• Liam Carroll

The Mexican Straight Razor

#CoronaCrisisArmchairTravel

Mark and I wake the next morning to hangover shattering buckets of ice-cold water in the face. Thanks Chris! He’s organized a ride south to one of the finest righthand pointbreaks on Earth, Barra de la Cruz, and is eager for us to hurry up and get moving. We’ve not really unpacked anything. A few minutes and we’re back in front of the hotel. Massive waves are smashing into the Puerto Escondido sand across the street. I’ll be glad to never see this place again.

“Hop in guys, please. There will be fine waves past Huatulco. Let’s go.”

Our driver, Julio, no doubt has a genetically inherited love affair with the blasting trumpet but is considerate of gringo music tastes and pushes Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon cassette into the player. He drives through chaotic traffic littered with cattle, lorries, young children, feral cats, avoiding them all with grace and minimal horn deployment.

As we arrive into Huatulco, Julio suggests we stop for some breakfast, while he gets fuel. We’re about 45 minutes from Barra de la Cruz. We pile into huevos rancheros and coffee while Julio fills up the van. Chris notices an old school barber opening up for the day across the street.

“I think I’ll get a quick straight razor shave. All right with you guys?”

“Go for it mate.”

We walk across the street together, some early morning traffic starting to build. The barber is no more than five feet tall and is aged somewhere between a half to a full century. He’s wearing a spotless white coat any professor would be proud of and is, to my seasoned eye, acutely hungover. Chris is committed, only growing cognisant of the mezcal stank on his barber’s breath as he leans in to splash the hot towel on Chris’s now heavily perspiring face. He reclines in the chair, while the barber gets set up, stumbling about the shop, swinging the razor blade through the air as if he were composing for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

I try to be reassuring, “Hawh, this guy is quite the showman. I’ll go next.” No fucking way will I ever sit in that chair.

“You sure Slip? You ever done this before?” These may be Chris’ last words.

“Yeah mate, I had the same thing in Peru years ago. They love flashing the blade like that. They all think they’re matadors or some shit.”

Miraculously, Chris’ skin remains cut-free for several strokes. The freshly shorn skin of his cheeks and chin are glistening, the hand of God surely guiding the barber’s hands. Here we go, the neck. The barber leans in to clear bristles of neck stubble, millimetres from what we can only pray are billions of platelet rich blood cells raging through Chris’ jugular, aware of imminent danger above the surface and ready to clot like they’ve never clotted before.

The barber uses his left thumb to pull on the underside of Chris’ chin, the skin of his neck perfectly taut, his testes somewhere in the vicinity also. Divine intervention is surely involved as the barber’s clean razor swipe from the right mandible sets out south towards the sternum with complete control. A split second passes. Jesus, Allah, Buddha and Tom Cruise leave the premises.

“Argh Cheeww!” Chris sneezes. Fuck.

His neck explodes upwards, leaving the blade with no choice. Slit. Shots of bright red launch through the shop, “Fuck, fuck Fuck!!! What happened? Fuck!”

I’m laughing so hard I can’t respond. Chris launches from his chair, staring at the mirror as spouts of blood shoot out from his neck.

“Shit! Fuck! Fucking fuck!”

The barber puts down the blade and grabs some clinical bandaging. How often does this happen? Through soothing Spanish words that we don’t understand, he convinces Chris to recline back in the seat and gently applies the bandaging to a fairly small cut, but in a concentrated, blood rich location. A few minutes pass, the blood flow slows.

“Deep breaths bro, deep breaths.” Mark’s calming words barely match the tears of laughter streaming down his cheeks.

Julio sees us through the shop window and walks in, shaking his head. He speaks with an as yet unseen passion and annoyance with the barber. He then turns to us, “Guys, let’s go, please. You should not have come in here without asking me. This man…he is crazy man. Always drunk this man. Please, I hope you are OK. Let’s go.”

Chris maintains the bandaging in place around his neck as we leave the shop, his cheeks are clean-shaven, his neck is mangled in a confused five o’clock shadow of drying blood and residual bristles. Julio resumes driving in his casual and relaxed way. Within half an hour he takes a right turn off the main highway, the road winding through dusty mountains. Crystal blue ocean glimpses tease us as we drive on. There are occasional green, lush trees, but the cacti dominance prevails. A battered, bullet holed sign welcomes us, ‘Barra de la Cruz’.

This is an excerpt from Slippery, Liam Carroll's debut novel about capitalism on steroids in the commodities trading world. He's also the author of Sweet Dreams of Fanta, a nostalgic romp in time back to the Sydney of 1988, seen through the eyes of a freckly, moon-faced, seven year old Fanta addict and Balmain Tigers lover.

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