat something. As he stepped out of the shower, he towel dried his hair off until it felt like there was not a wet droplet up there. When he looked at himself in the mirror with his glasses back on, he could tell how wide his hair had gone from the towel rubbing. He got out a brush and began to comb it all back and up, trying to get things in place. Some of the hair was able to relax down, but it still all looked massive and big. Like one big floof like a dog on top of his head! Man, he needed to do something about it. He immediately went to grab some of his usual products but he refrained himself, perhaps it was a sign. Not a sign to take this mess, but to do something more serious about it. The hair oil and gel wasn’t gonna cut it…literally.

Nick quickly changed into a pair of shorts and a clean t-shirt before he headed downstairs, grabbed his car keys and then headed on out. He knew exactly where he was going and wasn’t going to change his mind at this point. His mind had finally been made up, time to put it into action.

Nick parked out front of Towne Barbers, knowing that on a Saturday afternoon he might have to wait a bit for a barber. But that was not an issue with him, not like he hadn’t been used to that most his life coming here with his father. All part of the tradition of getting a haircut after all, especially at a real barber shop, right? The men cutting the hair of the men seated in their chairs, testosterone and barbecide in the air like it were the pollen in spring, just effortlessly and naturally existing with the atmosphere. Truly just part of the man’s-man experience, right? So Nick swung open the front door, the bell dinging off to signal a newcomer. He was surprised to find all of the barbers working away at clients in their chairs, and only a couple of gentlemen waiting across the way in the foldable chairs against the wall opposite. He plopped a seat and waited his turn, taking in the surroundings, barbers conversing with clients, barbers conversing with neighboring barbers, everyone getting in on one whole conversation. Just the absolute place to be on a Saturday afternoon.

Since Nick was the third guy in the waiting area, he thought he might have to wait a bit until he was called up to one of the chairs. But when he thought it was the second guy waiting’s turn, he deflected and told Nick to go on ahead of him, he was waiting on a different barber. This didn’t make Nick feel upset or scared though, the barber who was going to be servicing him today he had had on a number of occasions before, and he even remembered his name. Of course the usual "Wow you’ve gotten old" which was probably better than saying "Wow you’ve gotten big" which was only okay when you were a legit kid and not a teenager in high school. So the barber in his mid-forties caped Nick up in a white cape that the faintest gray pinstripes blended in that you might not have noticed from far away, but the white matching to the white tunics all the barbers were wearing today. Nick removed his bulky glasses from his face, his vision temporarily blurred for the duration of the haircut, but maybe that was for the best as what he was about to endure.

"So Nick my boy, what are we thinking today? Usual short on the back and sides tapered down, and then we comb this rat’s nest into place with a bit of a trim as well," the barber felt through Nick’s hair that was now borderline blonde afro.

"Actually, sir," Nick cleared his throat. "I was wondering something, my basketball coach suggested something a haircut for me, but I wasn’t so sure."

"You’re over at the Academy, correct young man?"

"I am, sir," Nick politely affirmed.

"Ah, I know your coach, client of mine too, and his boys were when they used to live in town. Good man and family."

"Ah, cool," Nick nodded. "Funny you say that, he said his sons used to have their hair cut like this. He said something about a tight butch?"

For a second there, Nick almost swore that the barber was going to bust out in hysterical laughter, and he felt like he caught the neighboring barbers and clients listening in on their conversation now. Why was everyone so intuned?

"Is that right what he suggested?" the barber tried to keep his cool. "Well, Nick, it would be very different from what you have had in the past and right now. You realize that?"

"I figured it would be much like that," Nick sounded a little dejected. "But I feel like I need to do something about my hair, its definitely gotten out of control, and coach said it would be good for the season, even though I know I have a little while until then."

"You’ve got that right, both good for the season and you have time. But maybe it would be worthwhile you gave it a try, you know? See if you actually liked it or not?"

"Do you think it’s a good idea, sir?" Nick asked timidly.

The barber smirked back at Nick in the mirror and said, "Well, we aren’t going to know unless we try, right young man?"

"I suppose…" Nick wasn’t totally convinced.

