By Sonal Kohli
You are a tattoo-armed hair stylist, all bangs, purple hair. A suede belt at the waist for combs and clips. You smile at the client in the mirror as you pump the chair to the right height, you look them in the eye and straighten their head. You run your fingers through the wet hair, you pick up the shears. You love the crispy sound the hair makes between the blades. You relish it falling to the floor like autumn leaves.
A haircut is more than just grooming, a tidying up. You see it as a cleansing, a chance at new beginnings. As you work the shears, you sense who this person is, who they want to be, and shape them accordingly.
When you sweep the cut strands from the floor, it is like gathering an old persona, a shed body; to give it dignity, you whisper a prayer over it.
You were five when you stole into the storeroom with the craft scissors. Snip, snip, snip. It was mesmerizing to watch something attached to you fall off so effortlessly. You loved the freshness of the cut edges. You crept out of the storeroom and returned the scissors to their place. Of course, mom noticed your uneven hair, the dark locks you had left behind on the storeroom floor, and she and dad gave you a grand scolding.
Mistakes, unsound judgements, bad haircuts were unredeemable. For you, life was toeing a tightrope. You didn’t dare take the scissors to your hair again.
You are not a tattoo-armed stylist. You are a dowdy writer working at your laptop in the half-light of the basement. Your daughter, however, is cherubic, her dark hair glossy, soft as the finest silk.
Six months into the pandemic, her first haircut, long overdue.
A Sunday after her bath, you sit her in one of her little chairs, your basement desk doubles as a stylist’s station as you drape a striped towel around her, and take the scissors. The crisp sound of slicing an apple.
In the mirror, tattoos emerge on your arms and your hair turns purple at the ends.