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Goodbye to Gabe by Manny

Gabe sat virtually immobile, staring at himself in the large mirror flooded with neon light. The haircut had been a long time in coming. His heavy, dark tresses were as beautiful and shiny as they'd ever been. Resting on the white cape, with small blue pinstripes, they seemed rather forlorn and abandoned.

Out of the corner of his eye, Gabe watched the old barber shuffling about, opening small drawers and fiddling with his haircutting implements. He seemed in a bit of a grumpy mood -- like he was going to have to do a lot of work for the measly $13 Gabe would pay to have his long locks butchered. The old man would probably much rather have one of his geezer buddies in the chair, snipping away at single strands here and there, along with trimming the tufted eyebrows and nose hair he did as a courtesy to his longstanding clients.

As the moments drifted by slowly, Gabe scrutinized the strip of tissue that emerged from the snuggly fastened cape about his neck. It had been years since he'd been in a barbershop. And this one seemed frozen in time.

Gabe had been putting off the "big chop" for years, and not it was just moments away. Nothing had really pushed him over the edge -- his hair hadn't started thinning or turning gray, no one was bugging him to cut it.

It was just that life had become rather routine and predictable. He knew the day would come when his luscious hair would be shorn off, and, that morning, in his boredom, Gabe had decided that today would be the day. The decision had neither fanned excitement nor fear. And now he sat passively, awaiting the barber's assault on his long locks.

The old man cleared his throat and brought a large-tooth comb to Gabe's shoulder-length hair. He made a few futile attempts to drag it through the dense mane before giving up. "Short back and sides?" he said to confirm the instruction Gabe had first given when he had been caped by the barber.

"Yep," murmured Gabe, reluctant to add anything else.

The old man snagged one of the shimmering locks of dark brown hair that covered Gabe's ear and raised the shears to begin the haircut.

Finally, a pang of anxiety shot throught the twentysomething year old. Gabe gripped the arms of the chair as the barber delivered the first haphazard chop, sending a clump of beautiful hair to the cape.

There! The haircut had begun. Gabe's tension relaxed a bit as he watched the barber snag a second lock and scissors it off close to the scalp.

Gabe thought the shorn hair on the cape arranged itself in a very artistic fashion.

The barber gently nudged Gabe's head forward as he began to triage the back of his head. Gabe was happy to have his head made to bow forward, like a penitent. He looked at the hair on his cape. It had been a constant companion for over a decade. Each morning, a long shampooing session followed by an even longer period with the blow dryer. His hair had given him a hip, funky look. It had been great in college and grad school, but ever since, he was beginning to feel like it was a bit out of place....like he was hanging on to a youthful persona that was gradually disappearing.

The door of the barbershop creaked open with a bell announcing a new client.

"Howdy there, Howard," the man croaked. He sounded like he was in his 80's. "Looks like you got your work cut out for you there, if you don't mind the pun."

"Have a seat, Morty; this is going to take me a while," the barber said with a bit of a sigh.

Gabe couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed that the old geezer wasn't energized to be scalping him and inflicting a radical makeover. But, on second thoughts, Gabe was sort of glad that the barber's mood matched his own -- a resigned sense of duty to be performed.

The flowing locks were all cut from the sides and back when the barber turned to the long bangs that had constantly threatened and succeeded in blocking Gabe's line of site partially. The shimmering bangs covered his eyes and nose, extending down to jos mouth. Gabe heard the shears getting ready to put an end to the unruly fringe.

Snip, snip, snip. He watched in numbd silence. The barber started above the eyebrow on the left side and cut at an angle up to the temple on the opposite side. Oh my, he had been placed on the fast and irreversible track for angled bangs!!

Gabe felt the first surge of excitement. His longhair days were over and now he was heading quickly toward a very retro-60s look that barbers imposed on most men during their heyday.

His transformation from hip to has-been took was put on the fast track when Howard exchanged his comb and shears for a huge set of Oster clippers. Gabe jerked a bit involuntarily.

"You did want it tapered short around the ears and at the nape?" the barber said to confirm the direction he was heading in.

"Yes, sir," Gabe murmured submissively. "I was hoping for some arches around the ears to give a very cleancut look."

The old barber smiled a bit and then expertly forced his head forward again and Gabe felt the clippers at his nape for the first time in nearly 20 years! The vibration sent a sense of euphoria through his body. He looked the long hair that was still on the cape, as if it were under the glass display case in a museum, the relic of a long ago past.

