The speaker spat out gibberish 90s music. It was as if a DJ was scratching a turntable, like the songs were broken syllables followed by a period. Eight inches tall, the speaker stood beside the shelf that contained the hairdressing tools adjacent to my chair. One of the hairdressers sat comfortably on the couch watching some videos which, based on the music, was of the Tiktok dance trends, Bonny Bailey and Jason Derulo’s music. Finally, she stood up and turned off the noise.
I sighed in relief as I read my book as my wet chemically-drenched hair sat on the hairdressing cape surrounding my shoulder, making me look like some sleek superhero. I was the only customer at the time, so after the music was out, there was dead silence for some time until one of the two gay hairdressers, the taller one with a round tummy sticking out from his black shirt, turned the music on again. And it was loud.
Why he couldn’t be disturbed by the noise was beyond my comprehension. I wondered if he was deaf or he didn’t understand the difference between music and noise.
He sat on the couch and played with his phone while Wendy Moten blurted out the broken syllables of her song that Sheryn Regis popularized. By that time, there were other customers in the salon, two young women who were having their nails done.
Finally, another sensible person felt the need to eradicate the disturbance lowered the volume of the music. And as if he was a miracle maker, he turned the speaker in a different direction, which surprisingly worked well. The miracle maker was the other gay hairdresser who was treating my hair. Finally, the songs were full and not a gibberish remix.
I switched between reading a book and playing a zombie mobile game and didn’t notice the crowd behind me until there were too many voices.
A woman sitting behind me was getting her curls and make-up. ‘I have a graduation pictorial,’ she told the tall gay hairdresser and let him decide whatever hairstyle suits the occasion best.
Another woman sat a seat apart from me. A bit older than me, I suppose. I heard them discussing her eyelashes extension and whether she did her previous lashes in the salon. She said she did it somewhere else. I listened to the tall gay hairdresser suggesting a different treatment. Then, when I looked up, I saw her from my peripherals, and she had some foil on some parts of her hair, that area above the forehead.
I looked at my mirror and saw the lady behind me. Drawn by the fascinating curling of the hair, I stared. Batch by batch, the hairdresser curled a portion of her hair on hot hair iron, then released it.
I was back into my reading when I heard a man’s voice. He asked for help, said he was a construction worker who couldn’t find any job anymore and he was hungry. Somebody talked to him. There were different sounds all at the same time. Background music, people talking. I couldn’t make out what happened to the man. Until it, all went back to the usual. I only heard the background music. I didn’t know if he got some help or was asked to leave.
My hairdresser checked my hair strands carefully, one strand then another. Then he said, ‘time to rinse your hair.’
I walked into a narrow walkway that led to a tiny room. I sat on what seemed like a dentist’s chair, my head in a sink. He rinsed my hair, applied another type of chemical, waited for twenty minutes then rinsed it again. Finally, he wrapped my head with a pink towel, and we headed back to my chair and started drying my hair. Right hand with a heavy-duty blow dryer and the left with a comb. The teeth were wide apart. What with all the chemicals and heat on my hair, I remembered the song Radioactive.
He gently combed my hair with his hands and said, ‘this is your hair now.’ His eyes smiled, so proud of the finished product. As if he made a miracle of turning seaweed into silk.
I usually dread salon days. Most of my memories in the salon were gruesome, and I usually end up having a headache at the end of the day. It’s the sitting for several hours (minimum 4 hours which could go on for 6 to 8 hours), washing of hair, drying of hair, ironing of hair, hot iron touching my scalp, the noise of hairdryers and gossip, the pungent smell of the chemicals and the hunger. So I went to the battlefield today armed with a water bottle, a pack of Oreo, a dozen happy peanuts, and hot coffee in a hydro flask. Surprisingly, this treatment went faster than I could empty my hydro flask. I checked in at 11:30 am and left at 3:30 pm with silky smooth, rebonded hair.
I paid the bill and tipped my miracle hairdresser, then headed out. I rode a tricycle home. There were two people inside the sidecar, so I sat behind the driver. I asked him to stop at the gasoline station and held a fifty peso bill in front of him. He asked if I had a smaller change. I didn’t have. His eyes unveiled a smile hidden behind the mask. He said something incomprehensible and drove away. I was left standing in front of the gasoline station with the fifty peso bill still in my hand.
A few seconds went by. Then, I walked home and continued drinking the coffee in my hydro flask.