Nobody talks while we sit in a row of metal chairs, slumped against a wall of glass overlooking a parking lot and the highway. Our turning away seems to hint at some mutual vulnerability or defiance—like we're waiting for something worse than a haircut. Maybe a firing squad.
An aproned blond pushes a broom around, sweeping a growing mound of hair: black, gray, brown, and even some yellow clippings all swish together on the dirty linoleum. Is it just me or does the sight of this make everyone want to gag? The others don't seem to be watching. The aproned woman swirls her broom around every barber chair with a flourish. Big breasts jiggle under her tight apron and sometimes I catch her eyes. They're cornflower blue, but she's clenching her teeth.
I wonder at the mingling of strangers' hair and notice all the customers share a look of boredom and defeat. Some look at their iPhones while others appear to fixate on something unseen by the rest. I suppose I fit right in, killing time, waiting to be called.
When I'm bored in a public place, I usually pull out a black Pilot razor point and a small Moleskine notebook I keep in my inside jacket pocket. It's my concealed weapon.
If I need to appear alert, I might doodle elaborately. My rule is cover the blank page with as much cross-hatching as possible, because nothing satisfies like that staccato rhythm filling up a whole, blank page.
Another kind of doodle requires discerning negative images on a blank page and filling those in with the hatch marks. It's easy once you train yourself to see it, no different from looking through closed eyes and actually seeing what's right there in front of you—it's everywhere, no limits at all. The vague, green shapes that materialize in the dark after you close your eyes appear pinkish against the white page. When Michelangelo said, "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free," have no doubt. The man wasn't a bullshitter or a mystic, he was just being observant.
Now in really dull meetings, a place where doodling is frowned on, I like to transcribe what I hear verbatim, as fast as I can. Sometimes I do it in cafés, too; maybe I just like eavesdropping.
But when I can safely abandon the pretense that I give a shit about what's going on around me, I'll start writing something that pulls me right out of wherever I am. It could be a letter, a list, a complaint or maybe some simple observation, even a story or a poem.
The thing is I haven't felt like writing a thing for weeks and right now I'm jonesing for that out-of-body experience, out of the mortal barbershop-body, so personal to each of us and as disposable as our swept up hair, off this ugly metal chair and right through the window, unimpeded as a shaft of light.
On impulse, I decide to try something a little different: I will write down whatever nonsensical shit comes into my own head, just like taking dictation or eavesdropping on my own stream of consciousness. My only rule is no censorship or embellishment. I can be the Michelangelo of mental blocks, instead of marble ones.
Often we look to others for our refuge and recreation. When this fails, we flounder and begin to doubt everything—as we should. We creep back home into ourselves and it is there, from our comfy, moonlit seabed that we notice we are the riptide. Briny and amniotic, we pull inward. Weather changes, tides turn, the wind lacerates what it had caressed. But that's not the point. The point is down here—the whole point is just this: somewhere Willie Nelson strums "All of Me," and somewhere else a sitar reverberates Panchali Ray. Because the strings don’t matter in the end. The point is the plectrum. Falling as we slip, as we sleep, our expectations are carelessly, quietly slashed. Our knives, asleep in the wooden block, each in its own bedtime notch, know nothing. Impaled in tight slits that serve no other purpose, we suppose. Open-mouthed as a choir. Just because we don't hear them, sweetheart, it doesn't mean they don't sing.The pages of my notebook look pink in the dimming light. The sun goes down earlier now, it slants in orange through the big window behind me and turns the whole room a shade darker. The hairdressers squint in the glare that bounces off the mirrors. The only place light settles is on the pages of my notebook and over the black-and-white framed poster at the back of the salon. A larger-than-life angry female head with messy blond hair that falls asymmetrically on either side of her face—or maybe it's just cause she's tilting her head. She looks like she's on the verge of asking a question and she really doesn't want the answer.
"You're waiting for next available, right?" Standing over me, she looks a lot older. Partly because she's not dancing with a broom, and also cause up close I see frown lines around her eyes and mouth and the soft little puckers of skin around her throat. After I sit down at her station and she's snapped on the black cape I feel her fingers in my hair assuming possession. I can't see myself in the mirror because of the glare and I let my eyes close because because they're tearing up.
"Sorry about the sun," she says, as if it were hers, and I can just imagine her walking it on a leash, tugging on the little fucker when it starts snapping. "Should I just clean this up for you?" She pinches some outgrown hair on the nape of my neck and I open my eyes.
"Please," I say.