Megan has always been a bit quirky. All her friends say so. She has a please-herself kind of style. It shows in her clothes, her haircut, her car, and her enthusiasms. She drives a small ute. Her “cute ute”, she calls it. Her dog, an old border collie named Jim, rides in the back of the ute. Megan works in an office – believe it or not, she’s an accountant, which is decidedly non-quirky. She likes to wear very colourful skirts and Doc Marten boots, and gypsy shawls. Her hair is spectacular: copper-coloured curls. You can see Megan coming from a long way off.
One of her current enthusiasms is raising money for that Children’s Hospital charity. I was a bit shocked when I heard about it, because the idea is that if all your friends and co-workers, and their friends and co-workers, donate enough money, and the target is reached, then you’ll shave your head. I can’t believe Megan will go through with it – shave off those curls! Well, she’s set a high target – $10,000 – so maybe she won’t have to. Despite the poor sick children, I hope she doesn’t have to…
…It’s three weeks later and Megan has reached her target, so the shaving has to be done. We – all her friends – have come to support her. Some of the people from her office are here too, and the local paper, with a photographer. We’re in Megan’s hairdresser’s salon, but the guy who usually does Megan’s hair won’t have anything to do with this. I think he’s out the back throwing up.
The barber fellow who usually does the boys is going to do the shaving. Megan is sitting with a hairdresser’s cloak around her. It’s black, and her copper curls flow over it like lava from a volcano. She looks cheerful enough. She’s telling the reporter from the local paper that it’s not just the money, it’s also about solidarity with the poor cancer children who have to lose all their hair when they have chemo. “It’s only hair!” she says, and laughs. “It’ll grow back!” Somehow, we can’t believe that Megan’s hair will ever grow back quite the same.
The barber plugs in his electric shaver and lifts Megan’s curls from the nape of her neck. He places the buzzing blade against her skin and slowly runs it up from her nape, up her scalp, behind her ears. The first blazing hunks fall to the floor. Everyone has gone quiet. All we hear is the buzz, like a swarm of dangerous wasps. The wasps encircle Megan’s head. The barber bends her head forward, her chin on her chest, and runs another swathe through the copper curls. Now Megan is half bald, the right side of her head just stubble, and a hank at the front that the barber hasn’t got to yet. She looks up for a moment, and sees herself int he mirror. Her face looks puzzled, as if she’s stumbled on to a new planet.
The barber has to finish now. We watch and listen as the buzzing razor shears Megan’s head. He tidies up his handiwork. The photographer from the paper takes a picture. No-one says anything. Megan gazes in the mirror and she doesn’t say anything either.
I think I need to go out the back with the hairdresser and throw up too.