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An unexpected pilgrimage by Manny
I had just met Bill a few days earlier, but already we'd become good friends despite our age difference.
"Traveling is more fun when you have some to share the adventure with," Bill remarked casually as he rested his hand on my leg. "Look, there's a highway sign -- just twenty more miles to the border."
I flipped through my India travel guide. "It seems like we can get a decent room at the hotel across from the bus station. Here's some advice: The border closes at 5 pm. Cross the border near the end of the day. The guards are less zealous because they are eager to get everyone processed and leave on time."
"I've heard a few horror stories about the border," Bill commented. He pawed nervously at his mane of blond, shoulder-length hair. "The Nepali authorities are on the look-out for dope smoking hippies! And when they suspect they have one...the person is carted off to a private interrogation room and can be held incommunicado for days."
I glanced at my pert business-length hair and button-down shirt in the window's reflection. "No problem here...." I smirked, knowing that it would just ramp up Bill's anxiety.
"Maybe we shouldn't go to Nepal after all," Bill commented.
"What?! We've been on a bus for 12-hours, bumping through potholes the size of swimming pools, and you want to call it off?" I gasped. "Maybe we should take you to the street barber tomorrow. Cut this hair of yours short, like mine!"
Spontaneously, I grasped a shank of Bill's glistening golden locks.
"A street barber?!" Bill gulped.
"Yes, for a nice, short haircut!" I exclaimed. "It'll be part of the adventure, part of the fun, part of your India adventure."
I imagined Bill squirming under the barber's cape, watching in distress as his pretty locks fell to the sidewalk in full view of all passers-by.
"I haven't had short hair since elementary school," Bill remarked tacitly, shifting nervously in the bus seat.
"So, it's a thumbs-up for the haircut?" I asked, hopeful that he'd acquiesce.
"I guess so....but not too short," Bill replied, trying to salvage at least some of his nice, shiny blond hair.
"A visit to the street barber should be yield a lot of interesting photos. I took a few in Delhi that were amazing! There was a street barber near my hotel," I said. "I shot a few videos, as well. The way the barbers wield those manual clippers and shears — real speed demons! Their hands are obviously in excellent shape. The street barber will have no trouble pruning this golden overgrowth down to something manageable!"
I grinned widely as I surveyed Bill's thick, gorgeous flow. Yes, it would fall to the sidewalk in the morning!
We bumped along in silence, getting closer to our final destination for the day. Bill’s hand kept returning to the comfort of his shiny, soft hair. His fingers coiled those silken strands around them like warm blankets on a cold winter day. I hoped he wasn't having second thoughts.
Then he surprised me with an unexpected idea. "Perhaps I should have it cut very, very short. As long as I’m going to make a change, this might be the time to go ultra-short."
I stammered at my unexpected turn of good fortune -- to witness a transformational crop...at a street barbershop, no less!
Then, Bill tossed a buck of cold water on my passing fantasy.
He stared at me, smiling mischievously. "What about this?" He tousled my fussy businesscut playfully. "How about a big change for both of us?"
"Hey!" I exclaimed, as I quickly smoothed my tidy hairstyle back into place.
Bill pointed to a young lad across the aisle from us, no more than eight years old. He was sporting the typical schoolboy haircut. All of his dark hair was clipped close to the scalp with some short, bulky bangs snipped off straight across near the top of his forehead. "If we showed up at the border sporting schoolboy haircuts, no one would stop us. We’d look sweet and innocent, not like possible dope heads!"
I felt my groin spring to life. The thought of myself getting a schoolboy haircut by a street barber was outrageous -- but, it strangely appealed to me. I had always been very careful and conservative about my looks. Perhaps Bill would lead me away from that.....
"Only you look like a dope head, Bill," I stammered, struggling with my mixed feelings about throwing caution to the wind and taking a seat in the street barbershop.
