Vancouver
4 min

The slow fix

Same same, like always

I’ve never been thesort to fix what ain’t broke.

If something works for me, or almost works for me, or pretty much works for me the better part of the time, chances are I’m going to leave it be.

I still have the same savings account my Uncle John opened for me the summer I turned nine, and I’ve never spent my last 10 dollars because it was my first 10 dollars. I drive my laundry 22 blocks because I like the way the lady there smiles at me the same way she did when I first asked her for change back in 1991, when I lived on East Georgia.

I’ve had the same barber, the guy at the corner of Charles and Commercial, since 1989. Back then he charged 10 bucks for a haircut, and 17 years later it has gone up to a whopping $13.50.

When Daniel first started cutting my hair, he was single and flat-tummied, and so was I. He would neatly fold and tuck a paper towel under and over the collar of the plastic poncho thing they Velcro around your neck, so no little stray hairs would itch me later.

“Same same, like always?” Daniel has asked me this once a month for almost two decades.

This where I nod, and say, “Not too short, or you’ll make me look like a dyke.”

Then we always smile, as if I could easily blend into heterosexual anonymity, if only he is careful not to take too much off of my bangs.

Back in the day, Daniel would go on about how he was never going to have kids, how they were too expensive, and then he would point at the red sports car parked outside his side window and wink at me.

Now his kids are 12 and 10, and he and the woman who used to rent the chair next to him commute to work together in the same minivan, and he doesn’t wink as much, not with the wife around.

Last summer, Daniel opened a second shop on Robson St. He told me that as of next month, I would have to go downtown if I still wanted him to cut my hair, and that his wife and new employee were going to stay behind and run the old place.

I didn’t tell him that I wouldn’t go to Robson St with a gun to my head, not for any reason, even a $13-dollar haircut. It was just not my way. I don’t get my haircut on Robson St; I get my hair cut at the corner of Charles and Commercial.

I didn’t tell him that I was broken-hearted at his nonchalant disregard for our relationship, at how he could just turn his back on 17 years of satisfactory haircuts with a casual wave of his scissor hand. I thought about finding a new barber altogether, but that just seemed like too much change all at once.

I ended up getting his new employee to cut my hair the next month, which was weird because the only instructions I had ever given Daniel were “same, same, like always,” which didn’t work much for the new girl.

She even tried to bust out a blow dryer on me, which was terrifying in its wrongness.

The second or third time the new girl cut my hair, Daniel’s wife was putting the final touches on the neckline of a beefy guy in his early 20s in the chair next to me. He was going on about this fucking faggot who cut his hair the last time, and how the fag wouldn’t cut the back in a straight line how he liked it, but instead the homo tried to talk him into a more natural neckline and how he was forced to tell the fucking pansy that he didn’t want his faggoty advice and that, in fact, he didn’t even want him touching him with his AIDS-ridden fairy hands anyways.

And so on, like that. I tried to tell myself to just keep my mouth shut and get my hair cut, that it was sunny out and up until that point I had been having a great day, and that I had a gig that night and I needed to conserve my energy.

But then I looked up and saw the two dykes waiting in the chairs by the door, and I thought of how I had been coming here for haircuts since this mouthy fucker was in training pants, and that this was my neighbourhood, and there were only six of us in the room, and I knew for sure that three of us were queer, and yet five of us were remaining silent while one of us was spewing hate unabated, and I turned to the guy and told him to shut his ignorant mouth.

He stopped talking for a minute, and his ignorant mouth hung open. I told him that he was talking about my family, and that I would never come into his neighbourhood and sit next to him and talk about his family like that.

He said a bunch more ignorant things that were neither witty nor interesting enough to repeat here-besides, we’ve heard them all before anyway-and then he tossed a $20 bill on the counter and left.

Leaving me, the two other dykes and the two hairdressers draped in an uncomfortable coat of quiet.

To break the silence, I started chatting up the new girl about North Korea, where she had lived up until two years ago. She told me things were different there, for instance, if I had done what I had just done in North Korea, I could have been arrested.

I forgot to ask her if she meant I could have been arrested just for being queer, or for refusing to take abuse for being queer.

Last week, I noticed that the windows of Daniel’s shop were covered in newspaper, and a sign in the front announced that a clothing store was opening soon. I knew right away that I would never set foot in the new hipster clothing store, just on principle, and that I needed to find a new barber.

Just as well, I thought, because ever since Daniel left, things have never been the same same, like always.