Aaliyah, Brenna, and I filled an entire wall with drawings and started on another before Mila announced that I had ten minutes till my hair appointment and that Brenna had seventeen minutes to catch her bus. Brenna eeped rather adorably before taking off at a run. I then thanked Mila and asked Aaliyah how I was supposed to get to my barber’s in so little time. “I’m cutting your hair, boss-man, sir!” she said with a grin. “Did you bring a ladder?” I inquired all too hastily. She pouted at me and crossed her arms before saying, “You’re not being nice today.” I knelt down and told her “I’m sorry, but I’ve gone to the same barber my whole life. When did you start cutting hair?” Still pouting, she replied “I’ve cut daddy’s hair for two years now! He’s always been happy. Don’t you trust me with your hair, boss-man, sir?” I smiled and said, “I trust you with my finances, my business, my legal counseling, and my car, but when it comes to my hair…” She started smiling a little until the end where I was pausing dramatically. “I guess we can give it a whirl.” I finished with a smirk. “Yay! We can give you a mohawk, boss-man, sir! The clients will love it!” she exclaimed, causing second thoughts about what I was doing, but she hadn’t been anything except good to me yet.
I followed Aaliyah toward the entry hall where she started pushing against a wall to no effect. I pushed lightly to see if it might budge, but nothing happened. “Oops,” said Aaliyah before she twisted part of the framework, unlocking the door. “I forgot it was latched.” she explained. Inside was a small stylist’s room with two chairs similar to what my barber used as well as mirrors and other equipment. I took a seat at Aaliyah’s request in one of the seats for the hair wash station, since my hair was undeniably sweaty from the workout earlier. “Now if my hair turns out pink, you’ll be on dish duty in the kitchen for a month.” I warned her. I could hear the smile in her voice as she said, “Really!? I get to wash dishes too!? You’re the best, boss-man, sir!” I jumped slightly when I heard the water start running. Things would be okay. Despite being small enough to pass for a preschooler, Aaliyah was a prodigy in multiple fields. This would be okay. Chad’s hair looked fine every time I saw him. I resisted the urge to sit up and look when I wondered if Aaliyah would even manage to see over the sink. I couldn’t believe I was letting her do this.
Breathing in slowly, I told myself to remain calm. When I heard the gaseous sound of air passing through a thick liquid that squirted against my head, I had to wonder who had used this room in the past month enough to empty a whole bottle of whatever Aaliyah was using. Her giggles at the sound were followed by her saying, “Sorry, boss-man, sir. The bottle farted!” I didn’t feel remotely safe. My hair was going to be pink and multiple lengths. I would need to shave it off completely just to even things out. This was a horrible idea! Just when I was about to stand and call an end to this terrible decision, she started washing my hair. I relaxed. This didn’t feel like a tiny child tugging at my hair. I felt like my head was being expertly massaged. The past few minutes of panic vanished in a heartbeat, replaced by complete peace. There was music, though I couldn’t say what or when she told Mila to play it, and the soft melody lulled me further into bliss. A bliss broken by me being woken up an indefinite period later. “How long was I out?” I inquired. “You couldn’t have fallen asleep, boss-man, sir. Washing only takes a few minutes on boy hair.” I asked Mila to bring up the time only to find that Aaliyah was right.
Aaliyah had me move over to one of the barber chairs, but wasn’t paying much attention. Why did I feel rested now? What caused me to feel as if I had slept? I was so lost in my questions that I hadn’t noticed Aaliyah place a board over my legs until the sound of it locking into place jerked me back to the moment. “Aaliyah, what are you doing and what is that even?” I asked. She crawled up onto my lap and stood on the board before saying, “My stepstool, boss-man, sir. How else am I supposed to cut the front?” The idea of her standing on a ladder to cut hair once again came to mind, but I decided this wasn’t the time to readdress that notion, not when a twelve-year-old was about to cut my hair. Prodigy. I had a prodigy cutting my hair. This would be alright. Though my panic wasn’t as strong as before, I still couldn’t believe I had agreed to this haircut. I couldn’t deny that Aaliyah was an extremely talented girl, but… But what? I wasn’t lying earlier. I casually trusted Aaliyah with countless things. Some of which I didn’t find out she was overseeing until after the fact, but she always took care of me. Sadly, she probably did better at taking care of me than I did of her. I was supposed to be babysitting her at the moment. The panic tried to rise again when I saw hair float down past my eyes, so I shut them and tried to meditate, only to get lost in that otherworldly music once more.
Time passed. I was barely aware when Aaliyah hopped off her “stool” and went behind me, but I wasn’t truly paying attention. I was floating in nothing, attempting to focus on the strange, wordless music. I attempted in vain. The music set me at peace, but not still. I didn’t move in the chair, but I felt that I was traveling all the same. My mind brought up images of forests, ponds, beaches, oceans, and countless other places of beauty that couldn’t truly exist in the strange hues and shapes in which I saw them. My slow, steady heartbeats were all I truly knew of time, leaving me perfectly composed even as I soared off a multihued waterfall. If a narcotic could be comprised of sound, this music would surely be it. With all I felt and all I could imagine while listening to the sound, I was too lost to truly understand the music. I couldn’t even recall the melody from five heartbeats before. When I woke to “Hmm?” I thought I heard the greatest song ever performed, but I now knew of one that surpassed even that masterpiece. If Mila could grow tired of repetition, she would surely grow tired of me asking to hear this again and again for the rest of the year.
I suddenly had that terrible feeling of realizing I was two exits past my stop when riding the bus, but in this case, I missed the end of that enchanting song. There was no turning back. The images that had flooded my mind were gone. I was certain the music was playing just a heartbeat before, but now I sat wondering how any of it went. Did the song truly end or was it cut short? Aaliyah was in front of me again, tapping on my shoulder and saying, “Boss-man, sir! Boss-man, sir!” I just wanted to feel that music carrying me again and to see where the journey was supposed to end. I kept my eyes shut and struggled to remember any of it at all. A moment later I was opening my eyes to make sure that Aaliyah was the one now singing “Open up your eyes and see what lies before you. My work here is done. Boss-man, sir, I implore you. I hold the mirror for you to see what I’ve done is so pretty. Handsomer than you should be all eyes will admire thee.” Though I could tell in her smile that she was only fooling around, the girl’s singing voice was far more beautiful than I would have dreamed possible. If the girl wasn’t gifted anywhere else, she could surely make a career as a singer. Looking into the mirror, I added “hair stylist” to the list of her possible careers. Aaliyah was unbelievably good. Denial was futile.