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Like the Fingers of Wolverine

There is something so not right about having a haircut on the chair right next to the glass wall of a mall barbershop. The haircut – anybody’s – is in itself unremarkable. It is when the barber gives you the customary hiling of a masahe that he makes a spectacle of you for all passers-by to see.

But I am getting ahead of myself as I often do when I write my silly stories...

I normally visit Bruno’s at lunchtime for my monthly haircuts. Often I eat a quick lunch at the cafeteria or at the mall’s food center before walking to the barbershop for a cut – and more often than not, I can be back inside my office in less than an hour.

I am never choosy about who cuts my hair – the barbers at Bruno’s are all equally good – but I grimaced when the lady at the counter called out the barber next-in-line to get a customer and pointed me toward the chair next to the glass wall. I thought I had not seen the approaching barber before; but he assured me he cut my hair last December.

Either my memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be; or the barber was a damned good liar!

So I sat down to get my hair cut; observed for a while to see that the barber would not carve crazy patterns all over my head; and – satisfied that the barber was really one – told him iidlip ako. The haircut, predictably, was unremarkable.

Before long, the barber excused himself so he could attach the foot-rest to the chair; pulled down the back-rest; and swiveled the chair to the side so my shoes would not kick at the wall-mounted desk in front of me. It was time for my hiling na masahe.

So naturally, I kept my eyes shut. This way, if there was anyone na nakatanghod sa akin, I would not have to see that person. I could imagine what people who would see me would be thinking in their heads, “Ah-ah... Sarap na sarap...”

While I was getting my masahe from the barbero, I also wondered at the justice of my having to pay for my haircut when there I was lying right next to the glass wall as the barbershop’s advertisement of its services. Perhaps – I thought – they ought to pay me.

Not that this particular barber’s masahe was all that enjoyable. Put things this way; when my barber asked one of his colleagues who was on his way to the door if he was going to eat, I instinctively knew that my barber had not had his lunch yet.

Most of this shop’s barbers have firm fingers – the sort athletes enjoy because they loosen tautness in the muscles of the limbs after physical exertion. My barber’s fingers today, though, were the fingers of a hungry barber. Ah-ah... Kung sa kendi ma’y marshmallows... Walang kabuto-buto!

Either that or talaga lang malambot ang kapit; walang kapuwersa-puwersa... In fairness, the haircut was good!

Normally, when I get my massage from the other barbers of the shop, as the routine winds down I plead silently inside my head, “Please! Please! Kauntî pa...” Today, I was happy the barber could go for his lunch.

There was this time, though, back in the nineties when the coach of the volleyball team – a friend – and I would treat ourselves occasionally to a massage after training just to get a reprieve from tired, aching muscles. One time, he told me may nadiskubre raw siyang barbero who also did home massage service.

So we made an arrangement: he would fetch the barber from his shop just outside the Base; then we could have our sessions with the him at my place.

When they arrived, I took one look at the barber’s fingers and was immediately impressed. They were long, angled and taut. Ah-ah... Mapapahiyâ si Wolverine...

My friend went first. The barber-cum-masseur wanted to know how the pressure was. “Mabigat,” my friend told him. So the barber eased up somewhat, although I could still see my friend’s body twitching when the barber’s fingers passed a particularly taut muscle.

After an hour, my turn came. I was lying face down on the bed. The barber lubricated his hands, clasped my calf muscles in a tight grip and pulled downwards. My body instantaneously arched upwards as I cried in pain, “Ahhhh!!!”

Ah-ah... Parang nagmamasa ng harina!

To think that he had already gone for a hour with my friend! “Mabigat?” I wanted to cry out, “Hindeeeee!!!” But all I could limply say was, “Pakibawasan...”

I like to think that I have a reasonably high pain threshold. Yet, although the barber reduced the pressure from his fingers somewhat, it was still spectacularly heavy!

What was supposed to be a lazy stress-free evening was, instead, turning out to be quite an ordeal. The barber reassured me that I would feel so much better the next day after I got a good night’s sleep. Although some of the strokes were painful – or so he said – these were, in fact, loosening up the tight knots along my muscles.

They did not, of course. When I woke up the next day, getting up from bed was painful; walking even more so.

When I saw my friend the next day in school, we both agreed the barber’s fingers were a little too strong to be any good. And that defeated the purpose of the massage...

We never asked him again.

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