Later that day, when I got my haircut, I wondered if Jesse would like it. As I waited to get my cut, one of the employees was brushing and grooming a wig in front of me. The wig sat on a mannequin head that floated from a long metal pole. Its plastic blue eyes seemed to pop open from the force of the pole as they blankly met my stare. The wig was being made for a young Hassidic woman, who vigilantly stood by. She was protective of her head of hair, correcting the employee when one curl wasn’t as pronounced as another. It was a spectacle I was entirely unfamiliar with. I shamelessly stared at the young woman’s covered head, wondering what her real hair looked like. Was she as protective of and careful with her own hair? I fantasized what her hair might have looked like if she let it show. I guessed it thick and curly and dark. I wondered if she had two lives and if she felt different depending on which head of hair she wore. Meanwhile the employee was shaping the hair with her fingers with a pride and tenderness characteristic of a mother grooming her child.
Mamãe used to brush my hair as a child, by her bedroom window. I would sit and she would stand. My hair would still be thick and wet from the shower. “You never dry your hair properly.” She would tell me, in a habitual way. She’d then run the brush, slowly, down my hair so that every knot’s struggle was heard in a low rumble. With each stroke my scalp cooled and the smell of lavender shampoo opened. One day I told mamãe “I don’t want you to brush my hair anymore.” I said it in calculated and calm words, which I had repeatedly rehearsed. She set the brush aside and stared, dumbfounded, at my gleaming, straight strands, divided neatly by the pins of the brush.
A young man by the name of Tommy cut my hair off that day. We didn’t talk much and he probably thought I was boring just like all the other hairdressers did. I never understood what girls did that got hairdressers talking. Most of the time I thought of what to say until I got sleepy from the hairdryer and then eventually I’d give up.