The day arrives, a day that sends shivers through my toothbrush … it’s the day of the haircut. This dreaded day I am in Naples, Italy and about to pay my first visit to one of the city’s hairdressers.
In a froth of toothpaste I imagine a salon crowded with suntanned, Latin loveliness … icy, manicured fingernails stab down my spine.
The salon, Compagnia della Belleza, has been recommended by a confident, bilingual friend, clearly aware of my hair’s urgent need for attention.
“Don’t worry,” she tells me. “Raffaele’s good. He’s done Miss Italia’s hair.”
“Miss Italia?” Boom goes my chest – I can hardly breathe. This is definitely the wrong place for me to go.
My friend is undeterred. “I’ll make the appointment,” she promises cheerfully. And she does.
Now, as I tip my car down the steep ramp into the parcheggio on Via San Giacomo dei Capri I wonder why I agreed, how I ever thought it might be a good idea to bother this legendary hairdresser with my dishevelled head. But it’s too late to change my mind … I’m almost there.
The small hairdressing salon is beside a coffee bar. I resist the pastries, brace myself with a cappuccino and step next door.
The salon is spotless. It is uncrowded, there is no sense of satisfied judgement, and my friend is there to bridge the language gap.
Raffaele, younger than I imagined, beams a welcome and steers me into a chair. I feel his eyes feel my hair. He talks to me about me, but I can’t follow much.
“Corto” (short) is a word that crops up. In the mirror I watch as the uniformed young ladies who assist in the salon tilt their heads from side to side considering the options as seen by Raffaele. There is much enthusiastic nodding.
A proposal is put to me in rapid Italian.
“Umm … non capisco …”
“No problem,” Raffaele turns away to collect a large book from the table behind us. I watch in the mirror as he flips through the pages then pauses.
“Questo,” he says, laying the book in front of me. “Bene?”
I look at the picture he has chosen. It is of a blonde with waves of short hair bobbed above her beautiful neck. Her eyes, pools behind a long fringe, are the colour of Capri’s sea.
“Bella! Ma …” I pause. Is this a joke? This isn’t just a reshape … it’s a chance to launch a thousand ships. I study Raffaele sideways. His bearded face is serious, his brow furrowed, there is no hint of mockery.
“You like?” he asks.
“Sì,” I nod, my voice trapped between stunned and delirious.
“Bene,” says Raffaele. He studies the picture a little longer, and examines my uncontrollable hair. There are no signs of despair.
Next he puts the book down, picks up his scissors, and decides where to start. He is a maestro on the brink of the impossible, about to create a miracle … the hope alone IS a miracle.
Behind us the ladies return to work. I see their reflections as they flit to and fro in the background, tidying the immaculate and, thankfully, still empty salon.
Raffaele is quick, very quick. He sorts my hair into small fountains on the top of my head then prunes to either side with occasional pauses to consult the book. Measurements are strict, some taken with a ruler … and the chopping goes on.
In half an hour it is all over. I am blown, and dusted, and Raffaele stands back to admire his work – a mirror is swept behind to catch the angles. There I am, ready to go … a new creation.
Raffaele looks pleased. He tweaks the odd strand here and there.
The ladies and my friend appear again in the background. The noises confirm that Raffaele has worked his magic. In the way of Naples he has crafted a masterpiece out of very little … in fact, out of nothing at all.
I stand slowly, shake off the scatterings of hair and do the requested twirl. I am as astonished as anyone. A twirl? Even the next customer, who has arrived, looks pleased.
Payment is settled, embraces exchanged and I, new woman, am good to go.
I skip out the door, most of my hair gone … I am transformed. I have been changed from mushroom to miracle by a young man with a pair of scissors and a ruler. Masterpiece? I have been beheld as such, and that is all that matters.
In the Bay of Naples the ships stand ready to do their duty …
My thanks to Raffaele Manco and, of course, to my anonymous friend.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2016