Has anyone ever been seduced in a Barbershop? Not necessarily even by a barber?
Do barbers seduce? My gut tells me they get laid. They lay out money for a good meal. They look dapper, make small talk with the object of their affection, then keep things thoroughly separate. They don't shit where they eat. Horse sense? Barber trust.
I shut up around barbers. I shut down. I lose track of my expression, my head the odd pinnacle of the mountain made of my caped, seated torso. My face is there, solitary-- seemingly for study, somehow my eyes find a dead zone to latch onto-- a place to avoid his eyes as well as my own.
The barber trims. Men flip over pages of Maxim and Playboy.
A man in a white smock with hair on his huge meaty hands slips a digit through the stainless steel ringlet, avoiding the pinky handle while gingerly snipping the sharp metal about the locus of my sensory organs with sharp. A bulwark of duty and lost styles, breathing slowly through the sides of his mouth. The hair drops away and lands on my nose and neck, ants crawling on my honey-drizzled head, my arms irrevocable buried in the deep desert sands of the Mojave. Horror he defeats with a big soft black whisk brush. Whisked away the brief torture after deliberating for a moment.
"Why is a woman... like a condom?" A barber asked me once. "'Snip, snip.'" letting it settle, "'Snip.'" then lowering down beside my head and engaging my eyes in the mirror, "Bitch spends more time in your wallet then she does on you cock. 'Snip, snip, snip'"
Another barber, another time after taking clippers to my head directed a stream of bologna particles at the back of neck, blowing away the razor-loosened hairs. Stuck, immobile. Fixed by the barber's cape-- who gets up, outside of that one guy in Flannery O'Connor's "The Barber"--I'd spill hair all over the place. But the breath and now his B.O., also bologna tinged, pressing in. I breathed through my mouth, nearly suffocating in that man's lingering lunch.
The Russians seem to be the best. Former boxers and ex-patriot military barbers, cutting hair on the border of the Ukraine and now living out in Queens, commuting into the city. They use straight razors, unafraid of AIDS or other blood born diseases. They use scissors if you ask for a trim, leaving the clippers for those who want them. They snip away silently, or if prompted, can tell you stories that aid their razors. The boxer in Brooklyn informed me of the depradations of life on the amateur circuit in Moscow. Bits of metal in the gloves. Razor blades. Fractured skulls. A manly seduction. The leading truths or half-truths or invented histories that don't send a stray arrow through the place-- the clean, sober rule of the masculine game. Violence and its wending path to America, the family back in Queens, the soul's right to breathe.