El alma

del mundo.

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The window’s small and made of wood with chipped planks like the ones in an old painting framing a costumbrista print. The daylight falls on them and mixes with the bulbs that light up the paper covering part of the wall and the paint covering other corners with pastel tints. The shelves, loaded with cosmetics, sag forwards like faces peering at the stage, involuntary protagonists in the process. He spreads the cape, picks up the scissors, studies the curls and the hang. The mirrors are mute witnesses that show the delicate dance of cutting and shaving. The languid fall of hair, the application of creams and lotions, the rise and fall of razors sliding over bristly faces, over naked napes and clear brows.

He dances. To the sound a of a melody that crosses his open mind and makes him draw delicate shapes, he flutters over the heads like a dancer. Moustafa is 24 years old and is the son and grandson of barbers. He spent 10 years learning the trade his father liked so much and now it’s Hamada, his 17-year-old brother, who helps him embellish faces and heads. He loves going out in the city with friends and he’s a fan of Ahly and of Barcelona Football Club, though he also raves about some of Real Madrid’s players. He offers his customers conversation and trust. He has time to get to know them all very well. But he doesn’t discuss politics, it doesn’t interest him. Hamada, on the other hand, wants a new Egypt, the best Egypt, turned into a great country.

That’s why he wants to sever his ties, cross to the other shore; a large hairdresser’s, in Maadi or Mohandessin, where men and women can sit while a swarm of apprentices fix their hair as he teaches them what he’s learned from his brother. The elder one has his feet on the hair-strewn floor. He likes life on Dahab. The people who come and put themselves in his hands do so because he was born and brought up on the island. That’s why he’s not worried about the competitor who’s opened another barber’s shop in well-lit premises with bright posters. He lays out his jars, arranges the combs, tidies the scissors.

Hamada sweeps the floor, hangs up the capes, brushes them down... Moustafa wants a quiet life, Hamada an open future and the uncertainty of freedom. One looks ahead of him, the other to the heavens. Both of them will work every day and take Monday off. Light comes in through the window. And if it’s not enough, they can turn the lights on. They’re a framed picture, an everyday scene that overflows the corners and spreads out. Moustafa dances and reaps the air with his razors. He’s happy. Hamada dreams. And smiles.

by Nuria tesón