when i sat down at the salon recently, after a long day, ready to relax and be pampered, little did i know this experience would turn into such an unexpected human encounter. i was assigned a new stylist, ‘w.’ he was young, feminine, full of tatts, with asymmetrical hair, earrings, and looked to be trying to establish his individuality, and find his place, both in the salon and in the world. he was quiet and gentle, and listened to what i had hoped to see happen with my hair, and then we began the transformation process.
as time passed and we talked, and shared a common space, he said i made him laugh with my openness and my stories, and i noticed that he became more relaxed and talkative, and let down his guard a bit. i asked him what had inspired him to want to do hair and he slowly shared his story. we had coffee as he worked his magic, and he told me stories about his life. at times, we both laughed out loud, at times it was quiet, as he continued on with his tale.
he had always loved to do hair, was badly bullied most of his life, felt that only one person in his family truly accepted him the way he was, how he was alone, but that he had found hope, and after he was established he planned to move south to the carolinas to try to find his old love and begin again.
then came the story, so incredibly sad, about how he had decided to end his own misery one day, and was saved from it by a surprise puppy he had always longed for, (a unexpected gift from the person who understood him), licking him on his face, waking him up, from what he had expected to be his last sleep, on the morning of what he had planned to be his last day. something about the puppy, instantly loving him unconditionally, with no judgement, changed him and his plan. he knew at that moment he needed to take care of this puppy who was helpless, and loved him and needed him. this puppy, this gesture, had saved his life. this was the turning point when he decided life was worth living and to go and live it on his own terms. he had found the hope he needed to go on another day. we both were openly weeping at this point.
he said, ‘i don’t know why, but i’ve never told anyone this. it felt like you wouldn’t judge me for it though and thank you for listening and caring. i’m sorry i was crying and made you cry too.’ i told him i was so happy that he felt comfortable enough to share this with me, and that it was my pleasure to meet someone who so clearly overcame great odds and yet, continued on. i told him he was an inspiration.
it was 3 hours of my life, sitting in his chair, sharing stories, drinking coffee, laughing and crying, and it was an amazing connection, a human story of the finest sort, from a person who, when all was lost to him, found his way and his hope once again.
in the end we hugged, and as we each went our separate ways, i told him i’d see him soon, when i needed some more of his hair magic and to share more stories. when i called soon after to schedule my next appointment with him, they said that ‘w’ had left the salon without explanation and was not coming back. i hope he is working his way towards the carolinas.
If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library? – Lily Tomlin