Saturday, October 08, 2011
The Miracle Cream
By Justine Wright
“Why did you have to have black people hair?” my mother says with disgust on her face. I stand there trying to answer the question, but I don’t know what black people hair is?
Maybe it’s the tangles of these curls or the kinky thickness of my hair that can’t be tamed. She gossips with her friends about how ugly, difficult and horrible my hair is. I hate it; I hate how everyone has that same look on their face. It's as if I’m cursed.
I find myself walking around the corner to this “salon.”
A big lady stands in front of me with these piercing eyes of hatred. She hates my hair and I think she hates me for being cursed with these locks. “I’m going to need a lot of relaxer for this one,” she declares.
She places a big bottle of this white mayonnaise-looking substance on the desk. I feel the comb ripping four lines on my head. She’s in the jungle fighting the beast that is my hair. This mayonnaise smells foul. It’s plastered across my scalp; my head is on fire and it burns.
Sitting alone on this high chair, with flames riding across my scalp, the tears are washing my face. I’m begging for water to wash this acid out of me. Every minute feels like an hour. The pain is penetrating, sinking toward my cortex. After an hour of minutes, I’m rushed to the sink. There my dehydration is given the water it needs.
The mirror looks at me and I see a different person. Her hair is straight and it looks longer than it was earlier. The weight of the hair resting on her head is lighter. I can’t believe that she is me. This miracle cream stripped the ugliness out of my hair. But it wasn’t over yet; after another hour of sitting impatiently on a pillow that brings my head to the dryer, I’m released from the punishment of having “black people hair.”
Big bouncy curls fall from the rollers that construct them. Everyone in the salon is staring at my hair. “Ay, que Linda!” they keep repeating. These Spanish people in this salon finally accept my hair. “Now you look like your father’s mother, too bad you didn’t get her eye color.” I guess all the pretty traits that I don’t have just make me unfavorable to her.
We’re walking through the street; my hair is long and flowing in the wind. I never knew it would be able to reach my waist. It's pretty, at least that’s what everyone in the street is saying to this short six-year-old girl. I feel so beautiful. For once I love my hair. In this moment I’m glad that the mayonnaise burned the “black people hair" out of me. I run upstairs and play with my hair in the mirror; it’s so soft I can run my fingers through it.
I am swaying my hair back and forth when my mother walks into the room. She is looking at me looking at myself in the mirror and then she says, “You’re not pretty so stop smiling.”
Writer Justine Wright, who grew up in the Bronx, is a freshman at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She plans to be a biology major.