He comes to me only when he's desperate, when he has waited too long and can no longer deny his suddenly frantic need for my services.
It's not what I would wish, but I have learned to be patient; I know that eventually he will be back.
His friend, the dark-haired one, isn't like that at all. He's a regular. We two are long familiar with one another. I know what he wants, he trusts me to do my job. Because we know one another so well, in this one area, it doesn't take long at all, just a few minutes, really. Easy for him to fit in during a longish lunch or when he has the chance to slip out of work early.
The transaction is nice and easy with him, casual, as it is with so many others who come to me a businesslike relationship between the one who pays and the one who provides the service. Then he leaves with a smile and a wave and I have a few minutes to tidy up before the next one arrives. Easy.
Oh, but the blond takes some work, an acute attention to details. I find myself, before or after, muttering darkly about what a trouble he is, but I don't mean it. I think actually, I am grateful to him. How easy it is for me to slip into routine, to mechanically do my job, with my interest and my heart far away.
But it can't be that way with him; he must be...seduced. It seems a foolish and outdated concept for one in my line of work, but his apprehension and his need strike one in a very physical way.
So, I wait patiently, and when he comes to me I take the trouble.
He likes to come in the evening, when others' lives are busy elsewhere, with families and dinner.
Like me, he has no family. I have seen the ring on his hand, but he does not speak of it and he does not have the look, somehow, of belonging to another.
So he arrives with the dusk, when there is no hurry. I know when to expect him he is quite gentlemanly about always calling first. He steps in from the busy street, closing the door firmly behind him as if to shut out the frantic world for our time together.
He murmurs a polite greeting, but his expression is one of embarrassment, I think. If he could put aside this need forever, I believe he would do so. But the body will not be ruled.
I smile at him, to reassure him and because, I admit it, I am eager for what is to come. I walk around him, looking him over discreetly, assessing his condition, and stop behind him to slip his jacket from his shoulders. Always, he tenses at this, although surely it can no longer be a surprise to him. I hang up the jacket carefully and I think this pleases him, this small domestic sign of caring.
I turn off the telephone if other clients call, they can ring back later. I do not wish to be disturbed and I think it would offend his somewhat old-fashioned sense of appropriateness if I were to take a call while we are together.
Always, as I do with all my clients, I offer him something to drink. Always, he declines, as though grimly determined to get on with what must be done.
The music plays softly in the background. I confess to a conceit I have discovered that he is fond of Tchaikovsky and I try to have something playing when he arrives "Romeo and Juliet" or "Pathetique." I tried the "1812 Overture" once, but it made him quite tense, particularly the bit at the end with the cannon. So, we stick with the more restful pieces.
We speak very little. Outside this room, I expect we would have nothing in common. From the little bit he has told me, I gather he is well-educated, well-traveled and I, well, I know my trade.
So, instead of talking, we pause a moment in the half-darkened room and listen to the music and the stillness that surrounds it. If we were different people, in a different situation, he might take me in his arms and swirl me around the room. But we are who, and what, we are and we do not dance.
When he is ready, he lets me know by some small movement, a sigh, a glance.
He is in my hands now. I am the professional here. I place him facing the large mirror; I like to be able to see his face even when I am behind him, to know if I am pleasing him.
As I gather my tools, he watches in the mirror, obediently still. It seems, paradoxically, to both frighten and reassure him, this familiar ritual. His eyes are intent, watching every movement of my hands.
When I am ready, I move in close behind him. Our eyes meet for a moment in the mirror. He licks his lips, nervous.
I rest my hands gently on his shoulders for a moment, then I raise them and slowly run my fingers through his hair. So soft. It shimmers in the glow from the nearby light.
His eyes are lowered now, as though he does not want to see what will happen next.
Reaching to the side, where everything has been placed, I close one hand around the familiar, smooth handle, the other around the rigid teeth.
And, raising the comb and scissors, I begin to cut.