Smile back

3 hours in a hair cut place -                                                                     I spent 3 hours in a hair cut place,                                                  Waiting, waiting, waiting,                                                                       I had nowhere else to go                                                                       and I had already spent $1.80 to get                                                       all the way down here so                                                                         I spent most of my Saturday afternoon                                               stuck between a cougher and an imbecile -                                   waiting, waiting,

as all the high school girls got                                                           hour long perms, and extensions and dyes,                                           sink showers, fancy curls and blow dries.

and mothers dropped off their mothers -                                               the poor thing, with her snow covered hatch,                                   waited almost as long as me. "They said I'm next,                             they said I'm next!" she finally yelled into her flip phone.

At first I had been waiting standing,                                                    for about an hour, because all the chairs were                                       full and then because I didn't want                                                         to sit next to the cougher, but finally I gave in                                     and allowed my aching back a rest.                                                   waiting, waiting, 

as all the hairdressers got off                                                             their shifts and escaped through the back door,                               passing by the greasy haired manager who                                           sat in the back picking at his duck sauce covered egg rolls.   

And then there was this one customer, I happened to overhear,           who sat down in the chair and the hairdresser                                   whispered about "you've got lice" or something white "crawling around, I can see it." and the customer gasped and bustled out of the shop and I just hoped that I wouldn't end up in her chair when it was my turn.

But I didn't have to worry about that much because I still had a lot of waiting, waiting,

As the sun set outside the window and now I had to look forward         to walking 10 blocks through a no-good neighborhood in the dark.       Or who knows if it was good or not, but no place is really that good at night.

And more people were coming in, all at once. A man who got there an hour after me somehow got served before me. But I was too tired and already defeated to give a shit. There were only two people left now - me and the imbecile.

And I was next.

The girl apologized for the wait - that was nice.                                     I sat down in her chair and she went at it and it                                   was one of those things where you can tell                                       from the very first moment that shit's going to be                                 all fucked up.

The poor girl must've been as weak as a crippled mouse                 because I could barely feel the razor running over my head.

She worked as if she were performing a delicate and lost art form - guiding listless brush strokes across a piece of delicate canvas.         But she was only putzing about and making shit all uneven               here and there.  

I had experienced this once before. My roommate had recommended this one girl in our building who cut hair for cheap prices and -    

There's nothing worse than a timid hair cutter.

And I just kept my eyes shut the whole time, like I usually do,           except this time it was solely due to the fact that I didn't                   want to see how bad things were getting. 

After running the razor around my head (I think?),                             she took me over to a sink and started to wash my hair.

The shampoo they always use is pleasant - a pine wood smell             and then they really start working their                                               fingers into your cranium and massaging your forehead                       and it actually does feel relaxing. Of course, my neck was now killing me because I had been standing for so long before with my heavy backpack on. 

Her fingers dug in and around and aaaah. And the pine needle smell wafted in and around my mind...

And then a thought popped into my head:                                 Goddamn, this is the most a woman has ever laid hands on me.       Jesus. 

Shower time ended and she brought me back                                         to the chair and she grabbed a pair of scissors                                     and a comb. Here I kept my eyes open a little                                   more and I watched her look confused,                                       measuring and cutting here and there.                                             There didn't seem to be any method to her                                       work and when I closed my eyes again                                                   I couldn't tell whether or not she                                                         was actually doing a damn thing. 

"Whaddya think?"

I open up and look at my new head of hair.                                         It's either terrible or fine, I can't tell, and for a moment                           I almost forget to act happy and satisfied.                                         (During the cut, I had to keep reminding myself to pucker up my bottom lip, to keep from perpetually frowning - I always like to try and make them feel like I'm enjoying this hell). 

"I like it...thank you."

I smile (I think) and look at her eyes in the mirror.                           She's almost a pretty girl. But all around she's caked in half an inch of makeup that just ruins the whole thing for me. 

Maybe she is. 

I get up and grab my stuff and we head back up to the front.               She types on the keyboard and "it's seventeen dollars."                           I swipe my card and add a three dollar tip -                                             I was going to giver only two, but shit, why not                               make it a nice even, round number?

The machine spits it out.                                                                 "Would you like your receipt?"


In my mind this whole time I've been                                             planning on how to damage control                                                     this shit show. 

I know there's another one of these same joints                               down the road and I was thinking about going                                   there the next day and asking for a manager                                         and showing them my receipt and hopefully                                     getting a free fix-up. 

I was also planning on asking this girl her work hours,                         so that I could find out when she's not in, in case                                     I needed to come back to this location.

But as she handed me my receipt, I looked at her face,                         and her eyes, and her summer's sidewalk, and I hesitated -                 and that was it,                                                                                       I walked out into the cold dark evening. 

Back 10 blocks to the subway. In goes another $1.80. 

I get home and look in the mirror.                                                           I can't tell for shit whether this is good or bad.                                       It looks all right...the ears are cut out, sideburns straight,                   and the top and the sides blend together like I asked her to.

Yeah...yeah, I guess she did a good job.                                               My hair might look like shit, but that's because                                       I wanted it this way.                                                                                 I asked for it. 



I didn't discover much new or find something                                 profound in all of this - in my three hour hair cut. 

I just really don't like getting my hair cut.


I'll be back soon.