My weave has turned into a beehive and I know Alude is not going to be happy with me. I have been putting off going for a retouch for days. I am excited as I drive to the hair salon, I need my scalp to breathe again. I pat my hair in several places, weaves get so itchy. I have been using a knitting needle to get to my scalp and scratch.
The salon I go to is your typical black hair salon. It has the smell of burnt hair, which you wonder if it will survive being cremated like that. It has the little girls who’s hair is being pulled so tight and she looks as if she would cry any minute. It has your Nigerian guy who cuts hair fall day long. This guy will usually play the most outrageous tunes you have heard of, and usually only he understands the lyrics. There is also the one hair dresser who sits and gossips but never seems to have any clients. And then there is the nail lady, applying so much nail glue your need pliars to pry them apart.
I usually do not do weaves, but I was somehow talked in to it by my hair dresser Alude. “It will look nice and you won’t have to worry about combing and blow-drying”, I agreed and we settled on a style that would suite me. Alude is young and judging by the accent and language I would say she is from Zimbabwe. She has a great touch and is at times overly friendly. One would not mind this so much, she is nice. But I have awkward moments when I have to speak with people. But she seems to understand this, and she does my hair in silence so I do not feel I have to engage.
I walk into the salon and I am greeted with a waft of hair products. The television is off today. Sometimes it is on and they will usually put on MTV base, today there is only the sound of Nigerian music coming from the barbers corner.
All the women greet me in unison and I walk straight to Alude. She is eating Russian sausage. She wipes her hands and gets up to greet me. I wonder if she will wash them before getting to work on my hair.
“Long time. come and sit down.” It has only been two weeks since I last came. But I am used to it, the women always say that to everyone, “long time” ,whenever you come back. Even if it has only been a few days.
I sit down in the swivel chair and explain what I want done. I look at myself in the mirrors ahead of me. The whole salon is adorned with mirrors all across the room. Its hard to run away from your reflection here. Last time I was here. I looked like a real mess. No foundation and my hair was uncombed. The reflection I got from them was not pretty.
“I am going to wash your hair and then put you under the dryer ok” she puts a towel around my shoulders. I notice she did not wash her hands after eating. And I also wonder about the towel. I always wonder about the towel, how many shoulders does it drape before being washed. I put the thought from my mind and concentrate on my reflection. My weave is a mess and Alude holds it up from the back for me to see.
“You have not combed the back in a while have you? Its ok most people have clumps at the back. Come on lets go and wash.”
We walk over to the washing station. It is at the back of the room and there are two sinks. I sit down and try and make myself comfortable. It is always tricky because the chairs are way too low and you have to sort of cock your head backwards in a weird angle. This is important or else the water goes down your back and you get wet. I find a position and enjoy having my hair washed.
“It is very tangled. But don’t worry I will have it looking smooth again”, I smile and hope so. This hair cost me a pretty penny and I have not exactly been taking care of it well. We finish up and I am directed to the hair dryer. The hair dryer is by the hair washing station. So close in fact I will be able to watch people coming through to wash their hair.
The dryer goes on and I settle into a comfortable position. To dry this hair, it will take a while. I look around the salon. There are only two hair dressers who are busy. One lady is dressed in jeans and really high heels. Red heels. I have not seen her before, she must be new. Her shirt is tight over her midriff and I am not really sure how she got those pants on. She is busy curling someone’s weave. Every now and then she does a dance to the music. She is quite impressive actually. She starts speaking to the hair dresser next to her.
“Eh, you know I do not feel so great today. I had Amarula last night.” She does not look like a person who is hangover. But then again, she has a thick layer of foundation on, her eyebrows looked tattooed on and are massive. She has red lipstick and blush. She does another foot step dance and laughs, her red heels clicking. The others laugh with her and all offer an opinion on the dangers of drinking amarula.
It is still early so most of the hairdressers have no clients. Every time someone paces by the salon, one of them shouts out, “come! come in! we will make you beautiful.” They all say it just like that, as if it’s the slogan they were taught by the owner to use. No one steps at present steps in, they just stare and walk by. Two hairdressers start conversing.
“You, you said you would do my hair. I do your hair always and you won’t do mine. That is not fare.”
“I told you I had a client and I could not leave them to help you.”
“That’s what you always say. You and your clients. You must do the favour back. I did your hair. Look at my hair now. I have nothing in it. It is dry and breaking.”
“I can’t do your hair now. maybe another time. I have a client..”
“Again about clients.” She turns to red heels and utters something to her I cannot hear. She looks very angry. She looks like the kind of woman you would not dare to cross. But the other woman just takes out her phone and takes a call. She walks out of the salon. The scary woman clicks her tongue several times and puts up her feet. She remains quiet looking sullen and patting her hair.
By this time a few people have walked in. I listen and notice they each wanted different things. Phones were taken out to show the hairdressers what they wanted. The woman closest to me wants braids and have them placed on top of her head in a swirl like manner. Her hairdressers walks to another to ask how this can be done. Most of the other women seem to want weaves. There is a flurry of activity and the women get to work. It is almost lunch time though. A few of the women get up to go and buy lunch, including red heels. She walks out dancing again. Heels clicking again.
I have been in the dryer for a while now and I am beginning to get impatient.
Red heels returns with a few other women with their food. Without even considering hair flying around, some of them settle down to eat. Through the mirrors I can see some exasperated faces. You always just want your hairdresser to get on with it and not stop. It already takes too long. The smell of fish, chips and chicken overtakes the salon.
I am starting to get a cramp in my neck from holding my head up to the dryer. I shift around. Alude comes to check on my hair and declares it still wet. A few more minutes she says. I return to staring at people. The lunch smells are making me hungry. Lunch is eaten quickly and boxes thrown out. Conversation and work begins again. Some of the women are conversing so quietly I cannot really follow what they are saying, some converse in Chichewa and Shona. I close my eyes for a bit. It would be so nice to have a nap. But I might slide out of the dryer. I continue watching.
The Nigerian barbers are the busiest, they just cut hair one after the other. They have also changed the music. They are now playing UB40, and I hear one of them signing along to Kingston Town. I love that song. The mood is light and everyone is busy.
Finally I am done and we walk to Alude’s station and she begins her untangling mission. She blow dry’s my hair and stiches back any loose hair. I close my eyes and enjoy the music.
“There your hair can breathe now. You are done my dear.” She says dear as though she was speaking to a little girl. She combs it and I look. It is great she always does a great job. I pay her. Look around the salon and wave at the ladies. Until the next time.