Man Spa

A stylized view of a stylized bag from a stylized store.

The plate glass storefront window was striped by mahogany colored shelves filled with fancy rectangular boxes and even fancier bottles. I’m think that the boxes were empty. I bet they ensconced the bottles before they were divorced, and the bottles teased them by their independence on meticulous display.

The boxes, and their coordinating labels on the bottles, were serious colors. Navy blue. Maroon. Pine green. And a parchment white. It wasn’t a pure white, but a white with enough yellow so you knew it wasn’t new. The lettering was either silver or gold, depending on how they performed. The navy had silver and the parchment had gold.

There were a lot of shelves, so many that they obscured whatever was happening behind the glass. If the window was ten feet tall, and it easily was, there may have been twelve or fifteen shelves, each fitted with rows and rows and rows of beautiful packaging. What was it?

The store was new. It was next door to the corner organic sandwich shop that makes their to-go sandwiches fresh daily and give any leftovers to people who are hungry. That shop had just undergone a major remodel and expansion. It took over the space around the corner. I don’t remember exactly what they took over. Maybe it was a remnant from the cupcake craze. Regardless, it was now assimilated into the feel-good shoppe with a french moniker.

The new store, with the impressive window display, more than piqued my interest. It was so interesting that I put my overheating phone that was tracking my game into my purse. I pulled hard and opened the heavy door that was mostly glass but with an impressive mahogany frame. And I felt like I walked into somebody’s bathroom.

The store was teeny tiny on the inside. Maybe this was where they were selling, but definitely not baking, cupcakes.

Opening the door begot a madhatter experience. There was an impressive desk to the left. It was wooden and had an intricately inlaid top that supported a too-large mac monitor, a keyboard, a VOIP telephone and, facing me, a credit card swiping machine. Behind the desk was a very friendly woman with a loosely curly mane of blonde locks that would have been strawberry blonde if there was just a little more red. She had big lips lined with a pinky-brick color and filled with a brown-pink shine that was not glittery but more wet.

Her eyes were lined, too, with a brown pencil. She was smart to avoid black which would have been abrupt on her creamy skin and light rosy cheeks. Her eyes were definitely lined, though. Just not too much.

I think that she was tall, just by how she sat behind the formal desk with all of the electronics on display. Her head definitely topped the large computer screen. She sat tall like she was comfortable with her height. I’m thinking 5’11” or maybe even six. Her smile was toothy in just the right amount. The edges of her lips curved up like a real smile, and her eyes were happy, too. But, unbelievably, I didn’t see her–or her desk–at first. They were a bit behind me.

When I walked in, I pulled up because on my left, ahead of me, were two sinks. This was very impressive because the back of the store was maybe eleven feet ahead. The sinks were very white, in contrast to the manly wood and the serious wallpaper with a paisley stripe, each spaced eight inches from the next. Before I could take anything more in, a sprite stood in front of me.

I named him William in my head. I imagine that his mother and his sisters called him Billy, and his last three partners called him Will. The partners before that called him either Billy or Bill.

He had a plaid bow tie at the neck of his crisp white shirt. The shirt was hugged by a vest. The vest was not the same fabric as the tie–that would be too much–but a perfectly subtle accompaniment in both color and print. He had a pencil thin mustache and a cap that covered most of his short, tight steel colored curls. They were charcoal steel and stainless steel. He stepped toward me from the far sink, but because the space was so small it was a short step.

His greeting had a studied warmth. I felt like he was wondering why I was there. We had that in common. I offered that I thought that the window was so enticing, so that I was compelled to see what was next. I left out the part about my surprise at the tight quarters. Frankly, I was expecting to walk through aisles of toiletries. Instead, I just verbally blundered on about how the display intrigued me.

It was almost comical that after looking at rows and rows and rows of bottles, the product line was on two twenty-four inch shelves. It wasn’t a shop. Well, it was a barber shop. But the entirety of the wares was on my immediate right.

William offered me some sticks of paper on which I could smell the colognes. I demurred. I preferred to grab a bottle, remove the stopper and wave it from side to side underneath my nose. I knew better than to take a deep breath, so I just inhaled and exhaled naturally to catch the scent. Last thing I wanted was to burn my nostrils with patchouli.

It was a clean scent, but way to citrusy for my likes. William asked me what types of scents that The Spouse liked.

I looked at him askance, my eyebrow that I can’t control asking what the hell was he thinking?

“I don’t care what The Spouse likes. It matters what I like.”

William broke. He snorted a little, but quickly recovered. He was at the barber to the Kings of England, and whatnot. He couldn’t go to his Billy self, even if it was funny.

I asked him what he liked, and the woman who was seated four feet from me chimed in. (This was the first time I saw her, despite the intimacy of the space.) She offered what was most popular, and William answered my question on what he liked. Neither of which appealed to me. Too fruity. I asked if there was a sharper scent. William offered the mahogany box.

My nose was insulted from the first scent. The second I sprayed on the paper but missed and got my thumb. I couldn’t smell the paper as much as the crap I sprayed on my hand. I committed to spraying this next scent on the paper and almost succeeded. It was more woody and a bit sharper. I could see smelling this on the neck of The Spouse.

William offered me the services price list. Haircuts, hot lather shaves, facials, beard trims, neck shaves and manicures. William seemed good, I’d recommend him for a neckshave, as if I have any idea what that is.

The woman behind the mahogany desk reached behind her, to the rows and rows and rows that instigated my attention, and took a seriously orange box from a shelf. William pointed out the additional shaving gear–blades and brushes and soaps–in case I wanted to be even more generous. But let me tell you, when I signed the credit card slip I realized that I was being quite generous already.

The box was wrapped in the store’s signature tissue wrap and then placed in the seriously navy blue bag. I left pleased with myself for my purchase of a surprise gift, but mostly pleased at falling into the rabbit hole and being led through the madness by William, the MadHatter.


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