This is the last week of summer vacation for me and my team. Next week, routines resume and bedtimes will be argued.
Today, I took them all to get their hairs cut.
My youngest really didn’t want to do it; he was fearful because the last time I took him to a barber, the woman used scissors around his ears and cut his little ear.
But the older boys insisted on a barber; and so it was going to happen.
After about five minutes of telling my youngest, who is 11, that it was going to happen or that he’d lose screens for the rest of the break, he finally complied.
The barbershop doesn’t take plastic. Checks or cash only.
After my youngest was in the barber chair, in the care of possibly the kindest man I’ve ever encountered other than my now late father-in-law, I told the three of them I was off to visit the the bank in the grocery chain next door to get cash to pay the stylists.
While I was withdrawing cash, I asked the tellers to break a twenty so I could leave a tip for the barbers. I saw a man at the Western Union counter. He was short, a little younger than I am, and he weighed about as much as I do. He was wearing a summer-weight ecru suit, and one of those pork-pie hats, tilted to cover a bit of his face. As is natural for me, I told the teller I needed to break the cash so I could tip the barber next door. As I walked by the gentleman in the pork-pie hat, he zeroed in on me as I was leaving the store.
Up went my radar. I thought he might’ve heard everything I said.
I get to the barber and sit down nearest my kids. My middle son was up front near the door.
In walked the man in the pork-pie hat.
My oldest was directly in front of me, seated next to my youngest.
The pork-pie hat man sat facing me. His hat now removed. His face was hard, like its lines were a map to a forgotten place.
His eyes were intense. They blazed mint green, but were also bloodshot red… and his stare was fixed.
He asked for a #1 blade. All over. Which is basically what I like to refer to as the white supremacist cut.
My radar got sharper.
My oldest was released from his seat and sat next to me.
Immediately, I took out my phone. I started to text my son. Who was sitting right next to me.
He said, as he checked his phone, “Rats. My battery is dead.” But he saw that I was texting him.
He read as I typed:
That dude makes me nervous. Just saw him at Safeway. At Western Union counter. I feel like he followed me in here.
My son asked me to hand him my phone; he wanted to look something up.
He typed back:
He’s been looking at us up and down. He’s also had a moderately detailed cut, like a nice haircut, and now he’s getting it all buzzed. Definitely keep an eye on him.
We exchanged a couple more times and we both concluded that we were both feeling ill at ease and that it wasn’t just me.
My youngest was finished with his haircut, his ears were fine. He blushed and thanked the kindest barber ever.
My heart was racing. I just wanted to get out of there. The fact that the man got the simplest haircut of all made me more nervous.
I read the newspaper. People just shoot people for no reason now. Or things go down in a way, that a “wrong” look is interpreted as a stand-off. I don’t operate that way, but I also don’t back down so easily either.
I texted to my son, that if he were to follow us, that I would drive to the fire station just down the road and wait it out there.
So we walked up to the counter, I tipped the barbers and we walked out the door.
My middle son said, “Mom, that dude in the barbershop… He gave me the chills. I saw him watch you. It made me really nervous. And who would get a haircut like that? And…”
I hate that I still can’t shake that feeling. I wish I could trust people. I wish I could be more at ease.
The fact that my two sons felt something too, was oddly relieving. And also a bummer. The fact that my youngest felt nothing but taken care of and heard, is great.
What if we were all wrong? What if the man was just in from a foreign place and spoke perfect English asking for a #1 and …
I’m an imperfect being in an imperfect world. In yoga, we call it discernment (well, in all life it’s called ‘discernment’ but as a yoga teacher, there’s this thought or social concept that we are all like Jesus: super nice and open and giving of ourselves and that we have no boundaries and trust all…let me tell you: we aren’t like Jesus) and it’s an important gift to use.
Just in case, in the vein of discernment, we took the long way home.