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Ch. 7: Mirror, mirror on the wall … who’s the guy behind me?

Ch. 7: Mirror, mirror on the wall … who’s the guy behind me?
This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series UMM Holland

I said “a little off the sides” not “will you be my guides.”

“Maybe something like yours,” I said and pointed in the mirror towards her head. “A little longer on the top and short on the sides.”

She looked at herself in the mirror and I looked at her, too.

“Maybe not as high as yours on top,” I smiled. Her hair was straight up and did something of an Elvis-inspired curl before it rolled like a wave towards the back of her head.

“We can do that,” she said and strategized about how to tackle my hair.

I smiled and sank into the chair. Sometimes, getting a haircut was like getting a massage: someone else is working on you and you can just let go and let them do their thing and enjoy it. Or you can engage them in conversation and talk about what they’re doing or about the weather.

I closed my eyes in anticipation of a quiet few moments and left myself in the careful hands of a pro.

Absolutely nothing had happened after having met Lisa and falling into the canal. Not a glance, not a shimmering eyeball or even a kid’s marble in a toy store. I didn’t know what to think of it all, spent countless hours dreaming of what if this and what if that but got nowhere as it all didn’t make much sense. Maybe it was all just a fluke or maybe I was the wrong guy after all or maybe I had just a little too much honey in my tea that day.

I didn’t actually like watching people cut my hair. I preferred to look at them if we were talking or just close my eyes and relax. I hope they didn’t think it was rude if I closed my eyes and didn’t strike up a conversation, but I had never asked, so I never knew.

“OK with you if I use the machine?” the hairdresser asked and I opened my eyes to see one of those electric razor devices. “Just for the back here and your neck.”

“Sure,” I said and closed my eyes again.

The buzzing started and it was as if there was a tiny chainsaw in my eardrum. It rattled my brain and stirred the gel that holds everything in place inside of your skull. In an odd way, it was soothing.

A little longer on the top and short on the sides.

A little longer on the top and short on the sides.

I was thrown back to a barber shop that my dad used to frequent and I visited when I was visiting him. It was called Fred’s Barber Shop and Fred was still there. He must have been 75, maybe 85, but he still talked with every customer and everyone knew him. He had a painting of a boxing match on the wall. It was Muhammad Ali in his fight against Sonny Liston. I know absolutely nothing about boxing, but it transformed that barber shop into a throwback to years gone by every time you sat down in a chair there. The old guys chatting, the hair on the floor (much of it gray), the shelves of tonics and potions in light blue coloring with gold lettering. It was traveling through time.

The buzzing sound from her electric trimmer was not so much getting louder as deeper. As if it changed gears and throttled into a lower gear to climb a hill.

I opened my eyes for just a millisecond to check on things and caught her looking right at me in the mirror. I quickly closed my eyes again.

‘Shouldn’t she be looking at the back of my head and not into my eyes?’ I thought. I let it go. I drifted back to Muhammad Ali and the barber shop. My dad went with me sometimes and I liked listening to him talk to the barbers about the college football game or some local news. He liked it because he felt like a local. He always wanted to be a local where people knew his name. He was a local. They knew his name.

It seemed as if the trimmer was electrifying me if just a little. Like a spreading of tentacles of electricity from where it was on my neck over my skin. I swore that if I opened my eyes, I would see my head lighted up like one of those electric globes that shoot out rays of static electricity. But that was crazy, so I didn’t open my eyes.

They’d use this big hand massager when you were done with your haircut at Fred’s. It had the motor of a VW Bug and probably weighed as much. He would roll it over your shoulders and neck and you could feel your bones rattle and if you had ever had any back problems, they were probably cured right there on the spot. All of that for $8.

The electricity from the woman hit a nerve inside of the back of my head and I cringed. It wasn’t painful like she cut me, but deeper than that. As if her trimmer short-circuited and truly did shoot a wave into my brain. I squinted my closed eyes and pursed my lips, but just didn’t want to open my eyes. She knew what she was doing, just let her do her job.

They’d whip that sheet off of you when you were completely done and you were a new person. New haircut, bone-gritting massage, and maybe a splash of a turquoise tonic and there was no way that you could say you were the same person who walked into Fred’s Barber Shop.

Now it was getting unbearable. The shock wasn’t just a one-time thing. It was now a consistent connection with the trimmer and something inside of my head, just above my neck and below the back of your head that sticks out. I’m pretty sure that’s the physiological Latin term for it, the back of your head that sticks out.

Was she humming? Like singing a tune? Maybe it was just the trimmer, but I could have sworn that she was singing or at least humming something. Although the trimmer was still on my neck and she was slowing bringing it up and down, I felt that her voice was right next to me. Maybe her head was right beside mine.

At this point, I stopped myself and all of the second guessing. I refused to open my eyes and I told my mind to stop making up stuff and leading me to believe this or maybe thinking that this was going to happen. I was just getting my haircut and she was trimming the back. Although for the amount of time she was working back there, she might have been giving me a bit more of a buzz cut than I wanted. Or like pushing and pulling the lawnmower over the same spot again and again only to cut a few strands of stubborn stray grass.

Just to quash any silly thoughts and get this all over with, I decided to open my eyes. It was as if my mind was having a bit of a duel with my eyes. But with my eyes closed, how was I seeing all of these things? Of course, I couldn’t actually see anything with my eyes closed, but how was it all so clear in my mind?

I opened my eyes.

She was close to me! I knew it! Her head was level with mine and we were both looking directly forward into the mirror except I was looking at her and she was looking at, well, it wasn’t exactly me. She was on my right side, but it looked like her eyes weren’t looking directly into mine. Maybe she had one of those, what do you call those eyes that kind of strays? Is it a stray eye? Can you have two of those? No, that wouldn’t work, then you’d just be looking in the wrong place. I wanted to say, ‘Hey there, I’m here, a little bit to the right.’

Ha, a little barbershop humor there. Little bit to the right. She probably would have appreciated that bit of brilliant comedy although it would have taken me about 100 minutes to explain the backstory. I didn’t have 100 minutes. I didn’t have 1 minute. I didn’t have 1 second. She was right there next to me.

But it was clear that she wasn’t looking at me.

‘Fine, whatever,’ were my exact thoughts.

I decided to see if I could see what she was looking at. I kind of figured that I was the main attraction considering I was sitting in her chair and all, but maybe she had other things to do. I slowly moved my gaze in the mirror from her eyes to the reflection of my own eyes and a little to my left. There was no one sitting or standing next to me. Only someone behind me in another one of the salon’s chairs.

It was on the other side of the room so it wasn’t immediately apparent why she was looking not at me, but maybe at this other guy behind me. Maybe I was running over time and he was next. But we had just started. Maybe I dozed off and I was actually done.

While thinking and not looking, my focus didn’t get any better on the man sitting behind me. As she didn’t move and didn’t divert her gaze at all, I finally succumbed to the pressure and the man behind me came into clear focus.

I’m not sure I have ever truly gasped up until this point in my perhaps un-gasp-worthy life, but it’s exactly what I did. It was immediate and the intake of air could have been clocked at over 200 kilometers per hour. I even brought my left hand up to my mouth in Japanese-girl-style modest shock.

With her hand still on my neck and the electric trimmer still buzzing like a chainsaw into my neck and back of my brain, I spun my head around as quickly as I could to see if it was true.

How could it be him? What would he be doing in a hair salon in The Netherlands and why hadn’t he let me know he was coming. Oh yes, that’s right. Because he passed away two years ago.

Her hand still on my neck, a cut starting to bleed behind my head, I saw him as clearly as I saw the hairdresser. Sitting across from me was none other than my dad.

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