I just came back from a haircut at a barbershop I frequent. Today though, I was surprised by the addition of another barber — this used to be a one-man-show. This new barber was the one who attended to me.
Small-talk, like politics to a cab-driver, is an unspoken requirement to barbers; naturally, it he got the small-talk going almost immediately.
“You a secondary school student?” he asked, implying I looked like a 16-year-old; if I was a girl, I’d be flattered; being a guy who wished he looked more mature, it was had the opposite effect.
“No, I’m in Poly now,” I replied, though technically speaking I was a graduand, and had in fact, no more school.
“Oh, first year?” By this, he implied I looked like a 17-year-old who looked like I was 16.
On and on the small talk went, when he brought up the fact that he wasn’t supposed to be working today: his wife’s aunty, whom he and his wife were very close to, had passed away yesterday, and the funeral was today. It was a strange thing to bring up, especially in the middle of my haircut.
My lives, literal and social, were in his hands — his scissor and razor-wielding hands. He looked distracted for a while, then excused himself for something (I wasn’t sure what), then returned. Small-talk was not immediately commenced upon his return.
After a while of silence, he started talking about education, about how important it is. He talked about starting a business, and how you cannot trust anyone. As he was saying this, he took out his razor to shave my sideburns and clean up the haircut.
While fixing on a new blade to the razor (“we use used-blades for children as it’s less sharp, so if accidents occur, like if the child moves while shaving, it won’t be so bad”), he mentioned he had started a business before, with his now ex-best friend (“we cried together, can you believe it?”).
Just as he placed the blade on my temple, he told me never to trust anyone, not even your best friend (“I wish I had put it in black and white. But I trusted him, my best friend”) — all the while I was thinking: “Why now?!”
After a minute or so of shaving (it felt like an hour), he stopped and put the blade down, cleaned me up, and let me go.
Freedom never tasted this good.