The Man in the Chair

In a city like this, the barber shop is where dreams begin.

“Cut and shave,” he said, sitting down in the barber chair as many men had done before. “Make it look a little more Wall Street, and less like… this.” “Not so long? Clean it up?” said Boris. Boris owned the neighborhood barbershop. It was tucked away in the shadows of grandeur that New York City seems to leave a lot of places. Most of the time he was silent but when necessary, Boris would mumble broken English in his thick Russian accent to the guy in his chair. If it weren’t for the smock Boris wore everyday for twelve years now, you’d think he was the one who just walked in to get a cut—his hair was nearly as thick as his accent.

Boris started on the job sitting in front of him. The guy in the chair looked into the mirror as Boris started running the scissors through his hair. The short instructions were all Boris needed to do his work.

I think Boris, over his years at the shop, has seen a lot of men change—heads of hair recede and go grey and young beards thicken and need another pass to get a smooth shave. But at each swipe of the scissors, the man in the chair changed. Watching his hair fall to the floor was a death of himself and the man he looked back up at wasn’t who he knew.

“My mom always said first impressions matter most,” said the man as he forcefully sat up tall. Boris didn’t respond. What the man didn’t tell Boris was how his mother always told him he wouldn’t turn into much. No matter who he thought he would be—how much he dreamed of greatness—he would turn out just like his father.

More hair fell.

No more words were exchanged for a while. He just sat watching the man he used to be fall to the floor and the man his mother told him he would never become start looking back in the mirror. In a city like this, you can be whoever you want. You can get your hair cut and become a new person. Or at least this is what the man had put all of his hopes in.

Some time went by. The man had lost track because it felt like his childhood had happened again right there in that little East Village shop. Boris wasn’t keeping track of time either; he stopped doing that years ago. Boris grabbed a small mirror to show the man how his new haircut—his new personality—looked as if someone were running up behind him on the street. The man wasn’t used to the new look yet but he knew how important it was to become comfortable with what it stood for. A nod was all Boris needed for approval.

The man stood up and brushed his forehead off. One last time he looked into the mirror in which he watched himself be reborn. He handed Boris a twenty. Again, just a nod from Boris.

As the man walked out of the small shop in the shadows of the city, he looked back at Boris who was sweeping up the man he used to be.

“Thank you,” the man said.