I’m such a mess when I wake up in the morning—totally frazzled. I often find myself entangled with my bedfellows. Some mornings it is so bad I feel like Velcro stuck together. My roots keep me in place though, so I know who I am and where I belong. I love my roots. They are my life force, my sustenance, my stability. They are a part of me, connected to me, but they are also my connection to the world. They are stuck firmly into an epithelial layer of living cells that offer me nourishment and moisture. My roots or follicle is where I began to grow into the long hair I am today.
My ends need freedom; I want them to flow freely next to my sisters, while my roots keep my trunk in place. I need help getting free of my sisters; I can’t do it on my own. I can’t do anything on my own. I am subject to the whimsies of a force beyond my epithelial bed. When I feel the brush, I startle with anxiety. What will I be subjected to this time? Sometimes the brush is like a plastic rod, unforgiving and it pulls and yanks on my stem.I have to hold on with my roots for dear life. Often to loosen my ends from my sisters or smooth them from personal knotting, my ends are ripped from me and I am left with scars. Other times the brush is more of a bristle, like me but stiffer, it came from another root and bed, one of maybe another animal. This brush is much nicer. It flows over my body like water on a stone, making me smooth. I no longer feel the ends of my sisters entangled with me, and once I have been released from my neighbors, I enjoy the bristle brush. It has a soft caress that brings moisture from my roots and foundation in a soothing massage. I do enjoy an extended massage of say a hundred strokes, but only if I am dry.
It’s not that I don’t want to be clean -- I do. I especially enjoy a gentle shampoo. I can get so dirty. Sometimes it is just normal dirt that flies through the air and gets caught in the scales on my trunk. Other times I have extra grease from too many oils. Some oils come from my life-giving roots, but others are sprayed onto me which feel nice at first but then smother and weigh me down. Some soaps scrub too hard and strip away the oils from my roots, that I love. My favorite cleansers are gentle; they don’t rough me up, and only dissolve the dirt and synthetic oils -- leaving me and my roots to care for ourselves. If I get a light conditioner after a cleansing, it can feel like a day at the spa leaving me fresh and shiny afterwards. But when I am wet, I feel fragile; I fill with water like a sponge, and it weakens my joints and bonds. If the water isn’t pure, the foreign minerals squeeze their way through my swelling scales, and I wonder if I was better off with the dirt. If the brush comes while I am wet, it pulls and stretches me in a torturous way, as a human might feel on the rack -- sometimes breaking internal bonds that I can never heal.
Don’t get me started on the blow-dryer, which almost always comes next. It is so hot, and as the water evaporates too quickly from my swollen scales it takes oils and lipids I need for moisture and shine. The heat raises my scales further and causes me to tangle with my sisters, again. I wish I could just lie down and slowly let the water seep out. No wind blowing me about and sending me back into a frenzied mess with my sisters. No scorching heat that rifles my naturally smooth scales. No dehydration that causes my ends to split and kink, in further scarring.
The Salon can be a very good place for me to feel better. When we go there, the shampoo is always gentle. While the blow-dryer is still hot, I am usually slathered with oils first to temper the heat and offer protection from dehydration. I can receive a trim, a procedure to remove damage on my ends that advances up my trunk if left alone. As my scarred ends are sheared away, I feel relieved the damage will not be spreading and as a bonus, I tangle with my sisters quite a bit less.
I do hate some things about the salon, though. Sometimes a horrible alkaline chemical is painted on my body that attacks my scales, pushing them apart. It is excruciating, in all the pain I hardly notice that color is being pushed through my scales and into my core, changing me internally as well. After enduring this new torture, I do get to enjoy a nice soothing, almost penetrating conditioner. The soft cream will lessen and fill the gaps in my scales, and a gentle rubbing of my bed stimulates my roots and offers me extra nutrition and oils; but the damage is never completely restored.
Today we are back at the salon, but it is not for a trim or a color. I have been brutally scrubbed with a terribly harsh soap, which has left me so very dry and brittle. After an agonizing round with the brush, while wet with no lubrication to lessen the friction; I am currently being pulled and stretched around a rod, coiled so tightly I fear I will never feel air again. As I sit here praying that nothing more will befall me, before my release, I feel a new wetness on my body. I am already wet, what can this be? The new solution begins to penetrate through my scales, again ripping them open, as something new begins to seep into my core. This is nothing like I have felt before; I feel the very fiber of my being dissolving. Everything that makes me what I am, my shape, my natural wave, is all being torn apart. It’s as if someone is trying to rebuild me into something new, something I was not created for, something Curly. I can’t take it though; my trunk is already abused beyond repair. I feel my protective scales and internal bonds dissolving. I am falling apart; I have nothing left. As I reach into my roots for something to help me, something to pull on and replace what I am losing, I realize my roots too have been stressed. I have relied on them and they have always given me the nutrients and moisture I need, but today they have no more to give me, they too have been dissolved by this new horror. So, I let go.
Heather Fischer originally wrote this story for an English composition assignment earlier this year.