23 July 202119 August 2021 Fiction / Friday Fiction / Friday Features Fiction | Slash Hei Gou You’d agree that your hair is quite long? I suppose so. Speak up, please. Yes, I suppose so. Most people would say that your hair is very long. Would you agree? That’s fair, yes. Right, and having hair this long is somewhat inconvenient, yes? It can be. It falls in your eyes. Yes. You wear a shower cap when you shower, because it takes so long to dry your hair if it gets wet. That’s right. Even with the aid of a blow dryer, it takes a long time to dry. Yeah. Long dark strands of hair are scattered about your apartment. Yes. They clump in the corners and clog the drains. Yes. This constant shedding has necessitated the calling of a plumber. Yes but just once. And your hair is prone to becoming tangled in the zipper of your dress? Occasionally. Not often. It must be quite painful when it becomes tangled. The sensation of your head being pulled back and tilted downwards. It’s not that bad— You’ve been late for an appointment as a result of the additional time spent extricating your hair from a zipper, which you didn’t factor into your forecast of the amount of time it would take you to prepare for and travel to said appointment, is that correct? I mean, once, yes— And you’ve actually forgone appointments entirely as a result of the additional stress and discomfort associated with reaching behind your back and fiddling with the unseen zipper while repeatedly tugging at the entangled hair, which, once lighter methods proved unsuccessful, you had to forcefully tear from the zipper’s soft steel teeth, leaving you in such a state of anxiety and exhaustion that you were no longer capable of leaving the house and attending said appointments, is that correct? Yes. Overall, you’d say that your hair’s length is quite problematic, yes? I suppose so. And it doesn’t look good, either. Well, I think it looks OK. I mean, it’s not that bad or anything. The ends are dead. Yeah. It’s matted in places. Yes. And these matts can’t be removed by brushing, is that correct? They have to be cut out, correct? I guess so, yes. Your hair is too long for you to cut yourself, is that right? Yes. Short hair—a bob, perhaps—would suit you better. I’m not sure. Understood. People with your face shape, build and complexion tend to look better with short hair. Do you agree with that statement? Well, yes, I guess so. It varies from person to person. There may be some exceptions, but you’d concur that people with long, wan, oval-shaped faces, such as yourself, typically look better with short or cropped haircuts? I guess so. And, in the past, you yourself have looked better with a short haircut, is that right? I mean, I looked alright with short hair. I don’t think it suited me that much more than long hair. And, in fact, you felt happier with a short haircut, is that right? Yes, but I don’t think it was because of the haircut that I felt happier or anything. I was just happier at that time. It could have been symptomatic, in fact. I’m sorry? Short hair may have been symptomatic of your happiness, rather than causative. Yeah, I suppose so. It’s probably just a coincidence. But you’d agree that you’re not as happy now as you were when your hair was short. Yeah, but, I mean, there’s other things… Haircuts and happiness aren’t that closely related. Would you say you’re a busy person? No, no busier than most people. You don’t work for a living? No. You don’t have a family? Well— You don’t have children, unlike so many of your former classmates? No. You don’t have obligations of any kind, apart from your regular appointments with Dr. Backs, which you often fail to attend? No. And you’d say that, despite not working, you aren’t short of money? Your disability pension easily covers your meagre expenses. Yes. And your appointments with Dr. Backs are further subsidised at the Australian taxpayer’s expense, is that correct? Yeah, that’s normal though. Of course. You’re not physically disabled, would you agree? I’m not, but—that’s not the point. I’m entitled to that. Sure, there are worse off people than me— Please— I don’t have to fucking justify myself— Please, calm down. And watch your language. You’re reading too much into things. Sorry, it’s just— The purpose of these questions is to establish whether there are any barriers preventing you from getting a haircut, which there don’t appear to be. Would you agree? Yeah, I guess, but— You have ample free time to devote to getting a haircut, you possess the funds to pay for said haircut, and you are physically and financially capable of travelling to the salon or hairdresser to receive said haircut. Is that correct? Yes. There is nothing preventing you from getting a haircut. In fact, you’ve made several appointments at different salons, is that correct? Yes. All of which you’ve failed to keep. Yes. And when those salons have called you to inquire as to why you’ve failed to arrive at the negotiated time, you’ve ignored their calls, letting the phone ring until said calls are directed to voicemail, which you don’t check. Is