The Anxious Listener, the Barber’s Chair, and the Summary of a Life in Half an Hour

23 December 2023

Approaching the door, you glance into the glass window at the fibrous mop on the crown of your head. This has been a long time coming. Slipping into the door with five or six other customers impatiently waiting, you find the only spot open in the lobby, the wall next to the product placement, and browse anything and everything on your phone. Staring into the glassy screen, only a couple minutes pass before you begin walking behind the counter, following the caffeinated creature who called your name. This person (or whatever is left after the events of the day) warmly seats you in front of a few large mirrors. You vainly gaze into the reflection and unfortunately agree with your mother that you should have taken care of this a while ago. But of course, the girl said that you would look so much better with long hair — at least, that’s what she said she thought. You suppose that now you’ll never know what she actually thought. It was such a weird set of circumstances, with how she —

“Same as last time? A four on the top with a fade down the sides?”

You’ve never spoken to this person-with-scissors before, but she seems nice enough.

“Sure, sure, that sounds fine.”

You have no idea if it’s actually fine, but you trust either way it will look better than it does now.

In the reflection again, you instead look upwards into the eyes of this person-with-scissors. She looks tired but still able to go on for a bit longer. You’re hesitant to begin a conversation since once you begin, you’ll need to find more questions, and that just sounds too hard.

“How has your day been?”, she begins.

How indeed, you think to yourself.

“It’s — been fine. Not much going on today, thankfully taking some time to rest. How about you?”

“Oh, it’s been alright. Just the normal stuff. Nothin’ crazy has happened yet.”

“Ha, that’s good. Though I guess less interesting.”

This is the part you’re afraid of: what to ask next? You venture a phrase:

“How long have you worked here for?”

“I started working here… about two years ago now. Yeah, two years ago.”

“Oh, really? I don’t think I’ve seen you here before. But I’ve been away for a while so I’ve probably just never come in when you were working.”

That could have been better, but you’ve reached a dead-end. You pause for too long, dreading to bring up something else, but the silence seems worse. You glance at her in the mirror again, and she somehow seems unbothered by the silence. Looking out the window beside you, clear from the inside, you think quickly of something to say. Aha! A question to continue:

“Are you going anywhere for Christmas?”

“No, my family is here, fortunately and unfortunately. It’s nice having most everyone here, but we don’t all get along very well. Mostly the only thing that still keeps us kind-of together is my Mom.”

“Oh, sorry. I guess that’s sort-of good then,”

“Yeah, especially with my uncle. He can be the worst, he’s really only in my life at all because of Mom, and if it were any other way I’d probably never see him again. It’s weird but at least the blood relatives are close, me and my Mom and my Dad and a couple of my cousins, though I don’t see them much at all anymore.”

You wonder whether she has many people to talk to about these things.

“I gotcha. At least you and your mom are close,”

“Oh, yeah. We’re kind of close but it’s been rough.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, I haven’t had the best time with guys — they can be so stupid. I was in this relationship that was pretty toxic for a long time; he kept leaving me but I kept going back to him, for about four years in high school. Mom kept telling me but I didn’t listen. Then there was this other guy I dated forever —”

She went on about this gentleman for the next ten minutes, describing his narcissism and lethargy.

“—and so Mom said he would never be allowed in the house again. And thankfully, too. That was just a few months ago.”

“Well… it sounds like you’re glad it’s over.”

She vigorously nodded, and chuckled in agreement.

“It did help my relationship with my Mom eventually”, she continued, “it’s hard being an only child when you’re the only one ever getting in trouble.”

“I guess that’s true. No brothers or sisters?”

“Nope, my parents actually adopted me when I was a baby so I’m all they’ve had.”

“Oh, ok. Well it sounds like you have good parents at least.“

“Yeah, they are, though definitely not perfect. Mom used to get on to me and yell at me a lot in high school cause hard as I try I just couldn’t keep up with everything. But eventually Mom understood and it’s been better since after high school. I used to be such a b——. And I’m not technically diagnosed or anything, but I have a lot of anxiety and depression probably from those relationships, but my Mom understands.”

A little confused as to what she means, you want to ask something that you think might help her. It may seem awkward during this brief interaction, but you decide that it’s much more important than feeling awkward. So, fumbling for words, you begin again:

“I’m sorry. I know for me, I’m a Christian, and I talk to God about all of those things and He really does help me. I don’t know if you’re a Christian or have any Christian friends —”

She laughs quietly but sincerely, seeming to remember something important from a long time ago.

“To be honest, me and Him have a lot of catching up to do. It’s been a few years since we talked. But I grew up in church, just decided when I was an adult that it was my choice not to go every Sunday, but I still go every now and then when my parents ask. But yeah, I really do need to catch up with Him sometime soon.”

She softly sighs, in some part of her heart wondering whether He might still care about her.

“Alright, that’ll be $22. Card?”

You walk out, wishing there’s more you could have listened to, and more of the gospel you could have shared. Sure, she talked quite a lot, but her soul slowly swelling to the surface of her eyes made you realize something significant about the person-with-scissors (and the person-without). Pulling out your phone, you squint at its glass, then quickly glance at the glass of the window behind you. The sun sharply glistens on its now-opaque surface.