“People are staring at us!”
Rural folks often got curious when strangers visited their quiet surroundings. Their curiosities bordered on the simplest, wishing to see new faces, to the strangest, suspecting of ill motives against their way of life. Luckily, we were categorized with the former.
“It’s probably the first time they saw an actor,” my cousin’s husband quipped, obviously referring to himself. He was tall, dark and not handsome. 🙂
“I don’t resemble the face of a known artist. Maybe a foreign one. I am not so sure.”
“The news was out early on,” our male host interrupted our make-believe conversation. “Some of the ladies are overjoyed that foreigners came.”
“Where?” I asked without thinking. “Are they Americans? I can talk to them.”
“My cousin is referring to us,” Rolly laughed, enjoying himself with the banter. “To them, we are foreigners. Your long hair gave them the idea.”
“If you want to stay here, you should cut it and look like us,” our male host wagged his forefinger as if telling me I had to comply.
“But I spent three years to grow it. Imagine all the shampoo and conditioners I used to care for it.”
“Either you cut it or look like a sore thumb in this place. They might think of you as a person you are not.”
“You think they will see me as gay?”
“Of course not,” our male host replied. “They would probably imagine you as a drug addict. That’s worse, I believe.”
I weighed my options. I could retain my long hair and leave for home, never coming back. Or, I could cut my hair and be happy in a place I chose to call my new home.
“Do you think if I explain to them why I have long hair, they would believe me?”
“Would you like to explain it to every individual you meet?”
“Is it really necessary?” I was hoping there was another way to keep my locks.
“It’s your choice,” Rolly said, siding with his cousin’s views.
After some hard thinking, arriving at a difficult decision, I conceded: my long hair would have to go.
“I’ll go tomorrow to the city and have a haircut. That’s about 500 pesos for all the expenses including fare and meals.”
“You don’t need to spend that much. Actually, I can cut your hair for free.”
I gave him a long glance, unsure if he was really able to perform a precision job.
“Have you cut hair before?” I asked casually, not wishing to hurt his feelings by turning him down.
“Oh, yes, all the time.”
“Who was your last ‘client’?”
“You’re looking at it,” he said smiling.
“Who?”I was not sure if I understood him correctly.
Rolly interpreted the statement ahead of me. He began to laugh.
At that moment, I was staring at the carabao (water buffalo) grazing nearby.