I started writing something a few days back this is all that I have so far but I think that I am off to a good start the hardest thing is getting it all to come out sometimes I feel as if the words are all stuck in my head just content to lay there and rot. I have to poke and prod them to come out. Well here it is.
It took my hair out the first time… clumps of it. Just as tame and straight as Jane’s but it came out all the same. As if my very skull rejected the forced assimilation even though I was quite too young to understand. And it itched, itched like hell. You know the kind of itch that is just like a doctor saying “oh no dear this is only going to sting” to calm you down just enough to inflict his torment freely upon you. I learned after the first time going to the doctors but for some reason (other than my mother) I kept going back to that salon, sitting in that hot leather chair, letting myself be boosted up until my dangling toes no longer touched the ground ( I suspected then so that I could not change my mind and run away) and tortured almost unbearably for 12 years (once a month) like clockwork.
Oh it burned like hot ice. I imagined my head a stack of smoke. How long was it? 15 or 20 minutes with that awful white girlish pink tinged stuff dripping to my ears and eating the flesh away. I remember it even now. God the liberation I felt when she put my head “under the sink” to wash out that awful lye based acid. It felt like relieving yourself after waiting a long long time. Crud I know but that is the truth. Such intense pleasure after all that pain. Every muscle in my body ached with release. It was like I was being worked over by a grand masseur. .. Well that was until she stared scrubbing my scalp to make sure it was all out. Her freshly French tipped manicured nails ripped at the newly opened wounds or war against my untamable hair. I remember the salt tears running from my eyes as I tried desperately not to cry aloud. Over the years it got easier, more accustomed to the pain. Just one of my many penances for being black and a woman.
I would leave that parlor (two hours later) on account of the drying and curling) and relish in the feeling of the wind running it’s finger through my sore scalp. I didn’t mind the fact that I would not be able to play bare headed in the rain, sweat or worst of all go swimming (unless it was under the strictest understanding that my head was not be submerged at any and all costs). I was happy no longer nappy. I would swing my head back and forth until I saw stars swimming in the clouds. I would turn in mad circles just to see my hair move freely like all those shampoo commercials. Just as lose and easy as those blonde skinny models. For five minutes I was in heaven on earth. Just five minutes because my mother (ever watchful) yelled at me to get back in the car/house lest the strong southern humidity cause it to go back, all the way back… to Africa. And that would be a waste of her 30 dollars. Money that we did not have to spend. For a week I would suffer sleeping on hard curlers thinking to myself that if Jesus could stand a crown of thorns I would at least stand this. By the second week the chemical burns would heal up. Mama would scratch my head and the scabs would float to the top of the black river and fall like snow onto my back and the dark blue towel across her lap. By the end of the second week I was fine, perfect at peace. My scalp had healed over and my hair still moved when the wind touched it. But by the fourth week it no longer hung down and the thin comb would not pass though it. And my scalp began to itch un mercifully. My mother interrogated me about what I had been doing to my hair. The hair dresser laughed and said my hair will one day be able to “hold the perm” for up to six weeks once I was older (it never did). Unruly once more like an unbroken wild animal thing back in Africa all the way back in Africa.
And so the process began again.
So I could look