that correct? Yes. Isn’t it true that, at the time of booking, you already knew that you wouldn’t make the appointment? No— Despite begging the salon employee who answered your initial call for an appointment, telling her how urgently in need of a haircut you are and thanking her profusely and in a gratuitously obliging manner, as if they were doing you a favour for which you were now beholden to them, despite preparing ahead of time for the haircut, making an unusual effort to wash and brush your hair the night before the appointment, as well as checking the bus schedule and calculating when you’d have to leave the apartment in order to arrive at the salon at least five minutes prior to the allotted time, and despite having awoken early on the day of the appointment to put on make-up and dress in heels and a sundress that you never wear and pack a bag filled with travel items like lipstick, sunglasses and a bus pass, in other words, despite going to great lengths to appear as if you intended to keep the appointment, you never intended to keep the appointment, is that correct? [unintelligible] Could you repeat that? Yes. You agree that you need a haircut. Yes. You agree that you want a haircut. Yes. You don’t want to catch the bus, is that correct? Yes. The other passengers will stare at you. Yes. The driver will become angry when you hold up the line of boarding passengers as you fumble with your bus pass, which the bus scanner always fails to scan on the first attempt. Yes. And the other boarding passengers will also become angry, as will the already-boarded-and-seated passengers, who want you to take your seat as quickly as possible so that the bus can embark and head to the next stop. These passengers want to minimise the amount of time they spend on the bus, naturally. Yes. The bus is hot and stuffy and stinks of the combined odours of the passengers, a stench that will worsen significantly once you’ve boarded and the doors have closed. [unintelligible] Repeat that. Yes. And these passengers, along with the driver, will be unhappy, both as a result of the time you’ve wasted fumbling at the scanner with your bus pass and because of the smell emanating from your long, matted hair, which they’ll have to endure for the rest of your trip. They’ll whisper among themselves as they glare at you and make mock retching gestures. These passengers think you’re unable to hear them over the humming and heaving sounds of the bus but you will be able to hear them, correct? You’ll be able to hear them complaining about the smell of your hair. Yes. And, similarly, at the salon, you’ll be able to hear the hairdresser complaining to her colleagues, is that right? Or, if you can’t hear her, you’ll be able to see her in the mirror. Yes. You’ll see her shock when she first examines your hair, which will be like the shock of a doctor who, upon first examining a new patient, immediately discovers that they carry an extremely infectious and life-threatening disease, is that right? I don’t think I’d go that far… Assuming the hairdresser perseveres despite the smell and your lack of hygiene, she’ll then ask you what sort of haircut you want, a question that you’ll struggle to answer. Yes. You don’t know how to describe the sort of haircut you want. No. Your attempts to explain will probably annoy or perhaps even offend the hairdresser, in the same way that your fumbled attempts to scan your bus pass will raise the ire of the bus driver and your fellow passengers. Yes. Would it be fair to say that you can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to form words and speak to the hairdresser? Although you have already spoken to her on the phone. That’s different. In person, though, you’re unlikely to produce coherent sentences. No… And, even if you were somehow able to convey to the hairdresser your desired hairstyle, it would be pointless, since the idea of transforming that mangled shag rug into an ordinary do is simply absurd. … Say that she, the hairdresser, whom it’s assumed is female—as the possibility of a man handling your hair is too difficult to contemplate, is that correct?—well, say she proceeds without understanding your request, say she decides to follow her own recommendation and launches into washing and cutting, just as a hypothetical. She’s sure to try to make conversation with you, wouldn’t you agree? Yes. Small talk. She’ll ask questions. Yes. And, when you inevitably fail to respond, she’ll likely be offended. She’ll think you’re conceited or socially inept. Probably. You’ll struggle to look at the hairdresser. Yes. Even through the mirror. You’ll struggle to look at her for the duration of the haircut. Yes. Which will be quite long, given the length of your hair. It could last as long as four or five hours, would you agree? Yes. During which lengthy time you intend to sit quietly, avoiding looking at the hairdresser whose questions you’re incapable of answering, who, in turn, is struggling to maintain composure while smelling and touching your hair, which most people would agree is disgusting, would you