According to the directory, there was a hair salon in the wing I was already in, so I found a staircase and headed to the bottom level. The entrance had a tasteful air about it, announcing itself as Tricocci Too. I’d never heard of Tricocci One, but okay, whatever. I threw my empty soda cup in the trash and crunched my last bite of ice as I sauntered over to see if they did men’s hair. Until now, I had only gone to a place called Supercuts, $8, no appointment necessary. You got whoever was there that day, usually a very recent graduate of the local beauty school circuit. But it was cheap. And it kept my hair out of my eyes. Couldn’t be all bad.
The sign in the window had a long list of services, and at the very bottom, it said “Men’s Haircut - $30”. Crap! I could have my hair cut for half a year at that price. But I was here and it was splurge-on-me-day, so I went in. The girl at the front desk had tri-color hair. I was thinking an experiment gone wrong, dye tubes mislabeled, I don’t know. But the rainbow of color in her hair couldn’t have been the plan, could it?
“How can I help you, sir?” She was smacking her chewing gum and holding a nail file. She was all of sixteen. At least she looked me in the eye.
“I would like to get a haircut, please,” I said.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Uh...no, I don’t. Can you fit me in, do you think?”
“I’ll have to look at the book. One minute.” After a quick glance through the register on her desk, she looked up at me.
“Looks like Nick can take you next. He’s finishing up with another customer. I’ll have him come out to get you shortly. You can have a seat over there.” She pointed out a bank of comfortable leather chairs surrounded by rack upon rack of beauty products, in every shape, color, and language. I had no idea what any of that stuff was for. I bought Suave Body Wash at Walmart and used it for everything. All these products around me were too complicated. And from the few prices I could see on tiny little labels, too damned expensive. $26 for a bottle of shampoo? Insane.
I decided to ignore the product offerings–I was pretty sure they were for ladies anyway–and cool my heels, relaxing to the spa candles lit around the little room. There must have been something to aromatherapy because when a flamboyantly gay hairdresser announced his presence with, “I’m Nick. Who’s my next victim?” I had more than a little trouble focusing. Lulled in for the kill.
“Uh...I guess that’s me,” I answered, nervously rising from my seat.
“Well, hurry up, honey, we don’t have all day and, from the looks of you, we might need every minute of it.” With that he turned and quickly stepped into the back of the salon. I trotted to keep up.
Nick was quite the character. Five foot five max, with a very petite frame and a porcelain face, he had one side of his head shaved tight to his skull, while the top and opposite side had beautiful, straight black hair styled in long layers. He had a tiny gold ring in his left eyebrow and the only thing about his look that really tore it for me was the grommet through his right ear lobe. It always looked freaky to me. But hey, maybe he needed a place to hang things, who knows?
He stood behind a padded chair in front of a mirror and told me to take a seat. I did, then he immediately turned me around so my back was to the mirror and I was facing him.
“So what are we going to do with you today, Sugar?”
“Well, I can’t see without the mirror, so if you could...”
“Nuh uh, honey. There ain’t nothin’ in that mirror that needs to be directin’ this here effort today. Boy, that hairstyle is two decades old at least. And what is this color? Did you get it out of a box at K-Mart or somethin’? And besides, between you and me, I am way better lookin’ right now than that sorry mess on your head, so make yourself happier and just look at me and let me think of somethin’.” I shut up, scared to speak now. I was so doomed. I thought about making a run for it, but he was holding a big pair of scissors and well...he had mentioned victims.
After pacing back and forth a minute or two, occasionally looking at my head and violently shaking his head, his eyes sparked up and he leaned in. “Okay, Sugar, here’s what we’s gonna do. I’m gonna make you a star today, baby, because I can do that. This is not too hard for Nick. Nick can do the impossible. He’s done it before.” I hoped he was convincing himself, because I wasn’t there yet.
He snapped his fingers twice, like he was doing magic or something and then shouted, “I got it. This is it. We’s gonna make you all better, baby. First we gotta take like most of this mess off, cuz it’s just nasty. I bet some of this nasty hair is older than my three year old niece, Jasmine. And we’s got to do somethin’ about that color. No worries, Sugar, we’s gonna make it all better.”
He was standing up straight in front of me, index finger extended up like a school teacher correcting an errant schoolboy. “But you got to trust Saint Nick, now, you hear me? No fussin’ and askin’ to see anything until it’s all perfect, alright?” I just nodded, grinning at him. I was starting to see his true good humor. For some reason, I really did trust him. Besides, I could always get one of those knit skull caps which were all the rage right now.
“What’s so funny?” He eyed me warily.
“Nothin’. I trust you...Saint Nick.” I grinned. He blushed a little. “Seriously Nick, you can’t be but a few years older than me. Right?”
“Twenty-nine.” He leaned in and whispered behind his hand. “For the fourth time, and don’t you dare tell any one of these heifers in here I told you that–it’s our secret. Around here, if you turn thirty, you better have your funeral paid up and the last rites scheduled. And if you take too long gettin’ in the grave, one of ‘em is likely to give you an assist.” He made a jabbing motion with his curling iron.
