I sat on the white plastic chair, staring at the thick black mass that was my hair when she walked in. I readied myself for the usual and she did not disappoint. Like every hairdresser before her she exclaimed, “Ehn? Is this real? Is this your hair?”
She ran her long thin fingers into the mass to be sure her eyes were not deceiving her. I didn’t mind. I’m used to these theatrics and besides it was my first time here so all was forgiven. A second later, her apprentice showed up and she pointed out, “Do know you this is her hair?”
“Its a lie” the other stated as if she could be so sure. I was quiet, watching the exchange. The way her eyes widened with surprise almost had me in bits.
“Touch it na”, and that one too plunged her fingers in.
“Ah! Its true o. This hair fine o” she exclaimed in that pidgin with a sprinkle of ‘H’ factor where hair was pronounced ‘air”. She studied the mass, and my face. “Aunty, abeg no vex o. Are you Nigerian?”
Honestly, if I got a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I would be filthy and stinking rich. But, I am used to it so I nod and say that “I am Nigerian”
“So you no get any oyinbo blood”.
I really don’t like to admit that I’m mixed race. No, I’m not ashamed that I’m mixed but its just very insignificant piece of information. But again, I nod and say, “Yes, I am mixed”
“Ehn! I talk it. With the hair and the nose, you no look like us at all. You fine o.”
I laugh and tell her thank you and compliment her as well because she is pretty too. The madam laughs at our conversation and begins to part my hair in four for the “Bob Marley” I have chosen to install. The stall is quiet now, and sticky with heat so I fan myself with the card of the attachment I am to use. Behind us are rows of a variety of crochet wigs, weave-ons and hair extensions and my eyes rove over them till they lock with hers in the mirror. She smiles at me and I smile back, noticing the two tribal marks on either side of her cheeks and the gap of her teeth, a flat round nose and dark skin like night. I think how beautiful she is in her skin and I want to tell her.
We had gone a little into the middle of the head when a piercing sound filled the silence almost knocking me off my seat. She retrieved the source from a black handbag on a top shelf. It was one of those “chinco” phones – the ones with ringtones that can render you irreversibly deaf. A deep voice growled from the speakers. Chinco phones did not come with privacy options.
“Where you dey!?”
“I dey with customer” she answered desperately, “wetin happen?”
“Busola!! Na Busola o!! I dey carry her go hospital!”
I jumped as she screamed “Ehn?! You say!!”
The hairdresser threw herself on the floor. I was in complete shock; scrambling to my feet in an attempt to help her up. She wasn’t having it! She rolled over on the dirty rubber carpet floor, large drops of tears descending down her cheeks.
“Hey!!! My sister!! My sister o!!!”
In minutes, a crowd had gathered at the entrance of the shop. I and her assistant struggled to pull her unto a bench as she kept chanting in a hoarse voice “My sister! My sister”
“Wetin happen” one lady asked.
“Why you dey cry?” another one piped.
“My sister don get accident oooo!!!”
“Hey!!!” the crowd screamed
I was stunned.
The crowd was bombarding her with questions. I looked at the hairdresser. Her black blouse was skewed and smeared with dirt from the floor. There was snot in her nose and what had been a sleek ponytail; was now a disheveled mess.
I stood from the bench and reached for my bag. “I should be going. I’m sorry about the accident”
“Ah my sister don’t g o o. I will finish the hair. I need the money..please”
It would be the second time in a space of five minutes that I’d been shocked. “But what about your sister?”
“My husband don carry am go hospital. Make I finish the hair. Just give me few minutes. I go finish am. Then I go go”
“But I can give you the money then come back later to finish the hair”
She stared at me, fresh tears forming in her eyes.
“No worry” she said as an assurance “E go pain you if you do am like that. Sidon. Sidon”
The crowd started dispersing. One manicurist first, then a customer after.
In an hour, she’d finished and as she started to pack her bags, I paid her double the fee.
“No need to kneel, please. Its the least I can do”
“Thank you sister. God go bless you for me”
“Amen. Take care of your sister”
I left the salon feeling a tug in my chest. The feeling that something could mess the ordinariness of our lives. Today it is the hairdresser, tomorrow it may be me.