Gabe mentally followed the path of the clippers. The barber was certainly giving him his money's worth, emphasizing the 'short' in 'short back and sides'. As the old man began tapering Gabe's hair around the ears, the send of excitement and renewal flooded his being once again. Oh, the man was like a master sculpture, refining his master piece!

As if purposely breaking the magic of the moment, the barber addressed the old codger in the waiting area, "That game that got canceled last night because of the rain, you think they'll be able to pick it up again?"

"Not if the rain don't stop," he said, pointing out the obvious. The barbershop returned to silence, save the humming of the clippers that continued whittling away Gabe's prized mane that by now had been almost totally decimated.

Finally, the clippers stopped and the old man moved to another phase of the haircut -- thinning shears!

Gabe stiffled a gasp. He'd always been so protective and proud of his dense, thick hair. And now, the old man was going to the thin the life out of it so that it would lay flat and tidy against his head.

With a vehemence, fueled by a lack of any noticeable impact caused by a single whack with the thinning shears, the barber went to town on the voluminous top Gabe still sported. The thinning session went on and one and on.

Gabe began feeling uncomfortable at how much bulk was being reduced. So much so, that he finally spoke, "I do prefer to keep it a bit full on top."

Silently, the barber stopped the thinning session. Gabe perceived the barber felt a bit resentful that his judgment had been questioned.

The barber quickly shifted into haircut shut down mode with the duster moving over the neck and ears and forehead.

He dampened the remaining locks with a spritzer and crafted a very blunt side part. Then he rubbed in a dollop of pomade and easily slicked the hair to the side, making the angled bangs disappear into the shiny, wet look.

The barber held up a mirror to show off the back. Despite all the work with the clippers, the barber had left the back blocked and down to the natural hairline. "If you want, I can taper it in back -- shorter and higher in back. I left it a bit long in consideration of how you looked when you came in , but you might prefer a more proper short-back-and sides."

Gabe swallowed hard and gripped the arms of the chair. The haircut was already extremely short in his estimation, but he would ante up and meet the barber's challenge!

"Yes, I'd like it tapered shorter up the back. And, I did want arches around the ears. The top is fine," Gabe said firmly.

The barber gritted his jaw, hating to be reminded by the young upstart! With his mouth firmly closed, the barber was ready to pull off the kid gloves and deliver a good barbershop scalping. The clippers screamed to life and Gabe's head was wrested into a firm bow this his chin imprisoned against his chest. The naked teeth of the Osters clipped well up the back of Gabe's head. He was headed for a very shorn, barbershop look!

The clean-up was quick, but brutal. As he cowered at the mercy of the old geezer, Gabe knew that he would leave the shop with a mere remnant of the lovely long locks that he spied on the cape. The fear of being shown the final extreme haircut satisfied him in a curious way.

Finally, the barber ended the haircut and showed off the back as if that was his best offer -- there was no suggestion that he was prepared to cut another hair from Gabe's head. Not that Gabe could stomach things any shorter. The taper started two inches above the natural hairline and was brutally short. Gabe looked at the total picture in the mirror -- the very severe barbershop look on top, and the vestiges of his hip longhair look on the cape, the soaring arches around his ears and the wide swatch of virgin white scalp a third of the way up the back of his head from the nape -- and his stomach churned like the propeller on a motorboat. How would he face his friends and colleagues? It glimpse lasted but a second, yet Gabe felt like he'd been dealt a blow to the stomach by Mohammed Ali.

Finally, Howard unfastened the pin striped cape and pulled away the evidence that Gabe had once been a longhair.

"What's your name, sir?" the barber asked.

"Gabe.....uh, um, Gabriel, sir," the shorn Gabe responded respectfully.

"To stay looking sharp like this, I recommend you buy some of this special pomade I used on you -- keeps the hair shiny and stiff in place," the barber urged.

Gabe felt the hair on top of his head which was hard as a board -- like the hair had been shellacked down. "I see, yes, I'll take a tube if you're selling it here. There is little chance any wind will mess this nice side part up," gulped Gabe.

"And, we'll have your follow-up haircut in two weeks -- no longer. Is that understood?" the barber said in a clipped tone.

"Yes, sir, I'll be back in two weeks," Gabe replied meekly.

"I didn't thin the top down as much as I should have," he said with a frown. "Next time, then!"

Gabe paid and took one last look at the vestiges of his old self now littering the floor around the huge barber's chair. He was leaving behind his old persona....he was leaving behind Gabe. The stiff wind was a shock to the newly exposed skin, but the varnished hair did not budge. He felt the shorn back and smiled inwardly. Ah, yes, it 'goodbye to Gabe' and 'hello to Gabriel'.

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