"Don't you want the experience -- sitting exposed, out in the open? Think about the thrill of letting a barber you can hardly communicate with take a manual hand instrument and clip off this chestnut-colored hair with amazing auburn highlights? Shorn down to near the bone. Short! I mean, very close to the scalp! You can watch this lush forelock that you brush so carefully each morning fall to your lap!" Bill continued, cooing into my ear. "I want to see you shorn like an innocent schoolboy. Let's get rid of this serious, fatherly persona and hairstyle."
At that moment, I knew it would be my fate. Yes, I did want to experience the street barber! Yes, and I did want to watch my prized forelock fall into my lap!
"Oh, Bill, I think I'd enjoy...." I stammered nervously. "But, what if I don't....."
"Nonsense! It'll be schoolboy haircuts for both of us in the morning!" he exclaimed, ending the discussion. "And, you'll be first in the chair. I will tell the barber just how short your hair should be cut."
I squirmed in my seat at the thought of Bill playing father and instructing the barber about my length. The lad across the aisle looked over at us. Oh, those awfully short bangs! Snipped right to the top of the forehead! I ran my fingers through my abundant forelock. There would be no more of that after our visit to the street barber.
That evening in our small hotel room, Bill seemed very excited....almost giddy about our upcoming haircuts. I, on the other hand, was quite nervous, frequently sneaking a look at myself in the mirror that hung over the small sink in the room.
As I was fretting, pushing my forelock about nervously, Bill walked up behind me and pressed his body close to mine. "You're not getting cold feet, I hope," he purred in my ear as he folded me into an embrace that was almost more possessive than loving. "How about you take your mind off things and help me out with a good hair wash in this sink? I'd like this thick mane lathered up one last time and given a vigorous washing. Tomorrow morning, these locks will bounce and gleam in the sunlight as we head to get our short haircuts at the street barber."
"Sure," I answered. "Pull that chair over here and take off your shirt."
"Just my shirt?" Bill asked, smiling mischeviously.
"Whatever..." I replied absent-mindedly.
Bill stripped down buck naked and strutted around for my amusement. He had such a nicely sculpted body....with a very flat stomach. Oh, to be young and trim again! He looked like a Scandinavian god with his long, blond hair.
I eased his head back into the sink. What a wonderful mane of hair! I began sopping it with tepid water. Bill groaned with delight. Then I began working the dollop of shampoo through his copious tresses, stimulating his scalp with a vigorous fingertip massage.
"Oh, this is heavenly!" Bill murmurred. "Keep it up! Don't stop...please. Oh, keep going." He breathed rhythmically.
"You have such wonderful hair, Bill," I said.
"And tomorrow, a street barber is going to chop it all off. You and me both....schoolboy haircuts! I can't wait to see you stripped of your fussy little businesscut!"
The way he was eagerly anticipating the haircut made me feel a bit ashamed. I suppose I was just a bit insecure.
But, I did enjoy washing Bill's hair. So heavy, so long, so full of vitality as I gave a final rinse with cold water! Then I toweled it dry and combed out the tangles.
"Now, let me find an appropriate way to say thank you for that wonderful washing," Bill purred as he began unbuttoning my shirt. I was more than happy to be on the receiving end....
In the morning, the sunlight streaming through the window made Bill's hair glow in muted tones of gold and bronze. I ran my fingers through it. Pity that it would all be cut off. But, I would definitely enjoy watching the transformation!
Bill blinked his eyes open and gave me a tender, warm smile. "Today's your big day!" He playfully grasped my forelock and took an imaginary scissors to it with his fingers.
"Our big day, you mean!" I reminded him swiftly. "Although, your hair looks so nice, maybe we shouldn't...."
"If you keep trying to derail this haircut, I'm going to have to turn you over my knee!" Bill joked.
Bill spent an extra amount of time brushing his full, flowing mane. "I get your point about this looking so nice...." he murmured.
As we were finishing breakfast, Bill asked the waiter, "Is there a good street barber you might recommend?"
The waiter summonsed a shoeshine boy from the lobby. He was sporting the traditional schoolboy haircut! "Rajiv will take you. There is one just two blocks from here. Good for Mister's hair," he said, pointing at me, "but not for hair like yours. Street barbers don't do long lady-like styles." Bill blushed a bit as his hair was referred to as a 'lady' style.
