I want to tell you about my experience with the best hairdresser in the world.
I can’t stress how much I hate having my hair cut. It’s not so much the despair I feel at the removal of part of me with every cut of the scissors, each snip a severing of another umbilical cord separating what I grew with my own body from my head, or even the fact that most hairdressers seem to be women, who excite and terrify me in almost equal measure. No; it’s the awkwardness, the horrible, soul-tearing difficulty of having a long conversation with someone you’ve never met and have nothing in common with except for the fact that they are massaging your head at this exact moment in time.
So I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this haircut, hence my putting it off for so long that I was beginning to look like the bastard child of Ringo Starr and an Ewok. But I finally pushed through my fear/apathy and went to Cillies on St Andrews St. Why there? Because I’d had one haircut there before, and it’d looked as good as it could on a Frodo body double, and because the only cheaper haircut available was from a woman on the market who moonlights as a fortune teller and suspected Death Eater.
On entry to Cillies I was greeted by a grunt from the intensely overweight figure behind the counter, who I immediately christened Jabba (I make no apologies). Conscious that he probably doesn’t see much human kindness in the pit of despair in which he worked (I really, really hate haircuts), I smiled at him, and appreciated the tears of sweaty gratitude which flowed from his face as I sat down. For some reason, I was the only one waiting, and with military precision all three of the hairdressers on duty were finishing up with their clients at the same time (NB: by “finishing up”, I mean they’d finished cutting their hair; I’d have enjoyed the other type of “hairdressing salon” much more, but no luck).
What this meant was I had a choice of three hairdressers, a choice which could define my chances of getting laid for the next few weeks (by “define” I here mean “not improve by even an iota”). To the left was a grey-haired woman with a lip piercing; I wasn’t that keen on her, as the former customer had looked close to crying after speaking to her for the duration of her haircut and blowdry. In the centre was a tallish guy with fair hair who looked as if he’d given up on life, and to the right was a tall, attractive redhead with pouting lips and emerald green eyes.
I had started to my right when I noticed she had a tattoo of a fairy on her shoulder. Immediately I veered towards the grumpy bloke, sensing a kindred spirit, and flashed him my best smile.
His expression completely unchanging, he gestured towards the chair with a small jerk of his head. Chastened by my very un-British show of brevity with a stranger, I sat down and allowed him to put the weird black robe thing all hairdressers own around me, the ones which are always matted with other peoples’ disembodied hair and possibly bodily fluids and which are never, ever washed. He tucked it in tightly so my arms were pinioned at my sides, and accepting this as the norm, I stared directly forwards into the cracked mirror.
He then did something I’ve never seen before. Taking a roll of what looked like white surgical tape, he ripped off a long strip and approached me from behind with one end in each hand. I watched in the mirror as he lowered it around my neck, noting the savage delight on his face at the terror in my eyes as I struggled frantically to free my arms. It tightened around my neck... And then he attached the ends behind my head and I realised he’d basically just made it impossible for newly cut hair to fall down the back of my neck.
Still in shock, I barely registered him asking me “What do you want?”; my reply of “A haircut, please” did not seem to go down too well, for although his expression did not change he dropped a surprisingly strong hand onto my shoulder.
“What kind?” he asked. I noted his accent through my newly rising fear; my expertise in this field told me he was possibly Eastern European, possibly German, probably not French. I also noted that the look in his eyes had changed from savage delight to just savage; better make this reply good.
“I’d like it short, please.”
His hand tightened on my jacket, his eyes grew angrier. With a jolt I realised that this man had killed before and could well do so again; it wasn’t like Jabba would have risen from his chair in time to stop him.
“Like yours, short on the back and sides and slightly longer on the top,” I squeaked out, hoping that implied pathetic flattery and obvious lack of testicles would save me.
It seemed to do the trick; he removed his hand and instead took hold of a pair of scissors. Quite why I felt safer now he had a piece of sharp metal in his hands I cannot say, but there it is; hairdressing salons mess with your head.
Now, the etiquette at this point is for the person cutting the hair to say something innocuous to open a conversation, to act as if they give a shit about the person who, to them, is essentially a small pile of income with hair; but this hairdresser had no time for etiquette. He didn’t say a word, just stood staring at the back of my head, as if sizing up the best place to start carving open my head to remove my brain. This lasted for about thirty seconds before the awkwardness became too much and I felt I had to break the silence.
“I feel like a vicar dressed like this,” I feebled.
Not even a flicker of interest passed across his face. I was nothing more than an irritating fly to him, the kind that stays just on the outside of your windscreen while you’re stuck in traffic and occasionally, annoyingly, buzzes just to remind you it’s there, whilst you are powerless to do anything about the pest you’d so dearly like to eradicate. Another fifteen seconds passed, and deciding he’d discouraged any attempt to socialise, he bent forward and started to cut.
Things happened in total silence. When he wanted me to move my head, he would forcibly move it with his hand, the unholy strength of his fingers effortlessly overcoming my weak resistance. The scissors were a blur, hair flying off in a cloud so that all I could see in the mirror was a sandstorm localised around my head. I have no idea how he could even see my head after a while; I swear I saw a bit of hair hit his eye, and he didn’t even blink.
At one point, he stood back, looked over at Jabba for a while, then said, “Square back.” It wasn’t a question; he was stating the future, and I was powerless to resist.
The thunk of the scissors being returned to their place signalled the end of the cut; it had lasted about three minutes, though it felt like an eternity of awkward polite repression and inadequacy. The surgical tape was removed, a mirror produced showing my neck to which I could only nod, and I was ushered firmly towards the cash desk and Jabba. As I turned to leave, my hairdresser turned to Jabba and said “My break is now,”, then, turning to me, looked me in the eye.
“New hair, new life.” he said, and departed through a door into, I presume, the staff room. I looked at Jabba, and he looked at me. We both realised, in that moment, that we had been in the power of a man who understood more about the universe than we could ever discover. And who had wanted my haircut over as quickly as possible so he could go and have a fag.
The bell tinkled as I left the salon and strode forward into my new life with my really, really shit new haircut. Watch out, ladies!