September 8 2012 – Seventeen, So, Seventeen

Seventeen, So, Seventeen

Hair salon. Ten minutes from closing. Four non-white WOMEN (wide range of ages, 20 to 65 let’s say). The owner and her employees. Mid-conversation, mid-laugh. The laughter dissolves into excitedly speaking over one another in a language they all speak that is not English. A moment of this.

A white MAN enters the shop very quickly. Conversation trails off. They stare at him. He’s well-dressed, in need of a haircut. There’s something a little unsteady in the way he’s standing there. Not dangerous just…not sure why he’s there, not sure he’ll stay. He opens his mouth to speak. Stops himself, worried that they might not understand him, he maybe starts to leave. The OLDEST WOMAN, the owner, stops him with her voice.

OLDEST WOMAN
Seventeen.

Beat.

She gestures to a chair.

After a moment, MAN sits.

OLDEST WOMAN catches the YOUNGEST WOMAN’s eye, gestures to the MAN. YOUNGEST WOMAN barely surpresses an eyeroll, but begins the ritual of prepping for a haircut: the cloth around the neck, the cape, the seat adjustment. The MAN seems calm, if a bit shaky throughout all of this. The other WOMEN cluster together around a far chair and continue their conversation in the other language, in a much hushed tone. YOUNGEST WOMAN stands behind the MAN makes eye contact with him in the mirror as she pulls her fingers through his hair, very businesslike, in preparation for the haircut.

YOUNGEST WOMAN (a question to the MAN, what would you like)
So…

At her touch, the MAN explodes into wracking sobs. They are frightening. They come from the bottom of something very deep. He curls forward in his chair, hiding his face. The YOUNGEST WOMAN steps back, hands up, unsure what she did, unsure what to do. She looks several times between the howling MAN and the other WOMEN, who are now silently watching. An uncomfortable moment of this.

Then the OLDEST WOMAN steps forward, steps into the YOUNGEST WOMAN’s place at the chair, waving her off. YOUNGEST WOMAN joins the others, watching.

The OLDEST WOMAN grabs a pair of scissors in one hand and reaches forward with the other. Takes the MAN’s shoulder. Pulls him up into a sitting position. He resists at first but her insistent pressure makes him melt and he comes up. The weeping has not subsided, he has simply abandoned hiding it.

Expertly, patiently, with the automatic confidence borne of years of repetition, the OLDEST WOMAN cuts the weeping MAN’s hair. The other WOMEN watch. As the haircut progresses, the weeping fades in intensity, falls off, subsides, aside from a few brief spasms in the middle. When the OLDEST WOMAN finishes the haircut, the MAN is docile, spent, exhausted.

Beat.

In silence, the other WOMEN go into their closing routine. Sweeping hair, cashing out, cleaning stations. The only thing not routine is the silence. The OLDEST WOMAN brushes hair from the MAN’s neck. Brushes away hair stuck to his wet face. Dries his face. Undoes the cape, and shakes the hair from it, which is almost instantly swept up in the closing routine.

The MAN stands in dazed, lucid silence as the OLDEST WOMAN folds and puts away the cape, and the other WOMEN close up shop around him.

The OLDEST WOMAN comes to him, stands in front of him. They hold eyes for a long moment. Then:

OLDEST WOMAN
Seventeen.

Beat.

After a moment, the MAN starts to dig in his back pocket for his wallet.

Creative Commons License
This work by Ryan F. Hughes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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