Keeping the wolf from the door.
August 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
“The wolf is just a puppy and the door’s double locked so what have you got to worry me for?” – Holes – Passenger.
In my line of work you see things. You see things which stay with you. Which effect you. Things that people who don’t do this job don’t see. I’ve seen children throw stones at uniformed men on the Gaza strip, men who fired back with the hiss and rattle of tear gas for reason I’m yet to understand. I’ve seen bullets fly over hot sands for reason I’m yet to understand. I’ve seen soldiers take their last breathes in the dirt of some back water town he’d couldn’t even pronounce the name of all for reasons I’m yet to understand. I’ve seen helicopter gunships fly overhead with their guns loaded and pouting and desperate to get hot. These are things that I don’t like to talk about in any great detail. But of all the things I’ve seen, one story which I’m willing to share, is one which happened to me this Sunday.
I found my self sat waiting on the cheap padded chair of a North London unisex salon. Another impulsive haircut, having caught my reflection in a shop window minutes before and deciding that it was necessary. The salon was run, as far as I could tell, by the two tall women with thick Jamaican accents. They moved slow around the shop, relaxed, easy. The sort of women who would knock a glass to the floor by accident and just watch it fall in favour of making a desperate, jolting lunge. There was no lunging here. No sudden movements. It’s all easy. My turn comes up as the elderly gentlemen departs the chair and pays his money. A few minutes into the haircut a man and a young girl who is clearly his daughter walks through the door letting the noise in from the street.
He held her hand on the way in as they crossed the threshold together. The man looked like he was around 40, dark short hair, wearing a coat, white t-shirt, jeans, trainers and a wild smile spread from ear to ear. The girl looked around 5 or 6 in a pink floral dress, her blonde hair was messy, almost tomboyish, like it had been allowed to grow, almost as if she had had a go at cutting it herself. She also smiled wide, but there was something different in her eyes. A mad open mouthed wonder, like all of Disneyland had been contained in a room and she had just walked in. As if she’d never seen such a magical and marvellous place as this unremarkable North London salon. The second women who worked there came out from the back and waved the little girl over to the chair next to where I was getting my hair cut. She ran up, smiling wider still, ear to ear. It shined out of her face. It was an extraordinary and remarkable sight, that smile. And it was shared by the father. He wore it too. This mad, crazy smile painted across the width of their faces, complete will eyes that burned with love and happiness. The girl sat on the seat and the hairdresser jimmyed up the seat so she sat at an accessible height. I watched the smile sit on this man’s face, watched it grow further and tried to pick apart how someone could take this much pleasure from this situation.
“Now then sweet’art, what is it we are doin’ for you?” Spoke the hairdresser through that thick Jamaican accent. The girl paused, too young to speak for herself, but the smile did not drop from her face. She shrugged playfully and the hairdresser smiled and turned to the dad for direction. His smile sat still on his face as he looked in the daughters eyes via the mirror that was sat in front of her. “Just cut it anyway, anyway at all is fine, any style, just a haircut please.” He said in a strange wistful tone. Anyone listening could tell that the sentence was loaded. That for some reason this trip meant something. Being in this salon today was loaded with sentimental value for some reason. The hairdresser smiled at this odd request and set about her business.
A minute later the hairdresser cutting the little girls hair spoke over the quiet of my haircut and the radio playing almost silently in the background.
“This hair’s a mess sweet’art, have you been cutting it yourself?” I looked over and the thing and ragged hair that had been left to grow on the young girls head.
“This is actually her first haircut for a few years.” Spoke the father, not for a second letting that smile lift from his lips. The Jamaican woman paused, double took, and pouted her lips in confusion.
“Her first haircut for years? Now how can that be?” The unsettling realisation washed over me like cold, thick water, creeping slow over my body. I prayed to whichever God would listen that what I was thinking wasn’t true.
“She hasn’t exactly had the best of times,” spoke the father, still through his wide smiling mouth. “But for now at least, she’s cancer free.” The sentence hung in the air. The father and daughter continued to smile like they were punch drunk. The woman cutting my hair stopped, took a moment to herself. As did I. The words seemed to echo. Rattling around in all our heads, like we’d actually managed to forget that this sort of thing goes on. Like we’d got caught up in all our own shit that we had all lost perspective. Shaken from our blissful bubble to end up here. But this story isn’t about us. It isn’t about what conclusion we could use this situation to draw from our own lives. It’s not about our own self improvement or how we hide behind our own ignorance. This story is about a little six year old girl in North London who, for the first time in a long time, is getting her haircut with her father on a Sunday afternoon.