I trust you now, can you tell?

David Tay

It’s been 8 years since I was here, here at the barbershop a couple blocks from home. I used to call it the “cut hair shop”.

She cut more than my hair though.

What she wielded wasn’t so much a buzzer as it was a lawnmower. Too loud. Too close to my face. And then the scissors. Snip, snip, snip. What if she cut my ear? Snip, snip, snip. She never did cut me, but I’ve left the shop with my skin red and burning. Mom said that I always left the place in tears.

But how do you cut someone’s hair when they’re kicking and screaming all over the place? When they’re crying before you can even get to work? Like they don’t trust you.

Now I’m here again, eight years after. I hear a familiar chime as I open the door. She hasn’t changed, not a single bit. Silent and strong as I remember. She studies me, gestures to the seat. Does she recognise me still? Is it because of the mask?

“You’re so big already” she says. I smile beneath the mask, and I hope she sees it in my eyes.

How long? Do you want a fade? You want your sides shaved? The usual.

She plugs the buzzer in. BZZZZZ. Good old lawnmower.

I close my eyes. It’s a bit of trepidation. But really, it’s to show you that I can sit still now. I trust you. I trust your hands. I trust your juddering buzzer and your sharp scissors.

I stiffen as the buzzing closes in on my ear.

My eyes are shut.

Hair falls on my shoulder and my feet. The strands that spill in front of my eyes tickle, itches. Not going to scratch it. Not going to interrupt your work. Obediently, I tilt my head as you pin the flap of my ear to get to the sides.

Are you smiling? I can’t tell with my eyes shut. I trust you. I trust your hands. Your cold blade doesn’t frighten me anymore.

That one hurt a little. I wince, twitch, but I’m not kicking and screaming in the chair, am I?

Yes, I’m heading back to Singapore next month. Yeah, my brother’s already working. And yeah, time really does fly, doesn’t it?

David Tay is a Sarawakian studying in Singapore. His writing and photography seek to capture the emotions felt in the unconscious everyday. Find him on Twitter and Instagram (@oidavidah). ‘I trust you now, can you tell?’ is a work of creative nonfiction.