I walk along the main road that is a stretch of tarmac from the gates leading to the residential apartments up to an approximation of two hundred metres towards the Central Business District. The rest of the road or what is left of the road is a layout of patches of tarmac with constant potholes and mounds of earth at different points left behind by the constructors commissioned to put a layer of dirt on the already messed up road. An air of dust dances before me, a situation made worse by the oncoming vehicles, motorbikes, tuk tuks, and bicycles from all angles, some of which overtake like it is the only thing allowed on these detours. The roads are blocked; men and women are at work. My efforts to block and scatter the dust away from my face bear no fruit due to the heavy wind blowing across towards the lake.
I am out to see a barber. I just got here recently and favourite is as foreign to me as the grounds on which I walk. I look on the eastern part of the horizon and there are greyish-black clouds gathering, an indication that the rains could fall any minute, after a long time. I have been postponing my date with the barber probably because of being hesitant to go out and look for one. But with the schools on again after a strike by the lecturers that went close to two months, I am out here looking for one.
I have usually had bad experiences with most barbers. Not the bad-bad kind but the bad-barber-cut kind of experience. Sometimes I think it is usually my style of giving directive, maybe they are never that clear, the directives which prompt a not so clear-cut. So yeah I am out looking for a barber, one who might challenge the notion that is already growing in my bushy head.
I get one, just at the corner close to the roundabout. He, the barber looks the kind who will listen, pay attention to instruction and get paid dues for it. I sit on one of the chairs that face a fancy arrangement of mirrors all round the room. All the chairs are unoccupied, no customers. Perfect for conversations however mute I will be during most of the process. He is slightly an old man, the barber, seemingly in his late fifties, slow and sure with everything that he touches, easy in gait. He lands the shaver on my head with a care like it is the last thing he is doing on earth. He, the old barber is a soldier now. He fights with the hair on my head and I know he will triumph.
I cannot remember the last time I had a treat and felt good like I just had. Not with everything happening around, not with the rains that are refusing to come, not with the crazy heat of the sun that burns like coal, and certainly not with negative news all around. There is so much negativity there is no pot to draw strength from. I rest my head on the extension just above the chair to let him do his dance on my head, he works his way through it, rubs it and applies oil on it.
I am half-awake, half-asleep. A little longer and I’ll be away, away from everything and everyone, away from the barber, away with my head. My attention is caught by a row of methylated spirit bottles arranged in a compartment that is seemingly their rightful place. He has been doing quite some work, doing some walk on people’s heads. At least that is what the methylated spirit bottles show. I want to tell him not to stop, to keep with his battle on my head, to keep fighting the strands of hair that is my head. I want him to proceed because in his war, his war on my head I find peace, peace and freedom. Freedom from all the battles I have been experiencing in my head, freedom from all the chains that I hear jingle and tingle in my head. In his battle I find peace, peace in the pieces that is left of my head, peace brood through a battle, peace brought to life through cuts.
The barber is done and I notice only when he applies the methylated spirit on my head. I fill a little pinch from small cuts I receive in this battle, barber’s battle on my head. The smell of the methylated spirit brings back a craving that I have recently been having, a craving for some strong liquor. It has been doing rounds in my head, this craving, and I have been tossing it all around, putting it in one corner then another. Tucking it safe in holes, dark holes in my head where there is not enough light and air in the hope that it dies out with suffocation. It never dies this craving. Instead it grows, grows and spreads all over my being.
That smell of the methylated spirit actuates a yearning for the strong liquor. I want to be free, free from all the battles in my head if only for a moment, free from myself, from all inclinations. I want the battle that the barber started to continue. I want to be knocked down for a bit because I have been strong, too strong I am forgetting the beauty that is the ground. I want to know what it feels like to fall facedown if just one more time. I want to fall again so that I can learn to rise up, to know what it feels like to let go, let go of all that I have been holding onto, then fall and finally rise up, up from the ashes. I want to dust myself again and feel the coarse sand particles as I rub it away from myself.