I despise my barber.
I sit down in his old style chair and I tell him what I want done to me. He runs his hands through what he’ll be dealing with, frowns casually in acknowledgement of my wishes, and goes about his work. Then I sit there, staring at myself in the mirror, for the next half an hour.
Every time I realize that it has been exactly one month since I last saw myself this long. As he continues to shape and perfect what will be on the linoleum floor next appointment, I examine the past four weeks. It’s so disturbing I can’t look away. I see that my eyes sink deeper every visit. Everything that has happened was sucked into those spaces. Is that where those eight missing cigarettes from my mom’s purse went? How about those hurtful words I said behind my friend’s back? Are all of my dirty thoughts dissipated by his water spray as he combs me? It feels like he’s not cutting enough off. Should I say something?
I can’t know for sure if he’s able to tell, but he looks genuinely disgusted at the chunks that have been chopped off. It gets all over his damp hands. He tries to wipe it all off like it’s a disease, but things like that always stick. They always do.
I’m feeling sick, watching him struggle, but it would be too much of a hassle to get this big bag and neck towel off of me, so I must stay. I start testing out how some of my more common facial expressions look to others, but it’s not helping my nausea. He asks me in his nonchalant baritone register how classes are. I know he’s totally disinterested, so I give him a generic, childish response. He smells those eight cigarettes, I’m certain. He looks at my mirror image skeptically.
I leave when everything looks acceptable for the next twenty nine or so days. Who knows, maybe I’ll be good and I won’t have to get it cut ever again.
I come home and my mom’s eyebrows reach way up on her forehead. She says the barber nicked me, and it’s bleeding all over the place. I touch behind my right ear and taste my wet finger. It’s the real stuff. Son of a bitch.
Darius Kay is an eighteen-year-old senior at Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, California. His work can be seen in The Blotter magazine. Darius is also an avid cellist and pianist, performing in various ensembles across southern California.