30th December 2015

The first thing you notice when you enter the salon is its striking design. The word that immediately comes to mind is “chic”, but the words “incredible”, “fabulous”, “stunning” and “space-ship” also come to mind. The dashing barber instantly catches your eye with his piercing blue gaze and for a moment you’re lost at sea. “Welcome to Rory’s, please sit down,” he drawls irresistibly, presenting the barber’s chair as if it were a throne fit for royalty. You melt into the soft leather seat, feeling the stress of the outside world gradually drip away. This is a safe space.

“So, what would you like?” He gestures to the back of the shop where six large pictures are mounted on the wall. It’s the cast of Friends. “Wait, let me guess…” He looks deep into your eyes, diving into your soul, his bluer-than-blue eyes unearthing the essence of your very being, “Hmmm, maybe you’re a Monica as I’m sensing you’re quite mature. Although I can tell you have a great sense of humour so maybe the Chandler would be more to your taste…”

You open your mouth to speak but he’s not finished, “You’re definitely too sensitive to be a Joey, and the Ross is a little too straight-laced… I have it! You’re funny but not too funny, you like to have a good time but you’re also determined and driven. You’re a beacon of empowerment. You’re passion incarnate. The Rachel is the style for you.”

You are taken with his zeal and find yourself nodding in agreement, not that it matters, he’s already begun. A flurry of scissors buzzes around your head like a swarm of attacking insects. But in a good way. You sense the old you dropping to the floor, leaving behind a new, better version of yourself. The barber continues to transform your hair at a blistering pace, like a surgeon removing a malignant tumour after ten cups of coffee. It’s like he knows you better than anyone ever has; better than anyone ever will. You almost feel violated. But in a good way.

After what seems like only a minute the barber stops, “Done.” You’ve been too distracted to look in the mirror until now, but when you do your jaw literally drops. Looking back at you isn’t you — well, there’s a resemblance, but the person in the mirror is stronger, more confident, more stunning. More Rachel. It takes your breath away.

*       *       * 

The brilliant sun stirs you from your daze as you exit the salon, its rays illuminating you in a divine glow. You’re suddenly aware of how vibrant the world is the vivid green of the swaying leaves above, the birdsong lilting delicately in the distance, the smiles on the faces of children passing by.

You turn to wave a final goodbye through the window but the salon is nowhere to be seen. In its place is a decayed and crumbling vacant. You look around frantically but the business is nowhere in sight, just the derelict building in front of you. You stop a passer-by to inquire the whereabouts of the salon. He looks at you with concern, “There used to be a salon here, but it’s been closed for over ten years now.” You thank the man as he bustles off hastily, leaving you to wonder if it had all just been a crazy fever dream. As you start to walk away you catch your reflection in a window. It’s still you smiling back. Only stronger, more confident, more stunning. More Rachel.