By Richard Coltharp
Las Cruces Bulletin
Drizzt Garcia-Washburn, an 18-year-old senior at Centennial High School, walked into foreign territory last Saturday.
Sure, he’d seen City Barber Shop before. Every Las Crucen has. It’s been here for 60 years.
But this was the first time he’d ever walked in as a customer – to this or any other barber shop.
In fact, this was the first time he’d gotten a haircut since he was 9 months old.
Everyone who knows Garcia-Washburn knows him by his signature long hair, usually fashioned in a braid going down the length of his back. The long hair was a nod to his Native American bloodline and his namesake, Drizzt Do’urden, a benevolent character from the R.A. Salvatore book series, “Forgotten Realms.” That Drizzt has long hair too.
His arrival to the barber shop at 1201 N. Main St. was a big deal, and friends and family showed up to watch.
So, after all these years, why get a haircut now?
For one thing, Centennial’s prom was that night. Everyone likes to clean up for prom and Drizzt’s girlfriend Bethany Bridges, was there to watch. For another, Drizzt will join the military this summer, the beginning of a six-year stint with the United States Marine Corps. He heads to boot camp in San Diego in July.
I asked him why he picked the Marines.
“That’s the hardest one,” he said.
Drizzt loves competition, and played football and ran track for CHS.
Drizzt’s mom, Jennifer Wright, showed up at City Barber Shop a few minutes before the big cut. This would be almost as traumatic for her as for him.
They decided she should re-braid his hair, ostensibly to make it tighter, and easier to save as a keepsake. Watching this take place, though, it seemed a solemn ceremony. She’d probably braided his hair a thousand times, and this time would likely be the last. She unraveled the braid, and spread out his long brown locks, giving them one last, loving look, before swiftly braiding it all back together, a ritual she could do blindfolded in her sleep.
She took a deep breath and handed her son off to barber Zack Mirabal.
Drizzt sat in Zack’s barber chair as a dozen friends and family formed a semi-circle, their cellphones set to video.
First thing to go was the braid, and it was tough cutting for Zack. Once it was off, Drizzt was all open-mouthed and bug-eyed, surprised, shocked and suffering all at the same time.
“My head feels so light,” he said. “Oh my God!”
Then his smile briefly turned into a somber frown.
“This is the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Drizzt said.
“Wait until boot camp,” cracked Matthew Arguello, the barber manning the next chair over.
When Zack held the braid in his hands, it had the weight, look, length and feel of a banded-rock rattlesnake. With it gone, Drizzt no longer looked like a rock band drummer, and Zack could then perform a regular haircut.
Drizzt remained clearly in shock.
Anyone who’s ever gotten his hair cut at a barber shop knows the last move. The barber hands you a mirror, and you reflect the back of your head in the wall mirror behind. It’s usually a five-second look, and the customer says, “Yep, looks good.”
For Drizzt, though, it felt more like five minutes as he did triple-take after double-take, repeating, “Oh my God!”
To make it official, Zack pulled from a drawer a First Haircut Certificate, an 8×10 parchment to mark the date. In most cases, the certificates are for boys closer to 18 months than 18 years. The certificate was signed and dated and the deed was done.
Drizzt hopped out of the chair and the crowd gathered round as if he’d just won the heavyweight title.
I made my way to the champ to offer congratulations and condolences.
When I asked about the braided pony tail, he handed it to me.
We spoke briefly about his track season, in which Drizzt had done three field events: high jump, long jump and triple jump. I asked if he’d qualified for the state track meet.
“Just barely missed it,” he said, holding his thumb and forefinger less than an inch apart.
I held out the braid in both hands. Mentally scaling it, I figured it was a good three pounds, easy.
“Man, if you didn’t have this weighing you down, you might have made those jumps,” I said.
He shook his head and wrinkled a smile, as if to say, “Maybe so …”
“What about you,” I asked Bethany, Drizzt’s girlfriend. “What do you think of the new look?”
“I like it,” she said, visibly pleased.
By then it was selfie time, as everyone went outside and took turns getting phone pics with Drizzt and his certificate and his brand new head.
Somewhere beneath all the buzz, inside that head, surely were thoughts about what will happen in the next few months, in his brand new life.