He plopped himself on the couch I was on. Then he flipped open a catalogue with rows of hair in teardrop shape arranged according to shade – from light to dark.

“You want colour?” he asked.

“Yes, I do. I actually also want to have my hair smoothened.”

“Ah, cannot colour if we straighting.”

“I want smoothened.”

“Smoothing and straighing the same. We highlight if straighting,” he explained.

“I see. No problem.”

“What shade? Black?” he asked, pointing to the dark teardrop on the catalogue then moved to the one before it. “This one? This dark brown.”

“Dark brown is good. Thanks.”

With that settled, he directed me to one of the empty chairs at the salon. I was the first customer of that May Sunday morning. Then he motioned me to a colleague who led me to the back of Hair Code where three chairs attached to a basin were located. First was the hair bath.

Riyo of Hair CodeHair Code is one of the two salons at Grand Metropolitan Mall, the high-end version of its twin, Metropolitan Mall in Bekasi Barat along Kalimalang. It opened two years ago and Riyo, my hairstylist with the “light hand”, has been with the salon for two years. Reticence is not his strong suit, but his loquaciousness was far from trying. I chalked it up to tone and the smile that reached up to his eyes, and his eagerness to engage in a conversation. The fact that he regrets his foolhardiness and his lackadaisical attitude towards his studies in his youth won my teacher-heart over.

“My brain find hard to study English now,” he confessed, as he arranged my hair into several bundles to make coating them easier.

“No, your English is fine. You just need to practice,” I said, flashing him a smile through the mirror.

“It’s difficult speak English with someone here,” he lamented.

He is right on that count. Finding someone who speaks English in Bekasi on a regular basis is like trying to find Starbucks in one of the remote islands of Indonesia. Sometimes the universe plays nice and you stumble upon a Bekasi-based service crew who can indulge you in a bout of English sparring. But this is borders on the rarity of gazing at a blue moon.

Riyo went on to that it took him six years before he went up the ladder of the hairstyling world, from shampoo boy to hair stylist. He spent most of those years with a renowned stylist in Jakarta, Rudy something (no disrespect here – I don’t follow the who’s who of hair couture), and now he’s in Hair Code. Toned and lithe, his fingers glided lightly on my head as he worked his magic in ridding my head of my frizz and dyeing my uban (pronounced oo-ban; Indonesian for white hair). The acid test came when he had to use the straightening iron. Unlike my past hairstylists who singed my nape, Riyo proved he has arrived in the hairstyling world with his adroit hands.

He wasn’t evasive either – he didn’t circumvent my questions that bordered on the personal. He answered he’s 27 years old (“Too old oready”) and heads home to his family in Bandung every week. Quid pro quo: I said my family isn’t in Bekasi and I teach at Global Prestasi School.

“Do you do anything later?”

“No. Why?”

“It takes a long time. Maybe three –four hour.”

“Nope, I cleared my schedule just for this.”

He smiled and went about coating, separating, combing, and blow drying my hair. Then in five hours and 20 minutes, it was all over.

“Now, you very beautiful. You can go to party now,” he said patting my hair in place, “but don’t wash hair for three days. You can wash it on Wednesday.”

“Oh. Thanks.”


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ric Abueg on June 2, 2015 at 3:49 am

    Gave me a clear understanding of how hair is “colored”. But the better result is getting to know the hairstylist and the challenge of his existence. Congrats Rhissa.


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