Everyone has a blonde moment sometimes. But what if it actually made your hair turn lighter! In such a world, how far would people go to hide their embarrassment?…
Technically, I’m not breaking any law, though I doubt that argument would stand up in court. If you knew me in real life you wouldn’t look at me twice. I don’t look like a criminal type. Smart, well-dressed but not ostentatious. Polite, well-mannered. Intelligent, but not strikingly so. Perhaps you’d think in my line of work, you’d go the whole way and present yourself as a genius. But that’s the kind of thing that gets people caught. Like driving a jaguar when you’re supposed to be unemployed. No, a mousey-brown is good enough. Socially acceptable, without drawing attention.
I never planned to become a drug dealer. It just happened. I saw a need, and I had the means to fulfil that need. I see myself as a humanitarian. Besides, as I said, it’s not technically illegal. I mean it’s illegal to lie to an employer about your qualifications, so the people who use my drug may be guilty of that. But on the other hand, isn’t it their fault for accepting people’s hair colour as a qualification of intelligence in the first place?
Of course, that’s an academic argument. No jury would buy it if I ever had to stand before them. We’re all so used to judging people based on their appearance. It’s become such a part of the way we interact with each other it might as well be a law. A law of nature. If a Low Grade walked into a Upper Grade toilet dressed as a brunette, well there’d be uproar. If they found out of course.
But my product is better than the usual crap out there. The reeking bricks in plastic wrap that desperate people trade in dark alleys behind pubs and abandoned offices. Its not made of charcoal and shit. Its premium stuff. As long as you make sure to keep using it every week then it’s undetectable, unless a doctor examines you. And at that point you’re caught anyway. I sell about a hundred shades, from the top of Grade Five, to the bottom of Grade Two. Once someone’s known as a Grade One there’s no helping them. Most people just want to remain where they are, they’ve made a bad decision and they’re terrified of showing it.
For those at the edges of the Gradings any slip-up must be terrifying. I’ve heard of people being disowned by their parents out of shame. No wonder there’s such a market for this stuff. And of course, once a guy starts using it, they’ve got to keep buying more, or they’ll get caught. Not my fault though, I couldn’t figure out how to make a permanent version. I tried. Just because it means they have to keep coming back each week for their next dose doesn’t make me a bad person.
There are those who are greedy of course. Those who want to rise in society, and think they can pull off the con. If they’re too light then I don’t deal with them. Prejudiced maybe, but I’ve got my own life to consider. If a hay-seed or a honey-pot gets caught, any detective worth their salt will be able to trick them into giving me up. Offensive? Sorry, I suppose I should know better than to use those words. But you know what I mean. Those people just can’t be trusted. You know what I’m talking about. I’m not prejudiced though. Some of my best friends are blondes.
No, I generally match shades, or give someone a couple of shades up. Too much and its dangerous. It’s harder to pretend to be someone you’re not than most people would think. I tried going up six shades at first. I almost got caught when I was chatting to a Grade Four and I accidently got the capital of Peru wrong. I could feel his suspicion, I felt so terrified and ashamed. Over the next month I subtly shifted myself down a few shades so as not to come across so suspicious. I can pass for a mid-range Grade Three I think, just about, if I’m careful.
Besides, I’m not hurting anyone. If someone wants to pretend to be someone they aren’t, a bit smarter, a bit more how they imagine themselves to be, why shouldn’t they? None of us can help the way we’re made. Dumb or smart, we’re all humans. Its society that’s to blame, with the segregation, the prejudice. The shame that parents feel when they find out their beloved son is a silverback. If I can help to smooth out those difference, to help that son keep his mom talking to him, to stop some poor girl from losing her job – surely that’s a good thing. Right?
I watched him approach, dressed in Armani, with a gold Rolex on his wrist and five hundred quid shoes on his feet. A natural B-Hole, he had to be. What he was doing here was anyone’s guess. How did this guy even hear about me.
“I hear you’re the guy who can help people.” He whispered. It was a fucking alleyway, and he was whispering out of the side of his mouth like he thought he was in a movie.
