I always wanted black hair. This was probably because three of my sisters had beautiful, straight, long black hair.
When I went to Spain for a semester as a junior in college, I kept an eye open for women with cool hair, and I would ask them where they got their hair done.
One day I chased a woman off the bus. She walked me to the door of her hair salon. The space was champagne-colored: I was instantly intoxicated. Sebastian was the main stylist and as he inspected me, he asked me slow and careful questions about my hair goals.
“I have always wanted black hair. Since I won’t be going home for a few months, would you dye my hair pitch black? I would like to look like Louise Brooks”
He turned to his assistant.
“Carmen, please, the black wig from the back.” Then he turned to me, “Hija, we would all like to look Louise Brooks. Just wait until you see what this does….”
Carmen came back and Sebastian started arranging the wig on my head, his upper lip firmly gripping his lower as if he didn’t want any unkind words to escape. Carmen’s eyes, and the looks from the other stylists, let me know that, perhaps, there was a problem.
“There! Take a look.”
Sebastian moved away and I saw the sleek black helmet of hair suspended above my t-shirt. My face had totally disappeared.
“’Washed out’, I think that is the term. You have no face with that hair. I could do some black, if you like. It is daring, yes, but do you think you would like to adventure in to the world of a bit of black hair?”
Like all my life.
Sebastian gave direction, and with thirty quick hand movements, passed me over to the Colorist. He motioned to another woman.
“Marisol, help this young woman. Apply some make-up that will match her hair. Don’t worry! The make-up is to help you see what you can look like. It is not for who you will have to be.” And he gave my shoulder a quick squeeze and adjusted a piece of my hair.
My hair was colored and washed, make-up palates were held up to me, discussed and discarded. Sebastian cut my hair and another woman styled it. Layers of cosmetics were applied.
Sebastian glowed at me, “You see? ¡Otra! y ¡la misma!”
“Different and yet the same.”
Sebastian and I bonded and I searched him out whenever I was in Madrid. Then, one day, I went to the shop and it was a bank.
“But where is Sebastian’s salon?”
“Oh, Sebastian? He is no more,” was the only answer I received.