“Surely it can’t be that bad.”
“That’s what you think, Sugar. You gotta cut a bitch, ’scuse my French, if you wanna chair in a place like this. Took me six years of shampooing nasty heads to get this chair and the only way they’s gettin’ me out of it is my dead body layin’ up across it like last week’s meat delivery.” I swallowed hard. Nick was funny, but kind of scary at the same time.
“Oh relax, honey. I’m just carryin’ on with ya. Passes the time betta. Now let me go get my big scissors, cuz that mess on your head has done seen its last days.”
True to his word, Saint Nick cut away a lot of my old hair– a lot of it! It fell in piles all around me. He was right about the color too. Laying on the black smock around my body, it looked kind of mousy brown, not exactly young and studly. Just when I thought he must be close to finishing, he fired up the electric clippers and did some more work around the edges. Surely there couldn’t be much left to cut. I hoped I wasn’t going to come out of this bald.
Finally he put the clippers and the scissors down and squatted down in front of me. “Now, Jack, you look straight ahead. I gotta figure out the color we’s gonna fix you with. Hold still.” He held up different color sticks to my eyes, my cheeks, even my neck. I stayed still. This was the scariest part of all for me. Hair would grow back. I couldn’t stand the idea of looking like front desk girl with multicolored hair.
Nick left and returned a few minutes later with fresh smocking, a water bottle and a bowl of the ugliest dirty blonde pudding-like substance. “Uh, Nick. I know I agreed to no questions but...”
“Ahk! You promised, Jack. You trust Saint Nick. I’m gonna fix you. Don’t you worry. I can already stand the sight of you now. So we’s makin’ some progress.” He winked at me and picked up a brush.
He painted that butt-ugly concoction all over my head, including my eyebrows. At one point, he grabbed tweezers and starting plucking eyebrow hairs at random until I threatened to kick him in the nuts if he didn’t stop. Geez, that hurt.
“Now you sit there, Jack, and be a good boy. I’ll be back in twenty minutes and we’s see how it looks, okay?”
“Um...okay, I guess. Whatever you say. You’s the boss.” I winked at him, mocking his fake speech pattern. He smiled. I think he liked me.
The waiting started to get tedious. I tried to stay still but I wanted to turn the chair so badly so I could see just how blonde he was making me. He never even asked me if I wanted to be blonde—I really didn’t. I liked blonde guys. I liked brunette guys. Okay, I liked guys period. I just kind of preferred staying the same color. Maybe less mousy though.
Just when I thought I couldn’t stand it anymore, Nick came back and started poking and prodding around on my head, making incomprehensible noises. He seemed satisfied. “Okay, Jack. You follow me back to the shampooing area. And be nice to Carla. If anybody deserves a chair in this place, it’s her. Nicest heifer you could find in this barnyard of beasts.”
He handed me off to Carla, who really was as sweet as she could be. She was younger than me and very focused on her task. She rinsed away the color goo and then started shampooing. On the second go around, she used some kind of conditioner that tingled all over and smelled of peppermint. She kept massaging my head with her fingertips. I decided the scalp massage may have been the best feeling I had yet to experience, barring an orgasm. And this lasted longer.
She was toweling me off when Nick reappeared. We walked back to his chair and he pulled out a brush and dryer to begin styling my hair. Since it was so short–I could feel that much–it took very little time to get it just right. He put the dryer down, clipped a few stray hairs with the scissors and pronounced he had done it. Another Saint Nick miracle!
“Are you ready for your reveal, Jack?” He was giddy with anticipation. I so hoped I liked it, mostly for his sake. He’d put a lot of effort into it. So I closed my eyes and nodded. He slowly turned the chair around, and then whispered in my ear, “Open, Sugar.”
I was stunned. Then I started crying. Not bawling, not sobbing, just happy and amazed, oh-my-God-how-did-you-do-that tears. My hair was short on the sides, longer on top and styled to look modern but still conservative. I looked young and distinguished at the same time. It would look good for fun or work. And the color was unbelievable. It was a bit darker than it had been, but with tiny little flecks of different shades that made it look more real, more vibrant, almost alive somehow. It was magical.
“Nick, God himself couldn’t have made the color more perfect. It’s like what I was always supposed to be. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love it. And I love you!” I jumped up and gave him a big hug. The other stylists around started clapping. Nick was trying not to cry himself. He had a hard image to uphold. But I knew underneath all the talk was a heart of gold. He really was a miracle worker.
I wanted to praise him in front of his co-workers, so they knew they were up against one of the best. “I’m so glad I came in here today, Nick. You are a true artist and I am grateful to be your canvas today.” Now he really was going to cry, so he grabbed me and dragged me back up to reception.
I left there $300 lighter in my accounts, including a $50 tip for Nick, with bags of hair products that Nick assured me were the only thing that would keep my beautiful hair from falling out of my head. I knew it probably wasn’t totally true but no way did I want to take a chance on ruining his creation. I owed him for the artist he was. No more Supercuts for me.