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Head of Hair
I’m not as miserable as I look. I’m actually quite content with my job. It’s not that I enjoy sweeping the floors; hair disgusts me, and the thought of having to clean it up freaks me out. Some people go days without washing their hair, which you can tell from the cloud of stench that surrounds their greasy mane. Others walk in the shop with horrible hair that sticks up in odd places and has split ends screaming to be chopped off. I’m probably making it sound a lot worse than it is. Maybe I shouldn’t even work here. But the thing I love about it is listening to all the small talk. There are the obvious How you doing?’s, which turn into Get outta here!’s, and before you know it, you’re listening to a whole story about how some guy’s girlfriend cheated on him four times, so he slept with her best friend, who is now pregnant. Crazy, right?
I usually just spend ten hours a day staring at the ivory linoleum, sweeping loose hairs. I’ve pretty much memorized where every crack in the tile is and where black dye spilled on the floor but wasn’t completely cleaned. There are some times when Larry brings me into the back room to show me all of his unconventional works of art. The room is filled with a bunch of foam heads and colored wigs. All of the hairstyles that he creates on these heads are ingenious! One has blue hair with spikes sticking up in the front and flat, long hair in the back. Another wig is curly and has red buns around the hairline. These hairstyles probably don’t sound very appealing, but the collection of all forty-six together in one room really makes them seem amazing.
Larry walks over and hands me a broom. He just finished shaping up Domenico’s hair. I take the broom and sweep the minuscule threads of hair that fell from his head. It shocks me that people will waste ten dollars for getting two micrometers of hair cut. Then again, Larry’s Barber Shop attracts mostly Italians, and they sure do love looking suave.
Two regular customers, Gianni and Vinny, stroll in for their shape-ups.
“Ay!” Larry calls out to them, throwing his hands up in the air. “Come! Sit!” He points to two empty seats and calls me over. “Get these guys situated. I’ll be back.”
I take out two capes and tie them around each of their necks. They talk to each other about a girl named Rosita while I pretend not to listen. Larry comes back with Tony, who cuts Vinny’s hair.
“The usual?” Tony asks Vinny as he walks up behind him.
“Yeah,” Vinny says. He and Gianni always get shape-ups together. I secretly love it, because their conversations are always loud enough for me to hear from the front desk.
“So who is this Rosita I hear you talkin’ about?” Larry asks. Vinny laughs.
“Well, we went to the club the other night,” Gianni starts, “and we see this girl sittin’ at the bar.”
“Hot,” Vinny interrupts. “Brown, wavy hair. Looked like an angel.”
“An angel! So, y’know, we go over to her and ask to buy her a drink—”
“—but she already has one—”
“ —and she starts gigglin’ and dancin’ with us.”
“Yeah,” Vinny says. “And lemme tell ya, she can move.”
“She was wild!”
Larry starts laughing, and Tony smiles. “So everythin’ was good? You get this girl’s number?” Larry asks.
“Oh, sure. Everything was goin’ great,” Gianni tells them.
“Until her boy comes back from the bathroom.”
“Ooh!” Larry exclaims, as if he just saw his favorite football team fumble. Now Tony’s cackling, and I try to stifle a laugh.
“This guy, he’s huge, and he comes over to me and Vin and says, ‘You tryin’ t’get with my girl?’ So I says to the guy—”
Just then, the door opens, and a man walks in. He has long, brown hair, which is in desperate need for a chopping. Larry notices this, and I can see by the expression on his face that he’s making it his life’s mission to cut every brown follicle of hair from this man’s head.
“You lookin’ t’get a haircut?” he asks, pointing the clippers in his hands at the guy, who nods. “Sit’own.”
The man sits in the nearest chair and runs his fingers through his disgusting hair.
“’Scuse me, I gotta do somethin’ about this guy’s head,” Larry tells Gianni. He stops what he’s doing with Gianni’s hair and jogs over to the man.
“What can I do for ya?” Larry asks the man. Somehow, I think that Larry’s going to do what he wants, no matter what the guy says.
But the man makes it easy by replying, “Do anything.”
I can tell that Larry is planning a masterpiece. Tony even stops buzzing Vinny’s hair to watch him in action. Like a predator circling its prey, Larry walks around the man to view his hair from all angles. Finally, he picks up his scissors and raises them.
But before he can do anything, the man’s head falls right off his body and onto the floor. I better not have to sweep that up. This doesn’t bother Larry, though. He bends down, grabs the head, and puts it on the counter in front of the mirror. With his scissors, he cuts hair in various angles, skipping around to different clumps of hair. It seems like he’s just letting loose, without having an idea of what he’s doing. He gels some areas to stick out, and he cuts jagged bangs in the front. Everyone is silent and watching intently.
Larry takes a step back from the man’s head and looks at it. Smiling, he picks the head back up and carries it into the back room. It is definitely a good addition to his collection.
Tony goes back to buzzing Vinny’s hair, and Larry comes back to Gianni.
“So anyways,” Gianni continues, “I says to the guy, ‘I’m not trying to get with your girl!’” All four of them laugh hysterically.
And I sweep the floor.