Harriet Gets a Haircut

By Bowen, Susannah | Hecate, January 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Harriet Gets a Haircut


Bowen, Susannah, Hecate


Harriet gets a haircut

In bright sunshine, Harriet wandered along the footpath to the group of shops near to her home. She walked past a long glass window with Zak's for hair scrawled in flamboyant fluorescent script. She stopped and looked in the mirrored door at her own orderly face, her shadowed mouth and dark hair.

`A blunt trim, no more than two inches.' The huge cloth wrapped around her neck felt like a shroud. The hairdresser hovered over her.

`You like the length, yes? Is growing well. A few split ends only. You would like a wash?'

`No, thank you', said Harriet.

`And you are getting a haircut for anything special? You are having a big weekend?'

`Actually,' Harriet breathed deeply. `I hope you don't mind if we don't talk while you cut my hair. I'm not good at talking to people I don't know. Unfortunately I have a bad stammer.'

The comb grasped her hair and pulled her head forward. With her neck inclined down, she could see the rounded tips of her boots poking out from under the sheet. The hairdresser snipped and examined and sighed and finally unclipped and shook out the shroud. Shards of dark hair fell to the marble floor of the hairdressing salon and Harriet stood up. Her hair was cut squarely to below her shoulders. She tossed her head and her hair swung in one shape like a television ad. The hard lines of the mirrors made her feel symmetrical and controlled.

`Thank you.'

`Thank you.'

Harriet stepped back out into the real world.

She wandered across the road, dodging past jagged rows of traffic and then crowded little metal tables and people leaning forward, drinking coffee. Her limbs seemed somehow too long, stretching out far beyond her body. She passed a clothing warehouse, windows piled high with cotton tracksuits, t-shirts, jersey jumpers, soft cotton shorts.

Beyond the warehouse she came upon Snippets Salon. In the mirror of glass and dark stickers she could see her new blunt, swinging hair, already fluffing out in a halo from the wind on the street. Inside the salon she saw cushioned cane chairs and neat piles of Vogue magazines. She opened the glass door.

`I'm looking for a style, maybe a French roll. I'd better start off with a wash.'

The hairdresser massaged her head, holding his hand over her eyes to protect her from the warmth.

`Your hair is in such condition, even the tips. Something special on today then?'

`A wedding. Yes, I'm going to a wedding. Two friends of mine who I've known since high school, they've been living together now for seven years. They went through all this stress from his family for not being married, he's Catholic, at least he's not but his family are. Now it turns out they went through a wedding ceremony years ago privately and didn't tell anyone. She wore a big white dress, he wore a tux, they got two people off the street as witnesses. They took a lot of photos and hid them L-Z white pages, transferring them every year. Now they want to have the ceremony again so they can get all the presents. They're ready for it to not be private any more.'

The hairdresser wound rubber bending cylinders into Harriet's hair. In the warm closed air of the salon Harriet felt strong and determined.

But outside, Harriet's head felt strangely misshapen under the elegance of the French roll. At the corner of the side street she ducked into an alcove of big black rubbish bins. A red block of flats lurked overhead. Crouching low, she slowly slid hair pins out of her hair and shook it free, combing her hair with her fingers. Her hands were sticky with hair product and her hair was stiff and stuck out at unusual angles. Under a garden tap she rinsed the thick clear fluid out of her hair and wiped her hands dry on her wool skirt. Small wool fibres stuck to her palms.

Quick Cuts was booked out. At A Cut Above Harriet was wrapped in a large white kimono and led straight to a hard high-backed chrome chair. …

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