It was only a haircut – but I hate them still

May 22 2016

Hi Pop

I am having a pretty tough day, I had a job to do this morning and I got home absolutely stuffed. Driving scares me now; I get set on a path to where I want to go and then forget where I am heading, it is a godawful feeling and it drains the energy from me.  

My memories of you are of a wonderfully kind man, totally in contrast to my paternal grandfather; you were a humble working man with none of his affected hubris.

We were visiting you and Grandma the week before the Aunts wedding. The plan was for me to have my first proper haircut; it would be the first time I had ever been inside a barber’s shop.

Nothing could have prepared a little boy, who had rarely been outside the confines of the family farm, for the rank smell of masculinity that overwhelmed you when stepped inside the dingy shop. Stale cigarette smells, mingled with the years of sweat and the ingrained odours of generations of burping, farting men.

The barber’s chair was to my childish eyes; a lofty apparatus, designed for the torture of little people like myself and I screamed and wriggled on the hard board the Barber had put across the arms to bring me to the right height.

He lost patience with me and grabbed the strop, hitting me hard across the chest and arms while your eyes greedily consumed the delights of the page three girl, in the sordid “Australasian Post”. I could sort of understand that, the magazine would have been forbidden in your home

I screamed ever louder, but; there was no stopping the process and the barber held me roughly to keep me still, as the sobs racked my small body.

Beltings were nothing rare in our home, but even today, and trying to make allowances for changes in attitudes; there seems to be something a bit wrong with a stranger using the belt on a three-year-old.

At the end of my torture, you paid the barber which seemed to add insult to injury as far as I was concerned. We walked from the dimness of my torture chamber into the incessant light of the outback street with tears streaking my dusty cheeks and sobs like lumps of coal in my chest.

You must have thought twice about walking me home in this state and we stopped by the general store to buy a sweet to placate me.

Even at that age, it appears, I could be bribed and we walked, hand in hand, back to your humble, dark cottage on the outskirts of this dry, desert town, the memories of my torture slowly fading.

I have often wondered why my childish brain apportioned no ongoing blame to you for this incident, but I do know, I never forgave the barber

You said it was just the way things are, and somehow I accepted that.

Bruce

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