Enter, sit, read magazine, wait. Then—hair cut.
The thought of having a conversation with a stranger while they touch my head and cut my hair has always given me anxiety. I’ve never actually had to go through that because my father was a hairdresser. He owned a salon appropriately called Ron’s Salon. Wall-length mirrors, dozens of plants, the smell of shampoo, and easy listening FM radio filled the room, although he’d prefer the Rolling Stones. Anytime I walked in to get a buzz cut or quick trim I’d usually have to wait until he was finished with whoever currently had half a hair cut.
Each hour he’d engage with a new person and have a new conversation. I can only assume these were about whatever had happened in the client’s life while their hair grew longer. He’d break up his hours of conversation with coffee breaks on the front steps, lunch across the street from City Hall or sprinting down the street to pay the meter before a parking ticket appeared on his windshield.
Old friends, new clients and hundreds of others came and went throughout the years. Many people shared their lives with my father. He gave a good cut, but I assume it’s mostly because he knew how to talk to people. Maybe this is true of most people in this profession, but I still felt uneasy about sharing my life in this setting with anyone other than my father.
He’d either be too busy or too sick to cut my hair sometimes—so I'd start it for him. He’d joke that I made even more work for him since I’d made a mess of it. When I moved to Chicago, I feared having to find another hairdresser. It sounds silly, but I had anxiety about this. I thought if it came to it, I’d talk about how they’d be the first person I’d actually paid money to cut my hair. The compensation in the past had always been shoveling snow or painting our suburban house in the heat. I suppose I could have offered these services to the stranger behind me cutting my hair, but instead I decided to just cut it myself.
Dolores would get home from work and discover my chopped hair on the bathroom tile floor. She’d eventually know what the next hour of her evening would entail. My father had given her a 10-minute tutorial before we moved. However, with multiple mirrors and an assortment of clipper attachments I finally learned to give myself a haircut that was not totally obvious that it was done by one’s self.
I continued this practice once I moved to Providence. It wasn’t by choice, since I was now closer to my father, but because he wasn’t able to anymore. He had lost some clients along the way due to the fact that he couldn't be there as much. Most were used to getting a cut or color every month, but many did adapt to the chemo calendar. My brother and I eventually moved the hydraulic chairs and large stationary dome hair dryers out of the salon and into the basement where it now smells like you’d just been given a perm. My sister wrote a note and taped it to the front door. The Salon’s phone may not have rung much after that, but the house landline did. My mother explained.
His hair grew longer in the last few weeks, reminiscent of Keith Richards. We gave him his last hair cut at the house and I swept the floor just like I did everytime after a haircut.