My hairdresser arrives my home at 10 a.m., two hours later than I would have preferred.
“My brother, ma,” she begins by way of explanation.
“Happy New Year,” I say, waving her apology aside, my mind on my missing WiFi dongle.
She arranges her wares on the sofa—combs, hair extensions, conditioner—priority and proximity guiding her placement. I plop my iPad, phones, and a folder on the other sofa, where a full-length mirror sits. Then I sit on a rattan dining chair, facing the sofa so my reflection is visible to me.
“This is how I want my hair to look.” I lift up my iPad for her to see the photo of a model, and then lower it, using my fingers to slide the screen and zoom in on her hair.
“But, she used a different kind of hair extension—”
“Are you sure?” It looks as if they just layered the extensions to get the look—”
“No, the extensions are different.” She points at the photo and then pulls out my hair extensions from the pack to show me.
I sigh, spilling my disappointment around the room. I am not convinced, but she is a hairdresser not a magician. Although I know the photo has been airbrushed to perfection, still, I want the look.
Her hands are gentle as she parts sections of my hair and weaves them into cornrows. She knows all the secrets my full head of hair holds and an easy camaraderie exists between us.
“How have you been?”
She talks about her dream of studying film in Australia, and then tells me about her recent work on the set of a film, how an actress accused her of cutting her hair around the temples.
“Ma,” she says, “can you imagine? Me that my fingers are so light, I’m even afraid of holding hair tight!”
I nod. “So what did you tell her?”
“I was so angry! Hmmm. I didn’t say anything!”
I laugh and she laughs too. It is not odd that she swallows injustice and later regurgitates it to a listening ear. The customer has might and is always right. My validation is the closest thing to fairness that she will get.
“Don’t mind her. Your hand is feather light. I hope she didn’t get you in trouble.”
“No, the director knows I never touch her hairline while styling.”
After she completes the cornrows and starts crocheting extensions on them, I get lost in reading.
“It’s too much,” I remark when I look up to examine her work.
“It’s not too many. You will like it. Just wait and let me finish.”
A good hairdresser deciphers the subconscious desires of her clients. My hairdresser represents the part of me that bucks against conformity with random strands of blond extensions that she calls highlights. I squirm at my reflection because I want conservative hair and I do not want conservative hair. Zig Ziglar says that if people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.
When she is done, I turn my head from side to side and smile at the result.
“How much do I owe you?”
We should have set the price before she began and I can insist on the amount I last paid. She looks at the ground before reluctantly meeting my eyes in the mirror.
“Ma, the price has increased because of the recession.”
We both laugh at our intangible exchange. I am proud of her because she has crossed a hurdle. She found the muscle to put her business before the indistinct blend of sisterhood and friendship that we share. I pay the new price without haggling.
She is young and her dreams are tall. I hope she does not one day respond to the vagaries of life with cold cynicism. Her combination of innocence and honesty is increasingly rare.
© Timi Yeseibo 2017
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