If I'd walked through a different door that day, we might never have met. If we hadn't hit it off straight away, I might never have seen him again. It was 1996 and he arrived just a few months before I left. He's one of the few people I still know from those days, the only one I still know from the town I lived in then, the only reason I go back there now.
A lot has happened in the intervening years, but as I sit in the black leather chair, sipping on a mug of too hot, too strong coffee, it's as though no time at all has passed, though everything and nothing has changed.
He still remembers the day I dropped by on my way to a night out, wearing a sixties-style black and white dress. Every now and then he reminds me of how I looked and just for a moment we both stop and remember; and I feel as good as I ever did.
My hair was long in those days, and I could have played for Britain in the hair-flicking world championships. I'd got it down to a fine art, but that never impressed him - he never liked my hair long, never missed a chance to suggest it would look better short. And strangely, after a while I began to realise that he was right.
It was a huge leap of faith to trust him enough to go from long and girly, to short and sleek; but that's the thing about friends, you trust them. And so I did. I might have felt like crying as I watched my hair falling to the floor, but his confident assurance kept me from running out the door.
Last year, I tried growing it again; it got long enough to tie back and put up, but I knew he wouldn't approve, so I avoided him for months, until I'd got tired of it and knew it needed some drastic action. And like any proper friend, he didn't tell me I was stupid, moan about my neglect, or try to persuade me to do something I didn't want to. He just took control, as he always has and always will, and turned me back into the person I'd rather be.
I may only see him every six weeks or so, but I always feel better when I do, and that's not just because he tells the worst jokes in the world. He'll talk to me about my family, ask if Philip is still playing the banjo, tell me how my daughter has turned out a fine young lady and a credit to her mother; he'll let me know how protective he felt when one of his colleagues showed too keen an interest in her.
He'll untangle the knots in my neck and the tension in my brain with the most skilful of head massages, then he'll switch his attention to considering how my hair should be cut. It doesn't matter what I think, or want, he'll simply decide what I should look like next - and whatever he decides, I know I'll feel more able to face the world, more confident in who I am. And who could ask for more - from a hairdresser or a friend?