I have changed barbers four times this year. I now feel like a man who cheats on his barbers. As though I’m that guy who isn’t loyal. No, my barbers are one’s who have been leaving me.
It started when Moses left to join the army. I went to Chris, my brother’s namesake. I thought he would be a good one. He closed shop in under two months. Then I moved to Luis. His babe would always WhatsApp him. His attention was in splits. He once cut off all my beards and left my face bare. He apologized and before I could blink, he left. I thought they were disappearing because I usually ask these barbers for their names. They probably want to work incognito. Then I moved to one whose name I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know. What business do I have in knowing names of barbers when they don’t stay for long. They touch my head and cut my hair and when they want, they just leave, with no remorse at all. This one, the one whose name I didn’t get also just disappeared. What the heck! So I took a break from barbers and decided to let my hair grow. It was ugly. My hair quality is not the type, which one can sell for thousands of bucks. It was inevitable to look for a new barbershop. I found one. It is modest, in Gayaza.
It sits along a dusty road to a school called Bright Future Primary School (I hope the kids who go to that school don’t embarrass their parents by having dark futures). It is sandwiched between a Sports Betting place that has a flood of youth hanging around it every evening and a Medical Center on the other wall, ready to treat whoever faints when their bet goes awry. Across the road is a man who makes Rolex and Kikomando. There is an Airtel Money booth stamped about 3 meters from the entrance.
This barbershop has no signpost outside. No flashy lights outside welcoming you to it. The YAKA meter there is always beeping. One guy sometimes runs across the road to the Payway station to buy power for 2k. The beep never goes off. Neither does the power unless it is a general blackout. It is a rectangular space with rough walls painted lime green. It has no window. Just a door. One entry. One exit. It has a cracked mirror. It still works, bounces off people’s reflections so there is no need to discard it. It reflects my two vampire teeth really well. There are four hair clippers. I have counted those ones. They don’t just hang on the sides of the barber’s table. They have a home, the UV Sterilizer.
My new barber is in his early 30’s I think. His name is Abdullah. He wears a striking goatee with strands running down his neck. He is a reflective man, doesn’t speak much. I sometimes wonder why he doesn’t chit chat like all the other barbers I have had. Maybe he doesn’t want to break my head when he disappears. He doesn’t want to leave me with memories of discussions on topics we had at this barbershop. He plays a lot of RnB. His music is never loud. He controls it at volumes so mild it allows you meditate as he shaves your hair off its roots. Sometimes, he will have a playlist of Kenny G and Grover Washington. Other times, Micheal Bolton and Billy Ocean will fill his space. On a few occasions, he has played Rema and Elly Wamala.
An old black computer monitor with a butt sits on a stand in one corner, a CPU placed next to it on the carpeted floor, speakers hanging from the ceiling. The keyboard is dusty. It works for him. This whole set up runs on Windows XP. His playlist is not for the jumpy. Not the party type. It just is…It just is…(I couldn’t find the right word to complete that sentence). He is a jazz man too. I think that’s why I like him.
I sat on the barber chair last Saturday and told Abdullah to take down all my hair. The chair got stiff and it didn’t move. I imagine it was shocked at what it just heard me say.
“Are you sure you want me to cut off all your hair?” he asked.
He sighed, picked one clipper and held it in his right hand. He took a deep stare at my head and paused. I saw him through the mirror.
“Boss, you really want me to take down all your hair?”
I smiled and told him yes. I had no issues with all my hair going off.
“My head will shine under the sun,” I said.
He set the machine rolling and drove it across the side of my head with a cringe in his arm. A chunk of hair fell off. He asked me if that was the level I wanted my hair to be at. I picked my spectacles and wore them. I saw the level on my head. It wasn’t what I wanted. He pressed it further and shaved off another layer. It still wasn’t where I wanted the level to fall. But I let it pass. I told him it was OK and he drove the machine all around my cranium.
I left the barbershop with my head shining and reflecting the lights, feeling like I had dared to do something I never thought I would do.
When I got to office on Monday, someone asked me, “What did you do to your head?”
And I ran off to the washroom to see what damage my head had found itself in. It was nothing really. Sometimes it’s alright to shave your head bald.
I hope my latest barber, Abdullah, won’t run away. His barbershop has no name.