agree? Yes. And would you further agree that the hairdresser, who certainly doesn’t receive a generous disability pension from the Australian government, isn’t adequately compensated for such work? Yes. In fact, no sensible charge could possibly outweigh the discomfort forced upon anyone who comes in contact with your hair. Do you agree with that statement? Yes. Would you agree that the main thing preventing you from getting a haircut is the risk that your overly long and unhygienic hair will attract attention and cause you to feel ashamed? Yes. Would you also agree that, at the same time and somewhat paradoxically, the main appeal of having long hair comes from its ability to mitigate this risk by acting as a protective curtain to hide behind? Yes. But, also at the same time and somewhat paradoxically, that the only way to fully eliminate this risk is by getting a haircut? Yes. And that, by not getting a haircut, you are compounding this risk, since your hair will only grow longer and more fetid, while also becoming a denser and more protective curtain to hide behind? Yes. It will only be more difficult to get a haircut in the future, particularly once your hair reaches a length and level of noxiousness that is not merely abnormal but so freakish and unwieldy that it precludes the possibility of catching a bus or getting a haircut at an ordinary salon. Yes. At which point, it’s fair to say, your hair will also prohibit many activities that it now only makes difficult, such as attending your appointments with Dr. Backs, for instance? Yes. Or showering, once your hair can’t be crammed into a plastic mesh shower cap. Yes. Isn’t it possible that your hair expands to such an extent that it completely interferes with every aspect of your life, in a manner similar to one of those sordidly obese individuals whose weight renders them bedridden? I suppose so. For instance, it might make using the toilet impossible. Or its immense mass might cause neck problems. Thus restricting your movements, making it difficult to answer the door to receive your nightly food order. That’s possible. Unable to lift your head, you may be permanently stranded on a raft of hair. … It might leave you trapped, hungry, immobile, alone with this great sheet of tangled fur, which has proven to be a more powerful entity than the person to which it is attached. When the investigators finally arrive, they’ll stumble over the huge, matted locks, which cover the apartment like black cobwebs, they’ll hack their way through this forest of hair until they find your shrivelled corpse at its core and wonder how you let things get this bad. That scenario has some appeal to you, doesn’t it? … It’s horrifying but also appealing, because it means you’d be justified in never leaving the apartment again; future questioning won’t penetrate the protective hair curtain. … Wouldn’t you agree that the best course of action is to get a haircut now? I guess so. You guess so. Do you agree that you need a haircut? Yes. Do you want to get a haircut? Yes. The bus will arrive at the stop soon, is that correct? Yes. In order to catch it, you should leave now, is that correct? Yes. That being the case, wouldn’t you say that the best course of action would be to stop answering these questions and leave immediately? Yeah, I guess so. You are stalling right now, is that correct? If you don’t catch this bus, you won’t be able to make your appointment with the salon, as the subsequent bus arrives too late, since buses on this route come less frequently on the weekends, as you were aware when you booked this appointment. Yes, but there are other things. I mean— You could’ve caught an earlier bus if you weren’t busy answering these questions, is that correct? This is the final bus that you can catch if you’re to make the appointment with this salon, which is quite far away. Yes. You had to book an appointment at this far away salon because you’ve already exhausted the supply of nearby salons, is that correct? Yes. Exhausted in the sense of having failed to attend appointments that you’d booked with them and then having ignored their subsequent phone calls attempting to chase you up. Yes. Even if you ran to the stop, the bus would’ve departed by the time you arrived. There’s no chance of making the appointment now. No. You’ll have to book another appointment. Yes. Which means you’ll first have to summon the strength to call another salon, which will have to be even further away from apartment due to the aforementioned issue of salon exhaustion. Is that correct? Yeah. You don’t want to make that call. No. Remember to speak clearly. No. You’d prefer not to make another appointment. That’s right. But you’d agree that you need a haircut? I guess so. It’s not that urgent, really. You don’t think you need a haircut? Eventually, yes. But not right away. You’d agree that your hair is quite long? Hei Gou Hei Gou is an amateur writer from Adelaide, now living in Sydney. More by Hei Gou Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. 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