The hair salon itself is less ominous than the sinister rooms below, and once upstairs, she begins to relax again. Soon, she is plonked down in a comfy black chair, eagerly waiting for a hair wash. A young woman places a warm towel around her shoulders and then goes off to make her a cup of tea – milk, one sugar. “This is nice,” thinks the Mother, and she closes her eyes and relaxes a little more. Given her disposition, relaxing isn’t something that comes easily to the Mother. However, the routines and familiarity of the hairdresser are always very reassuring.
Given this, imagine the Mother’s utter panic when she is greeted by a member of staff she’s never set eyes on before. Where is Zanae, her usual washer? She doesn’t want to appear unfriendly or anything, but she doesn’t know this lady from Adam. The Mother is very choosy about who washes her hair.
There are some people out there who think washing other people’s hair is easy and that anyone can do this job. This is nonsense. Following the same logic, you could say that anyone can paint, or that anyone can sing. Yes, of course, they can, but not everyone is Whitney Houston or Picasso or, in this case, Zanae.
Most people don’t realise how many key factors contribute to a good wash until they’ve had their hair washed badly. Washing other people’s hair takes a specific skill set. It is an art, and sadly Donna does not possess the required artistry.
As Donna begins to wash the Mother’s hair, she immediately feels water running down the back of her neck. The young lady seems blissfully unaware of this until the Mother points it out, along with the fact that the water temperature is tepid at best. A brief discussion ensues in which Donna freely admits that she doesn’t really know what tepid means.
“Tepid?” she says, laughing. “Sounds like a word my nan would use.”
Then maybe your bloody nan should wash my hair, thinks the Mother. Christ I bet your Nan is younger than me. Best not say that she decides.
Seconds later, the problem has been rectified, but then the heat keeps rising until boiling hot water is scalding the Mother’s scalp. However, being British, she can hardly complain twice! Far better to keep a stiff upper lip and apply the Savlon liberally when she gets home.
Soon the Mother’s hair is all bubbly with Terrasse shampoo, and she closes her eyes and breathes deeply.
It is fortuitous that the Mother has shut her eyes, as it means that Donna’s jangly charm bracelet is not as fucking irritating as it might otherwise be. A horseshoe up the nose is one thing, but in the eyeball? Well, that’s hardly a sign of good luck, is it?
When the Mother does open her eyes again, it is not to the sight of a four-leafed clover or a tiny silver cat but to a pair of breasts. Yes, the Mother has a full frontal view down Donna’s top. It isn’t an unpleasant sight or anything, just not one she was expecting. She can’t recall ever seeing boobs during previous washes at the salon, which is clearly another sign of Zanae’s professionalism.
She then notices – well, it is difficult not to – a tattoo on Donna’s left breast. There, in pink and black ink, is a small rose. The Mother, whose whirling imaginative mind never switches off, begins to have creative thoughts. Her mind is never really still, and she is always going down wormholes. It’s probably all that acid she did in the ’90s.
Books, a collection of books, short ones. Alternatively, a series of weekly articles in one of the broadsheets. Maybe not.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo had been done. But she was definitely onto something with the whole tattoo thing, so maybe.
The hairdresser with the rose tattoo.
The prisoner with the do-it-yourself tattoo.
The raver with the smiley face tattoo
The Nazi skinhead with the swastika tattoo
The hungover adolescent with regrettable tattoos.
The hipster with the usual tattoo.
The grandad with the first wife’s name in Chinese tattoo.
The “don’t forget to cover it up in court” neck tattoo.
The unfinished “Jesus, I never knew it would hurt that much” tattoo.
Best of all – the child with the lick-on Spider-Man tattoo. A gift which they got in a party bag, stuck on and then could never, ever remove. Even after two weeks of scrubbing, a dirty grey mark remained, and would remain on that child’s arm until they were well into their 20s.
This was definitely an area of writing to consider, but not right now.
Now comes the highlight of the hair wash – the conditioning treatment. For a few brief seconds, the Mother feels like a film star, albeit a slightly dishevelled, hairy one – Hagrid perhaps. Unfortunately, the water soon begins to run down her neck again. She repositions herself slightly, like a newsreader about to do a fart, and then pulls the towel around her neck a little tighter. However, in this new position, her forehead serves as a kind of waterfall. Water flows over her face, down her chin, and eventually down her chest, which, if you remember, is braless. By now, the water has taken on a red tinge as a result of her recent application of Fire Twister – lasts 6–8 washes, my arse.
Finally, the ordeal is over; the Mother sits up in her chair and looks at herself in the mirror. Christ! She had been hoping for a transformation. But not into Sissy Spacek, aka Carrie, minus the gorgeous pink dress (and physic powers). Donna quickly grabs some cotton wool and dabs the Mother’s forehead.
“It’s just a little hair dye,” she remarks.
“Yes, I know. Thank God it’s not pig’s blood, eh?” says the Mother, laughing, and Donna laughs too, sort of. As she laughs, she looks into the Mother’s now bloodshot eyes as if to say, “What the hell are you talking about?”
And the Mother looks back at her and thinks, “Yes, what the hell am I talking about?”