"Worth a try," the barber shrugged back, "Besides, we can both agree that your hair is definitely a little out of control today, and perhaps a nice, tight butch would allow your hair to be a little healthier. I can tell you use a lot of product daily."

"I know, I’ve tried to be better about it, but I can’t help myself."

"Well this cut would definitely help you in that dilemma, my boy."

It would?! Now this caught Nick’s attention: "It would?"

"Ain’t nothing better to help solve it, actually," the barber silently smirked again.

"Alright, then, I’m in," Nick brightly smiled up and sat up a little straighter and upright in the chair.

"That’s it then? You sure, son?"

"One tight butch, please," Nick responded.

"One tight butch coming up, then," the barber said. Nick sighed of relief, if this was going to help him use less product in his hair, allow it to maybe be a little more healthy, and then he wouldn’t deal with the mess he had right now, then maybe whatever this haircut was wouldn’t be so bad at all!

Nick completely ignored the barber firing up the clippers, just assuming he was going to begin tapering the sides and back of Nick. The fast-feeding clippers with their metal teeth had no extra guard in them, so Nick thought nothing of what was about to happen, as the barber placed them at the top of Nick’s forehead and slowly peeled towards the crown. As the barber made the first swipe across the center towards the back, Nick could feel a sensation like never before as the clippers made contact with his defenseless blonde hair. Those once beautiful strands were no match for the machine making its way through them, like a plow in winter! Nick felt the clippers tear right down the middle, reducing him down to nearly stubble. It couldn’t have been more than a #1 guard on their, if even that. For the feeling the clippers gave off as it did its damage felt frightening yet also releasing. As the barber came back to the front and plowed through once again, making another swipe towards the crown.

Now Nick was totally in sync with the whole moment as the barber continued to buzz him down. The blonde hair falling off and down onto the cape and floor, lifeless and limp. Left in their wake was the now short roots of Nick’s hair, almost making him look more like a brunette rather than a blonde for the first time in his life. Like all he was going to have on top of his head was five o’clock shadow! With each movement, the barber continued to reduce the top of Nick’s head down to stubble, with him having to sit there and just grin and bare it like he was always good at with everything in life. He couldn’t really see all that well with his glasses removed but he knew this was definitely going to give him a completely new look, and one that required less fuss after the shower with sadly no hair products whatsoever now. Not what he had in mind, but then again, he wasn’t familiar with a butch cut and had never endured a summer buzzcut as a child. And the word "tight" included, well, boy was Nick naïve. He should have seen something like this coming a mile off.

"That’s it, this will keep you nice and cool through the fall," the barber said as he came back across the top to double check his work. Nick was half afraid he was going to find more hair to carve out and away, but thankfully the barber was just doing a good job of making sure that he got every little hair and nick in place, down to the short uniform length that Nick wasn’t even sure he could consider bristles. He wanted to touch the top of his head but he figured he’d wait and hold out. The barber clipped back more off the top of Nick’s head, the tickling sensation he felt as the clippers would go across a section that had already been buzzed down, almost like one of those vibrating tools old people used. And then when it came across a new patch that hadn’t been turned over yet, Nick could feel it in the root of his scalp as well as his soul. The hair surrendering to those fast-feeding clips, making quick work and no turning back. Nick felt those hair fall off like daisies in the spring, as if it was all natural having a haircut just like this. Well, he supposed it was when you used the clippers like this!

Even though Nick couldn’t totally make out the sight of himself in the mirror, he was certain he looked a little funny right about now, the top of his head clipped down severely while he still had some hair on the sides and back of his head. But it wasn’t long until the barber asked him, "Head forward and down, son, please," and Nick quickly obeyed as the barber brought the clippers behind and soared them right through the center and back. Wow! That was quite the feeling. Of course Nick had had his hair cut short on the sides and back for quite a while now, but this was a whole new world as the hair in the back was reduced down to the same length as it was on top. This really was going to be a short haircut, and he figured he was lucky he wasn’t going to be completely bald in the back and sides at least. The barber cleared out the rest of the back before moving to Nick’s left side where the hard part always was. Well, no more of that pruning and prancing into place in the morning. Nick caught in the mirror remnants of that hard part fall down onto his shoulder and then slide down to the edge of his cape as the barber moved the clippers through the left side like it was nothing. At this point, Nick finally shrugged and relaxed in the chair, knowing that this was the new look he was going to have to get used to. And for some reason, he was sort of glad he was getting it.

