Back then, the boy with the thick flowing hair of youth would leave home on the odd Saturday morning, and frown his way down the hill and around the bend to where Patsy the barber had been lowering ears since forever.
In the everlasting fire of summertime, the door to Patsy’s humble shop stood wide open. While news of air conditioning had reached the neighborhood, most saw it as an expensive luxury. As did Pasquale Rinaldi, the meek Italian gentleman who chewed gum, said little, and worked alone six days a week cutting the hair of boys and men on Tipperary Hill.
The shop’s dozen chromed chairs, covered in cracked, red vinyl never stayed empty for long. The men filled the room with smoke and loud talk; the itchy boys hovered around a table full of comic books spilling across a used checker board. Superman, Archie and Sgt. Rock killed time. Even so, when the boy walked through that door on a Saturday morning, he saw his precious play time draining away like the last drop of a root beer float.
As if waking from a dream, he finds himself stepping out of the fried hell of summer and into the chill of a shopping center salon. He looks uncomfortable to be in something called a salon, feels awkward to be the only male in sight. No comic books here, but plenty of glossy magazines about fashion, style, and other things, including hair, that he is short on just now.
The woman at the cash register asks “How may we help you?” It likely never occurred to Patsy that he might be helping people. He was just cutting their hair.
“Your stylist will be the lovely Candace,” says the woman, indicating a blonde in her thirties. Even with pierced nose and cheek she looks a lot better than Rinaldi the Great. At that moment, the lovely Candace brushes something off the back a colleague, the lovely Maggie.
“Am I shedding?” asks Maggie with concern.
“We’re all shedding,” says the lovely Candace drily.
On her table in front of the mirror stands a half-empty Big Gulp flanked by tubes, tubs, bottles and jars of goo and gaa. A container of combs in disinfectant contrasts with the memory of Patsy picking a dropped comb from his hairy floor, wiping it on his pants and continuing to boogie.
Candace says little and the haircut proceeds apace. Toward the end she notes a single, defiant white hair smugly undefeated in skirmishes of brush back and slick down.
“It’s coarse,” she says, “not like the rest of your hairs.”
Normally one would say “not like the rest of your hair,” but his days of thick youthful locks are gone. And the lovely Candace calls ‘em like she sees ‘em.
“It’s like wire,” she adds. “There, I cut it off it.”
Stunned, he blurts “You killed it?”
“It was your antenna,” says Candace soothingly. “They can’t hear you anymore.”
At checkout, he fumbles with the credit card machine. Candace says “It was that white hair. It’s got you all discomboobulated.”
As he moves from the chill salon back to steamy trousers, he’s pretty sure the word is discombobulated. Whichever, that’s what he is. That never happened at Patsy’s, of course. But then, Patsy never said anything about an antenna. Or the shedding.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013, all rights reserved.