Some people leave their mark on you
I was 13 and needed a haircut. I knew this because Mom told me I needed one.
Mr. Mack Idom — a down-the-street neighbor who also went to church with us at Chunky Baptist where my dad had just moved as pastor — told my mom and dad to send me to him and he’d fix me right up. My brother Brad needed that trip, too, so he went with me and we both got our ears lowered.
Someone joked to us that Mr. Mack had been in the military so he would only be able to give us whitewall sides with a little strip of hair left down the top, like a boy being sent to basic training or off to war. I silently bid my hair goodbye. With a cut like that, I knew there was no way it’d ever grow back. I’d seen Army boys and it sure looked like theirs never did.
We walked through the door of Mr. Mack’s shop and I was first in the chair. I guess he was used to boys being nervous and such at getting their locks shorn and knew I was no exception. He told jokes and asked how we were enjoying living in Chunky and I don’t recall saying anything more than the obligatory yes/no sirs and thank yous.
In a lot less time than I thought it would take to rid my Charlie Brown-round head of its follicle-born fur, Mr. Mack said he was done. He just needed to trim my neck and above my ears.
Then he produced the gleaming straight razor that used to be every barber’s choice to put the finishing touches on their work. The warm shaving cream went across the nape of my neck and up above and behind each ear. His thumbs had no problem getting behind my ears since they stuck out pretty well on their own.
Then the razor made its quick, precise scrapes across my neck and up to my ears where Mr. Mack carved his initials into my head. At least that’s what I thought he was doing at first.
I don’t know the proper terminology for the little piece of flesh that connects the top of your ear to the rest of your head, but when a strap-sharpened razor blade pulls lightly across it, it cuts. Both sides.
I resisted the urge to throw my hands up and make sure both of my external hearing apparatuses were still attached to the previously-mentioned orb atop my neck. I didn’t worry about that when Mr. Mack splashed enough aftershave on his hands for every Army boy in a platoon then smacked it onto the shaven areas, including into the fresh furrows on my ear flesh.
Oooh, it burned.
I stepped down from the chair and swapped places with Brad. His head was shorn like mine and ears clipped in like fashion. I noticed he still had hair, so I hoped I did, as well. I was still hesitant to check the mirrors.
On the walk home we felt every slight breeze and puff of mosquito breath on our hyper-sensitive aftershave-disinfected ear nicks.
I went straight to the bathroom when we got home and peaked into the mirror. Whattayaknow? I still had hair. It looked like an upside-down hair bowl on my head, but I was used to that kind of haircut. At least I wouldn’t be mistaken for a young military recruit.
I still don’t enjoy haircuts. I never did. They give me the same anxiety-filled anticipation of sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room. I’m not sure why. I can’t explain it. But I’m always glad I’ve gotten a haircut when I do.
It’s been a long time since Mr. Mack cut my hair regularly. In fact, he left his chair behind and went on to Glory years ago.
It’s been awhile since anyone used a straight razor to trim up after I had a haircut. But I admit that I think of Mr. Mack every so often and it’s always a fond memory. Few old-school barbers like him exist anymore, it seems.
Mr. Mack was a human landmark in his concrete block shop on Hwy. 80 in Chunky for many years. I miss him. He made his mark on a lot of people over those years.
Just above each ear.
Brett Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.