Then the barber clipped off the right side, bringing the haircut near its close before he squared off and lined up the back of Nick’s neckline and then edged off the clippers towards the top of Nick’s ears, maybe a bit shorter than he would have liked but perhaps that was what it was meant to be like for this haircut. Nick didn’t know, he didn’t even know what the haircut was going to be like in general! And here he was, scalped down so severely he didn’t think his family or friends would even recognize him. Then the barber brought out the tools for the hot towel and shave around Nick’s neckline and ears, he always liked that most about coming to Towne Barbers. It just added again to the whole ambiance of this place. And here Nick was, getting a real man’s haircut too! The barber applied the warm and sweet smelling foam to Nick’s skin, attached a new blade for the straight edge razor, and began to quickly swipe and clean up around Nick to edge him out and clean him off even sharper. Then the barber applied some of that strong smelling and itchy tonic to the places where he had shaved around Nick’s new cut, then with those oily hands rubbed all across the top of Nick’s head, which did to be honest sting a little, making sure that everything was good and there wasn’t a single short strand out of place.

"Alright there, Nick, one tight butch for you and the coach," the barber released the cape from Nick’s neck, and the client was finally able to bring the glasses back up to his face and inspect his new look.

Woah….just woah…it really was short, even shorter now that everything came into focus. Now way was he going to have to worry about anything being out of place. Nick took his right hand and slowly grazed it across the top of his head. The short little spikes that were so close to the skin made the hair on Nick’s arms stand up as he rubbed his palm up against them. This was going to definitely take some getting used to. Especially because now he felt like his glasses really stood out with the lack of hair on his head, oh man. But, one thing was for sure, the barber had done a great job. No denying of that, this was truly one tight cut!

Nick finally stood up and shook the barber’s hand and said, "Thank you sir, just what I wanted," and he couldn’t believe he had even said that last half. They went up to the front so Nick could pay and tip the barber and then be on his way.

When he got home afterwards, both his parents were home and totally blown away by his new appearance. They asked why he had done it, he said it had been suggested to him by coach, but he hadn’t known what a tight butch would entail. This made both his parents laugh, but they said it did really look good on him. His mom even suggested maybe he’d consider getting contact lenses now, which did turn on a light bulb in Nick’s brain. To avoid the big bulky glasses still on his face. But that would be another problem for another day.

Until senior photos were next week, and he hadn’t even thought about it, rushing from his class to his assigned time for his portrait. Sitting there on the stool in his good suit as the photographer positioned him correctly before a few clicks of the camera. Complimenting Nick that he looked swell. After the portraits being done, Nick stepped off and passed a few other boys waiting in the queues, some of them who also had been severely barbered down this weekend as well. At least he wasn’t the only one with a short cut.

"Nice cut, dork, they match your frames real well," one of the guys in a posy of others joked. When he said that, Nick reached his hands to his face so fast, realizing that he had his glasses on for his senior portraits, along with this short haircut. It hadn’t even dawned on him to remove them for pictures sake, he should have! Maybe the contact lenses wouldn’t be needed, because now his senior portraits were of him, with his new short haircut, and his thick-rimmed glasses. Oh brother…

But one positive came out of it, that first week of the short haircut, Nick felt a lot cooler, no longer stressing about his hair in place. He even started to go for two mile runs in the morning in his neighborhood before going to school. And a quick shower and towel dry off, man, his hair was done like magic. No need to mess around with any products. It tempted Nick to throw away all those old products he still had in his medicine cabinet in his bathroom. But maybe he wouldn’t, save them as keepsakes, of old memories. Perhaps before college he would finally toss them out or something. As he continued to stare at the new him throughout the fall, making more frequent trips to Towne Barber and being taken down to the tight butch cut he was sticking with, and his body starting to fill out more and more from all his workouts. The glasses weren’t really a problem in the end, he did need them after all. They were just another part of his identity, like everything else. If anything, he was going to keep them. He could see clearly with them both literally and figuratively, change was good.

(new mini series I'm working on, trying to master how to describe a haircuts)

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