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When Andrew entered the barber shop, the first thought that crossed his mind was : "This ain't no hair salon." To say the place was dingy was an overstatement, but being accustomed with bright lights, airy spaces and waltzing coiffeurs, this was several notches below his high standard in hair dressing. Unfortunately for Andrew, his usual hair stylist was sick with the flu and he couldn't get an appointment before the next day. And he needed a haircut now. A friend of his had arranged a blind date, saying the guy was a gift from heaven and Andrew wanted to look his best.
Andrew looked around, almost regretting having set foot in the place. Sure the place was conveniently close to his home. And it looked clean. But somehow, he didn't think he fit the place.
The barber practiced his craft in a small shop. The barber's chairs, dating back to the fifties, were covered with greenish Naugahide and a series of mirrors ran along the walls. Two of the chairs were already filled with customers. Some framed head shots, turned yellow from years of humidity and smoke, hung on the walls.
"Have a seat young man, said the barber, an older man of about sixty-five with a strong foreign accent, I'll be with you shortly."
"I can come back later, replied Andrew, unsure if he wanted to wait. There are already two gentlemen in front of me and it's about closing time."
"Oh, it is OK, they are waiting for their friend here, Ja."
The two seated men, dressed with leather jackets, checkered shirts and jeans, looked up their magazines and nodded in agreement. Then they went back to their reading. Both were in their late thirties and of the Bear persuasion. And both had pronounced male pattern baldness. Even the guy on the chair had a crown. Andrew sighed inwardly. Thank to his grandfathers and his father, he would escape this fate. But since he was always on the lookout for the shadow of receding temples, he had asked his physician for of prescription of Propecia. He hadn't bought the stuff yet but this was insurance against a chrome dome. Or so he thought.
Andrew put his Nylon jacket on a coat rack and sat down, sandwiched between the two burly guys. As if on cue, the two men took out large cigars, bit off the butt ends and lit up. Blue haze shrouded their heads. Caught in the middle, Andrew couldn't wait for the barber to finish his client and the guys to leave. The smoke left him panting and swallowing his saliva. Finally, the barber dusted off the third guy and had him appreciate his work with a hand held mirror. The client grunted his satisfaction and got up. He fetched his chained wallet in his back pocket and paid the barber. Before leaving, the third man of the trio pulled out a cigar from his shirt pocket and winked at Andrew. He didn't know what to make of it. The burly man lit his cigar and the threesome left. Now it was his turn.
Before he sat down, the barber dusted off the seat and the back of the chair. Andrew appreciated the gesture. The yo pants he was wearing were brand new and so was his Lycra shirt. The only hair follicules on his body would be his own. And maybe the blind date's. As he settled down, the barber asked him : "What will it be ?"
"Just keep it as it is but a bit shorter" : was his answer. He would have no one mess with his coiffe and this was the most diplomatic way he found to let the barber know he intended to complain if he wasn't satisfied.
The barber began his work. He tied a black smock around his neck making sure it was snug and not too tight. Then he raised the chair to the level of the sink and lowered Andrew's head back towards it. After wetting his hair, he applied a brand of shampoo that smelled surprisingly good. Twice he lathered and rinced off, Andrew's chair was put back in a straight position and the cutting began. The barber was swift and precise. He executed Andrew's order in less time and with less hooplah than his regular hairdresser. His level of confidence in the barber shot up. So much so that he decided suddenly to have him shave his day old beard as well. He informed the barber of his intention. The older man said : "I will have to lower you back and prepare a hot towel. You do not mind the wait, no?" Even though he couldn't wait to get home and prepare for his date, he was happy to have found this jewel with old fashion ways. Not even his high priced hair stylist had ever been this courteous and serviceable. While the wet towel was being warmed, the barber lowered Andrew's chair so he faced the ceiling. Feeling relaxed, he began to truly enjoy his experience and thought about actually dropping his current stylist. The barber appeared in his frame of view and said : " In my country, before shaving, barbers would apply a lotion that would lubricate the skin and also moisten the hairs so the shaving would be close and painless. The lotion I will use is also considered an aphrodisiac and a hair grower where I come from. Then I will wrap the warm towel all around your head and let it on for fifteen minutes. I learned from experience that it augments the pleasure and the sensuality of the shave. For shaving is a very sensual experience, no? Afterwards, I will use the switch blade my father gave me when I became a barber to shave you. Relax and enjoy it. Some say it is a life changing experience." Andrew was amused by the explanations and decided to obey the old man.
