“No, I sometimes go to the barbershops down in Chinatown, but it’s a haul from me,” the Asian man told the black man on the No. 49 Western bus as white I plopped down next to them in the back.
The Asian man was young and professional, wearing a suit and clutching a briefcase with one hand. His interrogator was a young black man with a flat-brimmed baseball cap and a goatee that extended a few inches from his chin.
He was talking about hair.
“I could set you up with a tight fade,” the black man said. “But I want to learn layering.”
“What’s layering?” the Asian man asked.
“Like his hair, where it’s longer on top,” he said, pointing at me.
“I want to learn how to cut ethnic hair so I can have a shop up north,” he said, pointing at me again.
“Is it different?” The Asian man asked.
“It’s… flat,” the black man said, shaking his hands as he found the right word.
“A shop up north?” white I asked.
“Where are you at now?” the Asian man asked.
“79th. By Cottage Grove,” the black man said.
“By the Green Line stop?” white I asked.
“No, my aunt’s there. I’m by the Red Line,” he said.
“In the hood,” he added, smiling.
“Oh, I went to school down by there,” the other man said.
“University of Chicago. Have you been there? It’s like something out of Harry Potter.”
“Yeah, it’s like Hogwarts.”
“Have you been by where Barack and Michele lived?”
“Yeah, I’ve been by there a lot of times. I go to the church they used to go to. Minister Wright is my minister.”
“No shit?” I butted in. “Reverend Wright?”
“He baptized me. He’s not as crazy as they make him sound. A sound bite makes a whole hour sermon sound different out of context.”
“That’s what they do though, isn’t it?” the other man said, sighing.
Soon the two were talking about the media. Terrible stuff, that.
It was my stop then, so I left the pair to talk about Hogwarts, the media and ethnic hair, using me as the demonstration of the latter.