“Yeah,” I replied non-commitedly. “Maybe I can, maybe I can’t. Depends on the problem.”
He looked terrified. Visibly shaking. I would have taken pity on him. But with that colour, he must live a charmed life. Anything he wanted, given to him on a golden platter all his life. There was a reason ordinary people called them B-Holes and it wasn’t because it was short for Black Hole, a shade so dark that no light could escape. What could he be scared of really. He probably had a bodyguard to protect him, some ashpole muscleman standing by his car round the corner.
“I’m…I’m losing my hair,” he whispered, so quiet I could barely hear him. I was somewhat surprised. I looked more closely at his jet-black mop, cut in the traditional Japanese style, straight, glossy, like a pool of oil on his head. Beautiful. If you liked B-Holes that was. Personally I preferred a bit of honey, so much less work.
I couldn’t see anything wrong with his deck, but then he would be trying whatever he could to hide it. Hair loss was a terrifying thing for anyone. A little bit was no big deal. Even if you just lost your top but the sides were okay people didn’t consider it too shocking, though people generally hid it under a hat in public. People would look at you in sympathy, sharing your anxiousness that you may lose it entirely.
The terror was always that it would progress to the point that you’d go entirely bald. As smooth as an egg. And without any hair at all? Well, it was hard to live with. The embarrassment was enough to drive most people into depression, often suicide. To live without your most important, most personal body part, the one part of you that reflected your character most fully. It was like losing an arm. It was worse. No woman would look at you with anything other than pity. You’d struggle to get a job. For fuck’s sake, which toilet would you use if you didn’t even have a Grade?
But to worry so much when I couldn’t even see a patch on his crown. I was thinking I was dealing with a hypochondriac. A nutjob. I was ready to make an excuse and leave when he looked around him quickly and then drawing close, like a spy in a film, he reached up and grabbed hold of his jet-black hair and lifted it fully off his head.
I hissed, an involuntary indraw of breath that surprised me in the hushed quiet of the alley. He dropped the wig back onto his head as quickly as he had lifted it. Beads of sweat were running down his forehead, but he was staring at me with such a pathetic expression of desperate hope that I felt my stomach drop. I’d realised, even before he dropped the wig back down. There was nothing I could do for him.
“Dude,” I said. “Man…” I couldn’t think of what to say. I don’t think I’d ever literally been speechless before. It was an interesting experience.
“Can you help?” he whispered. “Please.” His voice was close to tears. “I’ll pay you anything. Anything at all.”
The guy was done. Long done. Maybe I could have helped at the start, I knew people who said they had products that could help with this, though I’d never seen it for myself. Maybe it was bullshit, but I could have given him help, put him in touch with one of my guys. But now. There was nothing I’d heard of that could do anything for him now. Whoever he’d got to do his wig had to be a master of his craft. Even with my professional eye I hadn’t spotted it. But how long could he keep this up? With women, with drunken business parties, with going to saunas, swimming baths, yachts? He must live in constant terror of being found out. To wear a wig was the ultimate taboo, not just dying your own hair but literally wearing someone else’s? It was like wearing someone else’s face. Worse. Someone’s face didn’t represent them as much as their hair did.
And underneath? It was almost completely gone. How long had he been hiding this? I’d heard stress sometimes made people’s hair fall out quickly, but how much stress could this guy have been under? With his money, his position? It must have been going on for a while. I couldn’t imagine what he must have gone through.
“I’m…I’m sorry.” I said, almost whispering as quietly as he’d been. His face stayed with that puppy-dog expression for a second while he registered what I had said. Then it crumpled, in such a sudden, complete collapse that it almost made my eyes well up for him there and then. I said some other things. Apologies, clichéd platitudes, making out it wasn’t that bad. He didn’t believe me obviously. Why would he. He had mirrors. I don’t know if he even heard me. He staggered off back down the alley to his car, looking like he was walking to his death.
It was a couple of weeks later I think. I saw his picture in the paper. A few lines. Grieving family. List of accomplishments. It said nothing about his hair.