I have never enjoyed getting my hair cut. I know that many women see time spent at the hairdresser as a bit of “me time” and they like to while away an hour or more getting pampered and prettied up. But not me. Especially as I’ve had the same haircut since I was about 27, a simple bob that takes approximately seven minutes to cut. So basically I just try to get in and out as fast as possible and without too much unnecessary chit chat.
And then I met Joaquín. I don’t even remember exactly when or what made me stop in at his little salon just off one of the main shopping streets here, but since that first visit I’ve kept going back for more than twenty years. Why? Well mostly because of Joaquín. I was definitely NOT his regular sort of clientele. I never booked appointments because I’m kind of silly that way. It’s like I wake up one morning and think – omg I need a haircut. And it has to be THAT day and also fit into whatever else I’m doing. So it’s always been a bit hit or miss, but mostly I’ve been lucky with Joaquín and his small team fitting me in. I mean, they also knew it was a seven-minute haircut.
Previously I’d had some very traumatic and over-priced experiences, because it never occurred to me that anyone could fuck up a simple trim (newsflash – oh yes they can). But that first time at Joaquín’s I felt immediately comforted by the simplicity of the décor and the other women (mostly middle-aged) happily chatting away to each other. EVERYONE knew each other there. Except me. But somehow that made me feel even cosier there, because they all also happily ignored me.
And bless, Joaquín sussed out very quickly that I wasn’t the chatty type, and so he’d spend his time gossiping with the other ladies while he cut my hair, letting me off the hook, and also providing some genuinely fabulous entertainment. I loved it. I heard about weddings, and birthdays, and families and somehow felt a part of it all. Always courteous, Joaquín was extra kind while I was sick with cancer and made gentle comments about me looking better and how I was getting new “baby hairs” growing back in.
So my last haircut was July 2020, which thanks to Covid was about six months after the previous one (normally I get my hair cut every 3 months and even then get the tsk-tsk from Joaquín that I’ve been away too long). At that time I was being so extra careful about Covid that I only went in because there were no other customers and I wouldn’t even let him blow dry my hair. So it was a quick cut and I was off, heading home with wet hair.
Then I stopped in just after Christmas to see if he could squeeze me in (by this time he no longer had his team). He said he was just finishing up with someone if I could come back in half an hour, but I said no problem I’d see him another day. Which turns out was today. I popped my head in (his space is shared with a barber shop next door) and saw that the salon was shut. The young barber came out and I asked if the salon closed in the afternoons now or…
… and I was told that Joaquín had died in February. I was so shocked and sad that I didn’t ask the obvious question – was it Covid? And I’m still shocked and sad because, although we didn’t actually know each other, he’s been someone in my life all these many years. Someone always there. Someone who has been kind and understanding (and could cut a decent bob!). And just well… fuck. I’m so sad that I didn’t wait and go back in half an hour that last time. I will honestly miss him so much.
On my way home I passed a new salon recently opened in my street. It’s also small and always packed, and there’s a sign saying they are by appointment only. Well who knows? Maybe Joaquín’s spirit was looking out for me. I saw they only had one customer and asked if they could squeeze me in for a quick wash and cut, no blow dry. And they did. It was the saddest haircut of my life.
Updated: I came across this article that is a lovely homage to Joaquín and it states that he did indeed die of complications from Covid. ❤