I was used to it. My hair often caused chaos. “Your hair be throwin’ gang signs!” “Your hair is a fractal!” “You should rethink that hair . . . ”
“I’m Afraid I Can’t See Over Your Hair”
New Prose by Anna Doogan
The noisy conversations dropped to mumbles as the lights dimmed. In the darkness, the rustling of coats being slipped off, the squeak of the movie theater seats suddenly holding weight. Crinkling and ripping as candy was opened, popcorn passed. The slurping straws, an occasional cough. Awkward whispers of latecomers trying to decide between crotch-view or ass-view as they slid past people to find vacant seats. Excuse me. So sorry. Excuse me.
“Excuse me.” The voice whispered close, just behind my ear.
I half-turned in the darkness, tipped my head to show that I was listening.
“I’m afraid I can’t see over your hair.”
I was embarrassed. It was not the first time it had happened.
“Oh! So sorry. I can move back a bit,” I whispered, moving to get up.
And then I was stuck in the back row with the assorted tall people and the teenagers making out. At least the movie was decent.
I was used to it. My hair often caused chaos.
“Your hair be throwin’ gang signs!” A swaggering teen yelled to me across the street one afternoon. And for a moment my hair tried on that identity. Street family and loyalty, colors and turf lines.
“Your hair is a fractal!” My eccentric professor shouted up through the huge lecture hall, pen waving overhead, coffee-stained shirt, tie twisting undecipherably down his front. Some students turned to me in shock and confusion, but my hair just kept repeating patterns, a mathematical phenomenon rippling through the follicles.
“You should rethink that hair,” a businessman said as we crossed the street together. “You’ll never get a job when you look like you smoke marijuana all day.” And suddenly my hair was burning embers, herbed vapors coiling above my head in a hazy spiral. But he held the door as we both stepped to enter the coffee shop, and I didn’t tell him that I’ve never been without a job.
“Your hair is some crazy shit,” a new lover said, hands wrapped in it as we interlaced in bed, trying to learn each other’s bodies. Tangled roots, tangled legs, tangled lips. Erotic labyrinth of sweat and skin, hair twisted across the sheets in knots.
“Your hair looks like snakes,” my son said when we cuddled and read at bedtime, his sticky fingers running along my head. Serpentine and venomous, a fierce protective mama. A slithering Medusa, slinky and shrewd, like the villain in all of his fantasy books.
“I love your colorful hat,” a sweet old woman leaned over and said on the train. And I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I wasn’t wearing one.
After the movie, I left with my big hair. Left the theater, waited at the crosswalk for the light to change.
A little girl stood near the corner with her mother. Around five, my daughter’s age. Her mother looked stressed, distracted, kept arguing with someone on a cell phone. The little girl stared at me with wide eyes, never blinked. I raised my eyebrows, gave a sideways smile in greeting.
“Your hair is made of magic,” she whispered, still staring. And I winked and nodded before her mother pulled her roughly across the street as the light changed.
I crossed the street a few feet behind them, kept smiling at her, my hair shimmering spells of stars and alchemy.
Anna Doogan is a writer, dancer, and mama of three. She lives in the rainy but lovely Pacific Northwest.