‘’Scuse me, darling,’ he said, ‘I know you’s gonna think I’m a crazy- but wow, your hair!’
I turned to see a slight European man with olive skin, a lop-sided smile, and stubble like a pro headed towards me.
‘I’m sorry, I don’t mean a interrupt,’ he continued. ‘I’m a hairdresser for a Toni & Guy and I need model for my exam,’ he said. ‘You wanna a haircut? You wanna let me cut your hair?’
Now, guys. You know me. I’m all universe and destiny and free is better, and it was already weird that I’d just bumped into an old friend on Oxford Street. I’m still new enough to town that I don’t simply see people I adore as I’m walking to the bus stop, and London is far too big for coincidence. I’d obviously been slowed down for a reason because: science.
I’d been running late. I normally go to a different stop but I was headed to a networking event (LOLZ) and so’d taken a slightly varied route. I looked up as I was zip-zagging around dawdling tourists to lock eyes with a fella who smiled, as if he knew we’d meet. ‘Laura!’ I cried out his name in return, and we hugged like bears.
That’s the only reason I’d stopped- to do the manic, bullet-pointed catch-up that limited time and too many 6 p.m. workers barging home for their tea means is part yell-y, part over-excitement. I was annoyed that we were interrupted. Until I realised it was for a compliment.
‘Let me take off your hat,’ the European said. I didn’t protest, and my companion looked on wide-eyed as my accessories were manhandled by this stranger. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ He reached out to touch my hair. ‘It’s thick, it’s luscious, it’s GINGER!’ My friend laughed at the perceived insult, but calling me a ginge was the best compliment, second only to saying wow! You are like *actually* Joan Holloway! Because yes, I recently took the plunge and became a redhead.
(Okay fine. That’s a bit of a lie. I spent weeks agonising on Facebook as to whether I was brave enough to Mad Men it up, and then this girl called my bluff and gifted me two boxes of hair dye for my birthday which basically left me no choice. Je ne regrette rein.)
‘Will you do it?’ he said. ‘Will you let me do a box bob for you?’
I looked at my friend for guidance. He shrugged. I rolled my shoulders and glanced at my tattoo. ‘Sure.’ I said.
‘Oh THANK YOU! You wonderful woman!’ The European clapped his hands gaily and pulled out his phone. ‘Tomorrow at 3 p.m., it’s okay?’ he said. ‘Give me your number.’
‘Where are you from?’ I asked, as he punched in the digits I gave him. Italy, he told me.
‘Va bene,’ I replied. ‘Fammi uno squillo.’ Call me. I saved his number to my phone.
‘I put you as “Laura Box Bob”’ he said. ‘A domani!’
He sauntered off into the crowds and as I put my hat back on I said to my friend, ‘What’s a box bob?’
‘No idea,’ he said.
I woke up nervous the next day. I remembered The European saying something about how the first box bob he did he failed on. Something about the woman being picky! Wouldn’t let me frame her face! I wondered if I should cancel, if accepting a free haircut off of an Italian man who accosted me on the streets on London was like accepting a taxi ride from Delhi airport off a man who just want to show you my cousin’s shop! You’ll like very much! You know?
My phone bleeped. Remember me at 3 p.m.! It said. Lately, I’ve been trying very hard to be the girl that does what she says she’s gonna do. I think that’s the ultimate sign of self-respect: follow through on your promises, or be brave enough to say no in the first place. So I text him back: Of course! See you later x
I wondered if it was a mistake.
When I got to the salon he was hard at work in amongst all the other students apparently under examination too. He was chopping and musing and framing and to be honest, looked in a bit of a shitty mood.
‘I don’t think he passed me,’ he said as he waved goodbye to his previous client and sat me down in his chair. ‘If you pass they put in the book, and my book is empty.’ He gestured to the notebook on the table in front of me. Empty.
I don’t think I need explain any further, do I? It was a mistake. A very short, very severe, mistake.
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