I was fifteen, the official badass age. The age where you feel like you can sit, stretch your legs on the sofa and order your father to hand over the remote control. I wasn’t as badass though. At the time, fifteen was that age when folks would sneak out of school to go drink booze and dance themselves rugged in some remote part of town where the middle-class did not frequent. The high-end and middle-level joints were no-go areas because it was too risky. The risk being the likelihood of bumping into a teacher or someone who knew you. Being badass comes with a little caution, too. I never did all of that though. Didn’t take booze, did not sneak out of school, did not go to parties, did not speak to girls. Basically, did not do nothing. I was too shy to speak to girls. Once, during provincial school games, I’d approached one, asked her name and that was just about it. I did not know what to say next. Didn’t know what people say next so I stood there, saying nothing, doing nothing, until the girl left. The little confidence that I had, had been cut to size. I used to be amused by my mates who’d talk to this girl then quickly hop to another. ‘How do these guys do it?’ I would often ask myself. ‘It is because they are badass. It is because they are badass,’ was the only answer to it. So I figured the only way to be the cock of the walk, was to become badass! I wasn’t going to sneak or take booze or go to parties, though. That would have been like walking on a tight rope atop a building and trying to get to an adjacent one. If my father somehow found out that I was taking booze or sneaking or doing anything wrong, like he almost always did, I’d be dead meat. My father was bad news. He wasn’t even bad news to be fair, he was catastrophic news! I would do this badass thing my own way. Fifteen wouldn’t have ended without me becoming badass. My own way, I’d drawn a conclusion, was to do something with my head. A haircut would be the first step on my journey to industriousness and becoming a badass.
At four in the evening the following day, I carried with me my gate-pass to the teacher on duty. We had gate-passes that had to be signed by a teacher on duty if you had a pressing issue that you wanted to handle outside school. ‘Why are you going out?’ she’d asked me. ‘My hair doesn’t look too good,’ I’d responded. She looked at my hair, untidy and unkempt, signed the gate-pass and told me that I had one hour. One hour was barely enough so I rushed out to town. The good thing was that town wasn’t too far away so time would not be wasted away in the journey. When I reached, I dashed to the nearest barbershop and sat down. The barber, noticing that I was in a hurry, swung into action. ‘Welcome customer. What should I do with your head?’ he asked. I should have said, ‘Put some sense into it,’ but I didn’t. Instead, I told him to do Shaulin with it. Shaulin was that haircut where a barber takes out all the hair in your head and you end up looking like a potato. Your head would end up looking like one huge potato, especially if you didn’t have beards. I wanted to do Shaulin because at the time, no one was doing Shaulin. It was the signature haircut for kids. And nobody wanted to look like a kid. So nobody was doing Shaulin. Nobody dared to do Shaulin. But there I was, wanting to be badass, so I told the barber to do Shaulin. ‘Do Shaulin. My head should look exactly like my forehead,’ I’d said. ‘Are you sure that is what you want?’ he’d asked. ‘You think I’d come all the way from school to bluff? Let’s do this,’ I’d reiterated.
The barber reached for the drawer and took out the clippers. Clippers is the machine that is used to cut hair. He adjusted the sharpness, poured some spirit on the blade and began doing Shaulin. The reason behind pouring the spirit on the blade, my mum had told me when I was young, was so that you don’t catch aids. And I didn’t want to catch aids so I made sure that spirit was applied. That was the rule, passed down from my mum to me, which I also reckon, I’ll have to pass it down to my kids as well, not because there’s fact to it, but because I do not want to be faulted for having failed to pass something down. The blade on the clippers was sharper than it should have been, but I sat there and waited for the barber to notice. He didn’t. And also, I didn’t flinch the whole time. The blade was also shaving part of my skin. It was painful as hell but I stuck in there, saying nothing, showing nothing. It was like my escapade with the girl when I’d ended up saying nothing and doing nothing. The only difference was that I felt nothing at that time, maybe a little heartache, but it was nothing compared to the ordeal I was now going through. When he was done, my whole head was in disarray. The pain was unbearable. The inside of my head now joined the party too, with a terrible migraine. The barber didn’t notice any of that though because I’d decided to fight the battle myself, from the inside. Interestingly, the skin on my head didn’t look like it had been scratched. It was all perfect. I couldn’t speak for myself, my skin couldn’t, too. I looked at the spirit in front of me and felt like crying. If you have ever applied spirit to an open wound, you’d know how it feels. The feeling is almost like that of a heartburn, only that the spirit one is more painful. And with the heartburn, it is almost impossible to scream. Spirit on an open wound on the other hand, will almost instantaneously draw a wail or a tear.
It is a tradition that after every shave, spirit is applied so there was no way of escaping it. When it was finally sprinkled on my head, I let out a wail that shook the barber to the core of his bones. It was unlike a man to wail, but I did because I couldn’t hold in the pain any more. ‘Why didn’t you tell me to readjust the sharpness of the machine?’ the barber intimated. ‘What you need to do is to readjust the sharpness of your brain,’ I said then walked out. That day, I ended up nose-bleeding as well. Maybe the nose is a brother to the head and the head was overwhelmed so it probably chose the nose to help ease the burden. And the nose, being a good brother, chose to let some blood out. And boy, it did let a lot of blood out. Just like that, my journey of becoming a badass ended before it had even started.
Wanted to be a badass, probably would have ended up becoming one, but circumstances led me out of it. Bad things do happen for good reasons, sometimes.