I lay my eyes on you, you are so short, you have very dark skin and thick brown hair. You are looking tired and ragged in your little barber shop. It is as if you had passed retirement age without realising it. You are wearing a shirt and black trousers, your shirt looks so worn out it is a little unforgivable to say white.
Pictures of you as a young barber winning prizes rest on the wall next to a few old mirrors and yet it is as if your career did not continue to grow successfully. Your shop looks so tired, old, and you are clearly living in the back of the shop. The light is so dull, as if the electricity had gone off so often. Different pieces of barber equipment can be seen resting in various places, looking unused for a long time. A dull looking fish-tank stands over old magazines, with just one goldfish going to and fro each side, so slowly. There is no air supply, the glass has limescale that has developed over the years.
The rain and thunder kept coming down heavy and there I was, stood there with my enormous rucksack and small one too. I was lost, I was afraid and I knew no Spanish to be able to explain to you that I had no way of contacting my friend because my mobile phone had no reception. I tried to show you the video my friend had made with instructions on how to get to his place but it was filmed during the day, and it was now fully dark, pouring with rain and claps of thunder and lightning. I didn’t have a clue how to explain my predicament to you. I tried to gesture but it was no use. You kept looking outside as if looking for someone to help us both out but with no energy. There was no one about, just millions of rain drops and flooded puddles.
It was a long ten minutes, and then eventually this middle aged guy comes out of his car and joins us. He opens his modern mobile phone. I looked at him with pleading eyes, close to tears myself – it was my birthday and I had only just left my two very good friends in Las Vegas after 3 brilliant weeks. I tried to gesture to this kind guy, that I needed to video chat my deaf friend in Mexico but my phone had no reception. I wanted to insert his number into his phone and then call him.
As if something had triggered his understanding, he passed his phone to me, I heaved such a sigh of relief. I struggled to add my friend’s number in as the phone was set up in Spanish. We got there eventually, and pressed the video call icon to such relief. The animated conversation in sign language must have really surprised you, Mr Barber. Maybe it was then that it finally made sense to you I was trying to ask?
Within 15mins I got picked up by my friend with an umbrella in tow. I turned to you, Mr Barber, and acknowledged how your shop had been such a temporary shelter for me, it was so kind of you to let me walk in, dripping wet. I wondered what you made of the whole thing from your corner, whether you felt you’d done a good turn or you felt humbled but didn’t really understand what you had done for me and my sanity.
I also wondered how long it would be before you closed the shop window and door, all framed in worn blue tainted wood with lots of rainwater dripping away. I wondered if you would even bother to put everything away before going to sleep, or if this was now a pointless task, a daily ritual that had eroded away.
Although my friend and I had gestured to you, gratefully, that we would come to your shop for a cut and shave, we all knew deep down it wouldn’t really happen.