So there I was, for the first time in 16 damn years, sitting in the chair, restless and weary, waiting on the barber standing across from me to finish up with the Young Boy. He was screaming, after all, and all the other patrons of the barber shop would keep looking at one another and sort of smiling at each other, saying things that people say, like “well, he’s certainly angry, isn’t he?” and “boy, what a set of lungs on that boy!” when what they really wanted to do was to grab this kid by the shoulders, get right in his screaming, snot-smeared little boy face and yell at the top of their lungs, “SHUT THE FUCK UP, YOU LITTLE ASSHOLE!” You could you just see it on their faces. These are the things that go through people’s minds when they are in public. There is this force called a Society that, while constantly being blamed as a cause for why young people go insane and kill other people, also has the audacity to make people hold back their true feelings and not kill each other of stupid things like a screaming 2 year old getting a haircut.

So yeah, I hadn’t been to the barber in several years. I took to cutting my own hair when I realised that all I ever got was a crew cut and why should I pay some asshole $9 every couple of weeks of my life to give me a crew cut when I could buy an electric razor and do the thing my damn self for a one-time outlay of $15. And that’s what I did. And that worked out fine until I let my hair grow out too much. Yeah, I got lazy. Sue me. I’ve been losing it up top for several years, and just let the back and sides grow. Just to prove that I could still, in fact, grow hair in some places on my head. I tried my clippers. They jammed up. I had too much hair. It would have to be shorn down with scissors first, and then the blade. And that, I could not do myself. I would need to seek the help of a professional. One of Those Guys. The Barbers.

There was one of the barbers who I recognized before my days as one of the great un-cut. He was still there, still wearing the same blue shirt, still sporting the same old moustach and same old blank, smirky stare that told me he never thought he’d have been here this long, either. The old barber who was usually next to him was gone – dead, I was told – and was replaced by a younger woman with red hair parted in the middle. She seemed oddly out of place in this barber shop. Like she belonged at a beauty parlor, but couldn’t quite pass all the tests. Perhaps she set someone’s hair ablaze, and subsequently walked out on her dream of working with hair dyes, gels, pastes, and walked into a low-rent barber shop on the poor side of town. She was fast, and did a good job, but you could tell by her eyes; she was dead inside. On the other side of the shop was the new kid. He looked like he just got his licence a few hours ago, and was scared to death of actually cutting hair, which would be a tough way to play barber. I sat in that shop, quietly, politely – like a good member of Society – and watched as others came and went. Two or three other haircuts apiece for the two other barbers, while this kid stood there, nipping at individual hairs for and hour with his guy. He asked for a 2 guard on the top and a 1 guard on the sides and back. Basically, he wanted an Army haircut. And this kid was going at it one by one. I would periodically look over to check his progress. At 30 minutes in, the customer looked exactly like he did when I walked in the door. I made a mental note to not get in this guy’s chair. I didn’t have that kind of time.

The child lets out a murderous scream. The other patrons look at each other, on the outside showing smiles and rainbows, and on the inside feeling daggers and napalm. He’s a young boy, and his brother is in the chair next to him, being held upright by the father. The brother is getting his first ever haircut. I’m not for certain, but this is what it seems like to me. The parents are Mexican. The kids are probably Americans by birth. The kids don’t talk much between screams, and the parents don’t speak any English. But you can always tell the look on a father’s face the first time his son gets a haircut. And the father had that look. The older kid is done now, and gets a lollipop. The mother takes him from the barber’s chair and plops him down in the seat next to me. He looks at me and holds his lollipop up to his nose, smelling it.

“See? That wasn’t so bad, now was it?” I say, pointing to my own hair. The kid doesn’t understand, and offers me his lollipop. “Your haircut looks good, pal,” I rubbed his head. “Muy Bueno.” At this, the kid’s eyes perked up and he looked straight at me. He says something to me. I don’t know what it was, because he is 2 years old and talking in a language that I don’t speak. It was my turn in the chair, finally. I got up, walked to the empty barber’s chair, and sat down. The cloth was draped over my shoulders and torso, and the barber got to work. The child continued to look at me, and tried to say something for the next minute or so. I smiled back.

“Haven’t seen you in here for a while, have we?” asked the barber.

“Nope. I’ve been cheating on you,” I said, beating him to the punchline of his own joke.

“What’ll it be today then?” he laughed.

I looked at the little boy again. He was still looking at me and muttering. He pointed to his hair, and then to his lollipop, and laughed. I think I understood that. Maybe this won’t be so bad, after all.

“Just make it shorter,” I said.

I removed my glasses. The little boy and the rest of the barber shop disappeared into a blandly-colored blur. I sat quietly, looking at what could have been the little boy, and thinking of what flavor lolly I would choose.