"We will both be getting short haircuts," I said, with a smug look on my face. "He cannot cross the border looking like a hippy!"
"Today, the border crossing is just for pilgrims....all day," the waiter explained.
"What? We can't cross today just as tourists?" Bill stammered.
"We could say we were pilgrims," I suggested.
"Then, both of you will get your haircut by a barber near the border. They set up on special festivals like today. They are experts in giving ritual head shaves to go to the shrine. Price is cheaper for head shave than haircut by street barber," the waiter said with a sly smile. "And, men and ladies get the same -- bald, no hair!"
Bill whispered to me, "If you squirm in the barber's chair, I'm going to march you straight over to the pilgrims' barber for a special head shave!"
The thought of having my head shaved clean made my groin bulge.
Bill and I followed Rajiv down the street. The boy's hair was awfully short up the back. Just stubble. And his thick fringe was cropped severely straight across the top of his forehead. And that was the haircut Bill and I would soon be sporting.
We rounded the corner, and I saw the street barber shop. Just a tall wooden chair under a tree. A small mirror was nailed to the tree trunk.
Rajiv greeted the barber in a native tongue and gesticulated. I heard the word hotel.
The barber took the cape from the back of the chair and pointed to me. I looked at Bill one last time, hoping for a change of heart, a reprieve. There was none!
Bill motioned for me to get in the chair. Then he handed Rajiv some coins for leading us to the street barber. Bill pointed to me and then to Rajiv's head. "Cut his hair like this boy's!" Bill instructed the street barber.
It was clear the barber understood. He got a perplexed look. "But, this haircut is for schoolboys," he noted cautiously.
"That's correct. And this American man wants an Indian schoolboy haircut." Bill's voice was firm and commanding. Even though I was almost old enough to be Bill's father, he was playing the father role to me. I felt small and submissive.
The barber fastened the cape around my neck, shaking his head a bit, still objecting mildly to the instruction.
Then, Bill seized the scissors from the little shelf and grabbed my forelock with the other hand.
I squirmed at the sudden assault.
Bill let out a triumphant chuckle as the clamped the blades closed near the base of my forelock
Two swift moves was all it took. Bill whacked off the forelock quite short and tossed the wad of cut hair onto my lap! I looked at myself in the small mirror. No forelock to speak of!
Bill was animated. He pointed to the manual hand clippers and motioned for the barber to start clipped off the rest of my businesscut.
The street barber treated me just like an eight-year-old boy, pushing my head straight down and holding it securely in place while my plush businesscut gave way to the metal teeth.
I watched, semi-numb and semi-excited, as cut hair showered down to my lap on the cape. A lot was coming off. The feel of the clippers on my scalp was exhilarating. I wondered if Bill would be laughing quite as hard once we had switched places and he was under the cape. Oh, to watch his glorious blond mane fall to the sidewalk.....my sacrifice would be well worth it!
The pulsating motion of the manual clippers finally stopped. I glanced in the mirror. I was practically bald. Then, the barber evened out the truncated bangs quite close to the top of the forehead.
Bill examined the new haircut closely and smiled to show his approval. He fondled the short pelt. "Yes, I like you like this, very much," he purred.
"But will you like it when your hair has been cut this short?" I taunted
"Oh, I'm not getting a haircut here," he said nonchalantly. "This barber doesn't do lady styles, didn't you hear?"
I felt angry, and betrayed. "But, we had a deal! Both of us would...."
"How much for the haircut?" Bill asked the barber, cutting my protest short.
I couldn't believe how things developed. I, who didn't need a haircut, ridiculously shorn. And, Bill, still flaunting his gorgeous, flow of gold. But, I dared not complain further.
"I saw a tailor on our way over here," Bill remarked. "I'm thinking about having a schoolboy outfit handmade for you. Grey shorts, a nice white shirt, black lace shoes and white knee socks. A schoolboy uniform to match your schoolboy haircut" Bill taunted.
