My first mission upon arriving back in Bangkok recently was a hair cut. I could have chosen one of hundreds of hairdressers in Phnom Penh, but I thought, “wait Walks, wait until Bangkok, there you can visit your regular barber”.
I went early, they are never busy early on a week day. I walked in, closed the door and one of the two barbers rose very slowly to his feet. He smiled and, slowly, very slowly, he moved his arm in a long arc which finished with him pointing at the middle one of five antique barbers chairs. I smiled and took a seat. The barber, an ageing gent, approached me slowly. He looked me up and down, sizing me and the job in hand. Slowly he tried to lower the old chair. He pulled on a lever, pushed another, and struggled with a large knob. With a look of weary defeat he gestured for me to slide forward and stoop a little.
He took a towel and carefully wrapped it around my neck, he then took a small bottle of talc and dusted me with it. Why I was not sure, but I do know that for the first time in the proceedings he wore a look of satisfaction as he stood back and admired the thin layer of white dust. “Ron” he said. I knew from experience what his declaring the weather hot meant, short back and sides. I once went in there during the hottest time of year. The other gent had delta with me then, he declared it very hot and nigh on scalped me. I flew to Vietnam a few days later and met my new group. They had never before laid eyes upon me, but when they did there was a look of pity. One asked if I had had a falling out with a man with a blunt scythe.
The barber reached into the drawer, took out a plastid cover for his clippers and said “sam”. It was, apparently, grade three hot. Grasping the clippers in both hands he slowly, very slowly, approached me. I noticed his hands tremble a little and my eye caught the glint of a cut throat razor laying on the side. The sight of it made my throat a little dry
as he began circling me like an old cat circling a mouse. He remembered what to do but was unsure about striking the first blow.
It was a drawn out hair cut. He was careful, meticulous one might say. He held a firm determination that both sides of my head should be covered by a layer of hair of an even length and depth. If that could not be achieved with hair, then it would be achieved without. He managed it with, just. He must have finished the job feeling rather exhausted for he walked many miles lapping me, checking that all was equal. Satisfied he put down his wonderfully polished scissors and turned his attention to my ears. He looked at them, then he stuck his finger into my left ear. Not very far, just far enough to unnerve me. He looked around the room and his gaze, which I was watching carefully in the mirror, fell on the razor. My heart speed, my palms began to sweat. He reached out a trembling had, I whimpered. There was hair in my ears and it was to be trimmed. He took the razor and opened it, his hand steadied a tad and I thanked got and all his angles and helpers and Buddha and Mohamed and anyone I considered to be merciful and caring. He pulled on my ear lobe and I though of Vincent Van Gough.
He finished my ear and turned his attention to my eye brows, he took a comb and carefully trimmed them. I wondered if this would make them grow longer. I hoped not.
The job was done. He looked relieved, I felt relieved. My hair, I think, is fine. My ears are still intact and hopefully my eyebrows will not grow long and thick and bushy.
The funny thing is, I like my barber.