Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Barber’s Tale

I always knew that I would write about the barber shop. It’s a small, one story cement building, unremarkable in every way. I noticed as soon as I went inside that it was different, although how didn’t become apparent until later. Until after I spoke to the fat barber with the tattoo.

There were chairs for three customers. Two were apparently mis-matched barber’s chairs, but I think one was actually an old dental chair, reincarnated. They were all old, and would be considered junk or antiques anywhere else. But they worked, and for $2.00 US you could get a decent hair cut. The massage afterwards was extra.

I liked the big guy. He was okay at cutting hair and didn’t skimp on the massage. I swear he almost tipped the whole dentist’s chair over a couple of times when he was kneading on my back. And I liked the way he’d go clip clip clip with the scissors all over, even if you didn’t really have any hair to cut. It made you feel like you were getting your money’s worth. It was odd how he always put his electric clippers in a drawer – they were still plugged in so the cord hung out, and there was nothing else in the drawer, but he’d never lie them down on the counter like the others. Always in the drawer.

One day I noticed that he had a tattoo in Arabic on his arm. That is fairly unusual, so I asked him about it. He said that he used to work in the Ministry of Finance under Saddam Hussein. Just a low-level job, but one that paid the bills. But when all of the troubles started many people would single out former ministry employees and denounce then to one or another of the religious militias. He was afraid every day that he might be kidnapped and beheaded. Or blown up. And the tattoo was his name, in case there wasn’t enough left for his family to identify him.

One day he went home and his wife and two children weren’t there. He searched for three days, not sleeping. But he could not find them. Very soon, he ran out of money. So he decided that he would take a dangerous job (any job with the Americans is dangerous) and make enough money so that he could search all over Iraq, until he found his family, or found out what happened to them. “So you see, I didn’t need the tattoo. I didn’t need it at all. It was just a waste, such a great waste, all of it, wasn’t it? A waste.”

2 Comments:

Blogger tanyapohrt said...

Great story, but wow, the poor barber. There must be so many tragic tales associated with this war (any war, really). And it is a waste.

May 11, 2007 9:04 AM  
Blogger KAB said...

A waste for our soldiers, their families, the Iraqi civilians, and our future generations. I think it is a real test of a soldier's worth if he/she can still do his job to the best of his/her ability, even though the cause and rational for a war is all fucked up. The soldiers don't get to choose the wars they will fight - they (and we)only get to choose the leaders who will send them to war.

May 11, 2007 10:00 AM  

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