The Barber of Flatbush Avenue
Two summers ago, I fell on my face on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. Luckily, I had one hand free to shield my face. But that hand didn’t escape injury. One nail broke open and my finger bled profusely. I didn’t even notice my skinned knees until later.
Now, I was in Brooklyn visiting with family. I had become more comfortable with Brooklyn crowds on a Saturday after a few years of visiting there, but I was still a Midwest suburban girl. I did not know what to expect on Flatbush Avenue that morning.
I lay there watching feet go by, wondering what I might pick up from that not so clean walkway. (Flatbush Avenue is not known for its pristine sidewalks.) I also wondered who was going to get me back on my feet. It had been a while since I could pull myself up from the floor, having arthritis in my knees.
Out of nowhere, it seemed, came arms that lifted me up like I was a rag doll and dusted me off.
“Are you all right, m’am? You took quite a spill. I have called the city more than once to fix that broken piece of pavement. I’m sorry you fell.”
I looked up to see a black man, stocking cap on his head, earring in one ear, toothy smile, looking very concerned for my welfare.
In shock and embarrassed about my fall, I held my finger up and said, “I hurt my finger. It’s bleeding.”
My rescuer shouted orders to his shop crew to get some medicine and bandages - now. A young lady showed up within thirty seconds with supplies. Together, they tended to my hand, wrapping the wounded finger in a bandage.
“Are you OK?” they asked.
“How could I not be with you two on the case?”
We all laughed. The truth was, I felt surrounded with care.
Turns out this man was the owner of Dr. Cuts, a preeminent hair care place for men in the neighborhood. His name was Desmond Romeo and he was well known enough to have been written up in the New York Times. Elizabeth Amon wrote in the Times that Mr. Romeo believes in caring for his male clients’ health as well as their hair. He keeps them informed of ways to deal with hypertension, diabetes, and prostate cancer. He’s committed to the neighborhood.
Mr. Romeo says, “People knew in history that the barbershop was the place to go if you got cut or injured,…They were the doctors of the community.”
Well, I found that out, Desmond Romeo, barber of Brooklyn.
I called my daughter at the café where she was waiting to have brunch.
“Hi, honey,” I said, “I fell on the sidewalk and Dr, Cuts is tending to my injuries.”
“Dr. Cuts? He’s famous around here. Are you OK? I’ll be right there to escort you.”
“OK, dear,” I said, winking at Dr. Cuts, "but I’m doing just fine.”