Saturday, January 20, 2007

Barbershop nihilism

I visited the oldest barber shop in Madrid this morning. It had been some time since my last visit and my hair was unkempt.

Previously, Rafael had been forthcoming in his prescription: "You need to get rid of all this," he had counseled, kneading my shaggy mane with a splayed claw, "'ve got thick, really thick, hair at the back and on the sides, and since you're bald on top it makes your head look deformed."

This time I was spared: today was not a day to waste on the fripperies of my deformities; Rafael had weightier matters on his mind. "Plastic surgery, silicon, face lifts, it's all lies. Artificial breasts aren't my thing, I like my women all natural."

In the mirror, an old man solemnly agreed. His face was like oak and his hair was the colour of dye.

"Money. If you've got money you're the smartest, best-looking, funniest man in the world."

Rafael fell silent for a moment as he trimmed the hair off the tops of my ears. Then his discourse continued, "but really, there are only two things that matter in this world: life..." The snipping stopped as Rafael lifted his gaze to look me straight in the eye through the mirror.

I heard a croak behind me: the oldest patron of the oldest barbershop in Madrid was finishing Rafael's sentence, "...and death."