The barber turned to his counter and pulled out three flasks from behind a series of bottles. In a small bowl, he poured precice quantities of each liquid and mixed them with a wooden stick. A waft from the mixture drifted towards Andrew's nose. At first sniff, the stuff smelled like a combination of wood essences and musc. Then other levels of smells emerged. A hint of leather, an undercurrent of black berries, a small dose of wet fur, a trace of dry leaves. Andrew couldn't identify them formally but subliminally, the smell was conforting like a heavy blanket or a big sheep dog after a walk in the rain. He relaxed even more. His eyes closed and he began drifting. The light touches of the barber applying the lotion didn't even bother him. Carefully, the barber covered his face with the mixture then lifting Andrew's head, he sprinkled the few remaining drops on his wet hair. Finally, he delicately, wrapped his head in the warm towel save for the nose and set his timer for fifteen minutes.
Andrew was in heaven. Feeling warm under the smock and the warm towel, he drifted even lower in a dream state. He was in a forest, walking on all four. It was fall. Sometimes, he would find a blueberry bush and stop to eat some fruits. In the distance, he could see his favorite scratching tree. In his den nearby, he would find warmth and protection. But before winter came, he would have to get fatter. It was his number one priority to survive the long sleep. If not he wouldn' t strong enough to find a compatible mate. A small moan of distress escaped Andrew's lips. He agreed wholeheartedly. Then suddenly the dream switched to another scene. He was seated in the barber's chair, having his hair cut. Sometimes, he would have a look at his buddies reading magazines. He felt comfortable, filling the chair. Underneath the smock, he reached for his shirt pocket and patted his cigar supply for the evening. The door bell rang and he turned his head to get a look at the newcomer. He frowned. A raver had just waltzed into his private sanctuary. Having a second look, he jumped. I was him, Andrew. He looked at himself walking in these ridiculous pants and this tight fitting shirt then moved his eyes to the mirror. His reflection showed him a guy in his late thirties, with a neatly trimmed beard and a crown of hair. He had the look of the consumate male. That guy having a seat had probably never seen fur close up or wrapped his lips on a good stogie. He'd probably have a fit if he developped a beer belly. As if on cue, his buddies took out their cigars and lit them. The guy in the middle looked panicked. Poor fucker, he thought, he'll never fit in. A buried part of Andrew's mind suddenly screamed : "But I want to fit in!"
"No, said the burly man, you have to accept some changes first. You can't be a raver and dress and act like a teen all your life. You can't argue some undisputed facts : TIME that causes the body to age, GRAVITY that pulls the muscles down , GENETICs that give more here and less there and reshape you. ACCEPT THE CHANGES!!!
Andrew was caught in a tug of war between the status quo and evolution. On one hand, he found pride in the fact that he still could pass for a twenty something. On the other hand, maintaining this perfect machine was becoming harder each day and also costlier. For a while, arguments were exchanged between the burly guy and the raver. Finally, when the raver came up short of answers, the burly knew he had won.
The barber dusted him off and showed him his work. He grunted his satisfaction partly because he knew he had made the right decision. He took out his chained wallet and paid the barber. On his way out, he pulled out a cigar, said his farewell to his former self by winking, lit his stogie and left with his buddies. As they exited, the door bell rang.....
....At the same moment the timer rang. Andrew opened his eyes. He was still buried under the now cold towel. He was calm and in control. But he knew a change had occurred. From under the smock, he patted his chest. When his hand located his cigars he sighed in relief. Slightly lifting his head, he took a peek at the large belly blocking his view from his army boots. Without a word, the barber removed the towel, applied some warm shaving cream and started shaving Andrew's cheek, carving a nice curve from his mustache to his sideburn. Then he expertly shaved his neck leaving a generous collar of beard. After removing the surplus lather, he rubbed and massaged his neck and cheeks with aftershave. When the deed was done, the barber unceremoniously raised back the chair. When Andrew got a look at himself, he flinched. Even though he already knew that a bearlike man with severe male pattern baldness and a great beard would look back at him, he wasn't ready for the sheer sexiness of the sight. From his fuller face, he estimated he must have gained at least a hundred pound. His eyes seemed smaller in that rounder face making them look porcine and a bit on the perverse side. His thick stache couldn't hide fuller lips.
The barber dusted the back of his neck off and removed the smock. As predicted, his barrellike torso was covered with a checkered shirt Huge hairy forearms poked from the rolled up sleaves. His massive legs streched the fabric of his denims. He got up and checked himself out one last time in the mirror. He picked up his leather jacket, got his chained wallet out from his back pocket and paid the barber. He also left him a hefty tip. " I see you like my services, Ja, he said. May I say, Sir, you look perfect. Will I be seeing you in about, let us say two weeks. "
"You can count me as a new client, mister."
"You can call me mister Björn."
"Allright Mr. Björn, in two weeks. Thanks again. As you said earlier, it was a life changing experience."
On his way out, he stopped suddenly. Then he smiled. He took out a cigar, lit it and turned around. With the barber facing away from him, he looked at the empty chair and winked at the person he had left behind.
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