By Peter Newling
Will really didn’t like getting his haircut. It wasn’t that his barber did a bad job – on the contrary, Alphonse had been cutting Will’s hair for over 40 years, knew exactly how he liked it, and always struck the right balance of chatter and silence.
As he walked through the door, he was greeted with a big Alphonse smile, and the customary “Hello Willy. Take a seat. I will be with you as soon as I have finished this one”. As Will sat down, the roll call of memories began.
He recalled sitting on the booster seat, while his dad stood behind chatting with Alphonse. He remembered the first time he got to sit in the barber’s chair itself, and how grown up he felt. He could picture his dad in the chair next to his, as Alphonse and his apprentice had races to see who could finish first. He remembered the arguments with his mum, when, as a teenager, he desperately wanted to keep his ear-covering, shoulder-length hair. Alphonse always sided with his mum.
He remembered the first time Alphonse bought out the cut-throat razor, and how it scraped across his sideburns and the nape of his neck. He could still feel the sting of the aftershave on his young skin.
“Your turn, Willy, my boy.” beamed Alphonse, as he shook the previous customer’s hair off the black plastic cape.
As Will made himself comfortable, he realised why he didn’t like getting his haircut any more. The mirror in front of him no longer showed a young man – it showed a receding hairline and an additional chin. The hair that fell onto the protective cape and then onto the floor got lighter in colour every time he visited. It used to have the occasional grey. Now they comfortably outnumbered the brown. Even the conversation had changed. It was no longer about school and football and cars and girls. It was about the garden and compost and the declining quality of journalism.
Will paid his $22 and immerged blinking into the sunlight. Walking back to the car, he tried to convince himself that the small amount of gel Alphonse had used to ruffle his fringe made him look younger and more interesting.