the third chair

My favorite barber is Natasha, third chair from the door.

It’s not the owner, although I like him, too. He’s outgoing and a little bawdy. He cuts a mean head of hair and always insists on a handshake. One time he told me I shouldn’t get a fade and then gave me one of the best haircuts I’ve had in my life. So yeah, I like him fine.

It’s not Tatiana, either. Pretty and demure. We exchange a few words at the beginning of our transaction and then she’s silent throughout. I close my eyes and sink back in my chair a bit. Her haircuts are never spectacular, but they are the most relaxing by far.

Neither is it the jolly part-timer from Kazakhstan, fourth chair from the door. I think he might be my second favorite. He’s outgoing, like the owner, but a bit more understated. Our chats are simultaneously deep and breezy. He always slips something into the conversation that results in me tipping way more than I should. Whether this is deliberate or not makes no difference to me.

Then there’s the fifth chair, which always seems to be a rotating and unfamiliar face. I secretly hope the lottery by which the queue of waiting, shaggy men are assigned bypasses me when the fifth chair opens up. I’d rather wait.

Nope. My favorite barber is Natasha.

I don’t know why she’s my favorite, really. Perhaps because she is the most eccentric. She monitors my posture like an English governess, and pokes me when I begin to slouch. “Mhmm,” she’ll say, after I straighten up. It’d be easy to interpret this as aggressive—her accent is Eastern European—but it’s more of a pleasant acknowledgement.

She cuts hair the same way a dog chases bubbles in a light breeze, spotting wayward strands here and there, snipping them as they become evident to her. I’ve never had a barber cut hair this way; I was skeptical the first time I ended up in the third chair.

She checks in with me, sporadically. I’ll squint towards the mirror because I am blind. She giggles and hands me my glasses. “Looks good,” I’ll say.

It’s possible that I like her the best because she always remembers my eyebrows. I’m no Frida Kahlo but they tend towards unruly after a while. There’s always one hair that grows way longer than the others. She finds it and mows it down. The others fall into line.

“Mhmm,” she’ll say, monitoring her work, before she walks away to get a hot towel.

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