Simon looks out of the window. He has turned the chair around halfway, the chair where, very occasionally, a client sits and waits. He does his best to keep the chair empty; he chooses his customers carefully. Or rather, he doesn’t feel like cutting hair the whole blessed day. On the window, it says ‘Chez Jean.’ Jan was his grandfather and, back in the 1970s, his grandfather wanted to be all hip. Around the corner, there were two bistros with wicker bottles on the ceiling. There was no reason to change the name of the business when he took over. ‘Chez Simon’? No. Above the shop, there are two more floors – the entire building belongs to him. Simon can afford not to work all day long. The weather is drizzly. It is around midday. A customer is coming at half twelve. If anyone wanted to, they could eat off the floor. Everything is gleaming, everything is in the right place, the razor is sharpened, the capes are washed. Simon sits and waits. His half-twelve appointment is a new client. Simon doesn’t know him. Van Oorschot, that’s his name. He phoned and said someone had recommended Chez Jean to him. ‘That’s nice,’ Simon had said.
In the park, a young man is sitting on a bench. A young man with wet hair. Pitch black. Simon has been looking at the back of the young man’s head for a while. It could do with a trim, he thinks. Or maybe a bit more than a trim. Simon suspects he has a powerful neck, a neck that deserves to be seen. The clippers might come in handy. Strange, a boy like that, sitting there on that bench, in this drizzle. From time to time someone runs past him, there are people with dogs too, just now a chocolate Labrador came and sniffed at the young man’s knees, maybe his crotch too. Dogs are shameless. He hardly moved his head, not a word was exchanged between him and the dog’s owner, although that was apparently what the owner was after. Dogs are a social lubricant. Simon saw the dog and its owner approaching from the left. Simon noticed the owner looking at the young man. Failure, the dog pulls at the lead, and man and animal exit right. Maybe the young man doesn’t like dogs. Simon looks at the clock hanging above one of the two mirrors. Ten past twelve. Simon sighs, gets up and walks over to the espresso machine.
A little later, he is sitting again and sipping his coffee. Although he hardly feels as if he’s spying, the cup of espresso still gives him something of an excuse. Hairdresser taking a little break. Hairdresser waiting for his next customer. Two young women in tight sports clothes run past the bench. Simon might be able to deduce what the young man looks like by the way one of the women looks at him. He has to make do with the back of his head. That is enough. Maybe it’s even better. He doesn’t want to be like the dog diving shamelessly into the young man’s crotch. He wants to cut the boy’s hair. He wants to work with his fingertips. What does his hair smell like? Of poplar leaves? Of outside, of rain? It looks greasy. Not unwashed, but oil-like. Glossy. He has to suppress an urge to tap on the window. First the scissors and the comb, a bit of distance; distance that is always there anyway, because you are looking at each other in the mirror. Never directly. Later the clippers, the razor. Tidying up the sideboards, when he can use his hand either to push the head away from him or pull it towards him. The same applies to shaving the back of the neck. Away from himself and towards himself, his hand on the young man’s forehead. There is no need to do that, but it is the hairdresser’s privilege. Touching the head, caressing the neck almost unnoticed, fingertips feeling the beating of the blood in the carotid artery. The boy has a small beard, Simon is almost certain of that, and beards are precisely what Simon specialises in. Then he always has free rein with the necks, the tender skin, the Adam’s apples, the beating of the blood, so close. The thumping of a carotid artery in his fingertips, a feeling that remains smouldering inside him for a long time; a kind of violation somehow, but without the victims noticing anything. They head back outside, satisfied, running their own fingers over the clean lines of their beards. They leave the hairdresser behind; they are no longer thinking about him. But the hairdresser has the beating of their blood in his fingers and he does not wash his hands after applying the cooling cream.
Simon places the cup on the windowsill and stands up to turn around the sign that says OUVERT and FERMÉ. No, he thinks, I am not a dog diving shamelessly straight into someone’s crotch. He stands at the window in the door. The young man finally gets up. There he goes, thinks Simon, and he realises that something – and he hasn’t even felt any skin or hair yet – is already smouldering inside him. Just the thought of trimming a beard, shaving a neck is enough. He clears his throat. The craving may be stronger than the fulfilment of that craving. Simon is 45 and he is alone and he does not find that strange at all. He looks at the clock again. Just before half past twelve. Van Oorschot. A name that makes him think of jug ears and a bulbous nose. A beige raincoat. His gaze moves from the clock to his grandfather’s framed advertising posters. To the cupboard with the ancient bottles of Berken hair tonic, the red pots of Brylcreem. When he turns his head back, he is looking straight into the smooth-shaven face of the young man with the pitch-black hair.