I could not stop feeling my clipped head in back or tugging at my stubby bangs. I pictured myself standing in just my white undies while a tailor measured me for my school uniform. A grown man in schoolboy shorts! I followed Bill silently and submissively as we navigated the busy sidewalks. It occurred to me, we were not heading back to the hotel. I saw a sign indicating the border crossing point was just ahead. The crowds of people grew more compact as we pushed through the multitude.
And, then, we broke through and saw the makeshift barbering area where the ritual head shaves were being administered. Men and women squatting, with barbers using nothing but a straight edge razor scraping off their luxurious locks. There were a score of shaving areas, at least! Piles of hair -- all of it black -- on the floor everywhere.
Bill turned to me and flashed a huge smile. "That one there," he said, pointing, "he's going to be my barber!"
"What? Bill!" I stammered.
"Take lots of pictures!" he continued. "This will be once-in-a-lifetime experience! I'll be hair free!"
Then I watched Bill stride over to the unoccupied barber. His hair glowed as Bill ran his fingers through it one last time. He turned around, smiled, waved and flashed a thumbs up to me. I watched him squat at the feet of the barber! He was so brave! Then I took out my phone to record the transformation....
Bill was made to lower his head in a penitent position. The golden hair was like a magnificent veil as it flowed past his face. The barber combed through his locks and prepared his head for the ritual shave. The silver blade of the straight razor flashed in the sunlight as he took it to Bill's tresses. With short, authoritative strokes, he began the task of removing Bill's hair right at the scalp. After a few quick strokes, the first patch of creamy white skin appeared amid the amber waves of silken hair. The shaving continued. Clumps of golden locks began to pepper the carpet of raven locks that surrounded Bill and the barber. The small patch of scalp grew to the size of a nickel, then a quarter, than a half dollar, than an orange, then a grapefruit and finally the whole back was completely devoid of hair.
When the barber paused to adjust his position so that he could begin tackling the top, Bill reached up to touch the back of his newly exposed head. However, the barber barked a stern reprimand, and Bill's curiosity remained to fester. The barber's strokes became more forceful and longer as he started removing the longest locks of blond hair. My mind went back to the magnificent lathering session we'd had in the hotel room the night before.
Bill's cut hair began to accumulate like a carpet of gold lamme around him. Now, only about a third of it remained attached to his bowed head. The rest was like soft straw resting atop the piles of raven hair taken from the Indian pilgrims.
Finally, the veil fell. The barber brought the razor down past the hairline.....within moments, Bill's full face was revealed. Only a small clump of hair clung to the side of his head. He was grinning broadly. He snuck a look at me. Bill was virtually bald. Nothing but a gleaming white cueball where once he had sported a lush mane of shoulder-length silken locks.
I felt sorry for him, really. Perhaps, this evening, instead of hair washing, Bill would allow me to shave his head again. This time with lather and a safety razor....scraped him clean as a whistle. Smooth, sensitive, virgin white skin! He'd feel vulnerable without his golden hair, and I would comfort him.
Once he was completely bald, the stern barber let Bill lift his head upright. His hands went straight to his denuded scalp to explore the naked expanse of skin. His grin broke into a full smile as he confirmed that he was now totally bald. "It's gone!" he mouthed to me.
The barber did a few final touches and Bill paid.
Then he rushed to me. "What do you think? I'm bald! Totally frickin' bald! Feel this!"
My curious hands explored the creamy exposed scalp. A soft, smooth, satin-like feel contrasted with the menacing bullet-head look.
Then, to my surprise, Bill put his arm around my waist and begin leading me over to the barber who had performed his ritual head shave.
"You didn't really like the schoolboy haircut," he whispered in my ear. I was like putty, and willingly under Bill's direction. I wanted to crouch near the ground as Bill had, and I wanted to have the remnants of my fussy businesscut scraped off.
"Shave him!" Bill commanded.
I instinctively squatted down and bowed my head. Bill's glorious blond tresses were at my feet.