The salon reeked of synthetic rubbers, and rancid coconut. A fair and almost bald woman was being sized for a wig. A male stylist turned her neck sideways, then up, and down. As a Fortuneteller would, he held her head straight, stretched his arms to full length, and looked into her face. He then tilted her head mildly to the left.
“Aunty, I should use this number three for you, it’s just perfect”
He sustained a smile, in the manner a salesman selling dust would, and returned to stand behind her.
I had a sit next to the door, opposite the male stylist, and his fair specimen. The fair woman looked shy of fourty, thirty-eight, perhaps. She bent her head over a loose aggregate of fashion magazine. Occasionally, she would raise the papers close to her face, enough to touch it with her pouted lips. In response, the male stylist would smile or make a short comment. Sometimes, he was the one who would reach out his gloved hand to touch a picture on the magazine. Her laps were tightly held together in the most womanly fashion; the fashion my mother used to teach us to close our laps.
Laide was standing by a hairdryer next to the fair woman and her stylist. A fan nodded it large head lazily at the left corner of the salon. Laide looked towards me and winked repeatedly, a gesture offered to dissolve my building impatience. Her hands were busy on the head of an older woman. The woman was drained and lethargic. Once and again, she would turn to look at the fair woman and the male stylist, then roll her eyes inward in disgust.
The saloon was small, about the size of a photocopy shop, and only had a window. Whilst, like every building in Taiwo oke, it sired sweat profusely, and a single lazy fan doesn’t help that much.
“This kain October heat. Hmmm”
The woman seating next to me killed our silence. I turned towards her, and smiled briefly.
“Yes, the rain hasn’t been helping at all”
“I tell you my sister, everywhere is just so hot. I wonder how people in the north will cope sef”
“Are we not in the north, this is north”
“At all. Ilorin in central Nigeria, like Abuja or Kogi”
Within minutes into the conversation, the woman had owned my respect, I looked to her. She wore eye glasses like my aunty Lola, and spoke with a confidence only born from numerous achievements. A confidence of capability.
She made efforts to explain why there could be a confusion that Ilorin was north, and even stepped further to dissect historic tendencies. She mentioned Arewa, Egbas and Oyos, and Afonja, and Dan-Fodio. I smiled helplessly, in partial marvel of the energy she spoke with, but mostly, in the complexity of our scenery; that I was having a profound and intellectually deep conversation with a stranger in a saloon. A stranger in a saloon.
I wanted to ask her about Jos and northern Nigeria, but I was careful not to give her too much control of the conversation than she already had, careful not to make a class of a conversation. I nodded a couple more times, before she pointed at the male stylist. He was done with the fair woman’s hair and my stranger friend was next. I felt a mild jealousy, that the talkative flirtatious was about to have a throw at the stranger.
“Bimbs. Just gimme a sec, I’m almost done here”
Laide was rinsing the older woman’s head. She draped her hands with a small towel and walked to me. She was a small lady like myself, barely stretching beyond five foot. She sat next to me, from where the stranger had just stood, and touched my lap gently.
“Sorry Bimbs. I didn’t know there will be much customers this early”
“It’s cool, it is very good for business. You know you’re doing well, very well”
“I don’t know. Sometimes, it is really tough to survive off this. I have to pay David thirty thousand every month, then rent, and other bills just seem to swallow everything.”
“It is business now, it is always tough at first. Just keep to the good work, you know customers talk, especially women customers”
“Abi o. I saw aunty Lola the other day, she was looking as fresh as ever, that aunty no gree old o”
We laughed, like we were the only ones in the saloon. Laide put her palm over her mouth. Her eyes were bright with the laughter still, and tears had begun to settle at their limbus.
“I think I can have a break now, David should be able to handle the saloon”
“Isn’t that what you pay him all those money for?”
“Abi o. I think we go to ostrich bakery, I’m beginning to fall in love with their butter cake”
“You don’t mean it. The only thing good there is their stool”