Maggie

Maggie’s face was compassionate as she looked at the girl sitting across from her on the plastic chair that’s universal to every doctor’s office. Her face crinkled in a slightly pained smile as the girl spoke. She noticed a glimmer of tears in the girl’s eyes and felt wetness begin to form in her own. She spoke in a soft voice that quivered with emotion and tried to convince the girl that her words were true.

Maggie’s hair was black and short, girlishly cut in a way that framed her bespectacled face nicely. She had the lines of wisdom on her face, testimony to a lifetime of experiences, both good and bad. She couldn’t help herself – when the girl rose to go, she clasped her hand for a moment, looked at her intently and beseeched her to come back if she needed anything.

The girl, Maggie knew, wouldn’t have it easy. There was no way that the following days would be easy, and Maggie knew with even more assurance that the coming months and years wouldn’t be easy too. Still, she thought she saw an echo of her own will to survive in the girl’s eyes, a small glimmer of the fighter buried in her. Maggie hoped she would be okay.

As the girl left the office, Maggie sat down heavily in the cheap swiveling chair in front of the tiny desk, barely large enough to hold the computer screen and the keyboard. A moment later, a curly woman with heavily made up eyes and bright red lipstick poked her head around the door, which had been left ajar.

“Ready for your next client, Maggie?” she asked, in a harsh, bored voice. Maggie raised her head, sighed, and nodded, taking the chart the woman was proffering at her. She gather her emotions and put a smile back on her face. As another girl walked through the door, she became all business again.

“Yes,” she said. “How can I help you?”

A Barber

In a small room with two mirrors, two swiveling chairs and three stationary ones, in a corner of Tel Aviv often overlooked by ordinary passerby, there is a barber. He seems a quiet man, a tactful man. Though it goes with his profession to be tactful and flattering as a rule, he seems rather sincere and serious when speaking of styles and colors.

Currently, it would be easy to make the mistake of thinking he was religious. The truth, if you inquire a bit, or if you hear him speaking to one of his regulars, is that his father has passed away, and he is in mourning. He is carrying out his mourning period, as is often done even by non-religious Jews, by not cutting his hair and beard and wearing a “Kipa”, a skullcap. The death of his father, not two weeks past, seems to weigh heavily upon him, because although his face lights up with a dazzling smile when greeting a true friend, it is fallen and tired the rest of the time.

All day long, he is on his feet without rest, charming and flattering the elderly women who come to get their hair dyed, joking with the men who come for a shave, welcoming in the stray stranger who finds his little shop. Despite being small, it is always overcrowded – he has dozens of regular customers, all popping in on their way to and from work, bringing their children and their dogs, making appointments on the fly or writing down their numbers for him to call them back and make proper engagements.

The warmth, the quiet chaos as customers change places constantly in the cramped shop, the kindness of the proprietor – all make the little spot a diamond in the rough of the Tel Aviv streets.