Saturday 26 June 2021

'Untameable' by Zahirra Dayal

Sundays smelled like burnt hair because that was when you had your hair tamed. First, your aunt took your wet hair and marshalled it with crocodile-teeth hair grips. Then, she released each small section from the mouth of the crocodile and aimed the Philips blow dryer like a gun at close range.
     The stretching and pulling squinted your eyes. You heard the sizzling of your singed curls. The burnt smell floated into your nose, flaring your nostrils. You sat frozen to the stool for the hour it took to wage battle with Mother Nature. After your hair was blow dried, you studied the flattened version of yourself in the oval mirror of her oak dressing table, feeling the distance widen between you and the girl in the mirror.
      Your aunt patted your brown hair with the coconut oil spread like butter on her palms. ‘That’s better!’
     You felt the edge of your freedom but didn’t move, suppressing the raging restlessness that flowed through you. She divided your straightened hair into two, rolled it into four balls which she fixed with triangular pins that dug into your scalp. Finally, she put a brown stocking over your head to seal in the straightness, and instructed you not to remove it. She was terrified that rain, humidity or any form of invisible moisture would undo all of her work in an instant; so precarious is the nature of blow dried hair.
     ‘Be careful with it or it will turn frizzy again’ she said before you broke free.
Now that you own your hair and your Sundays, you wash it and leave it to dry naturally. It grows bigger as the moisture evaporates. A tangled mass of brown curls rises to frame your face. The woman in the mirror smiles back.



First published by Briefly Zine (Issue 4, March 2021).

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