My bad hair week! (From Chemotherapy)

By Yasmin Perera

I woke up last Monday and the little brown bird trilled clearly again
The clock muttered its monotonous toot, tocks, nudging all people awake
Lemon grass tea warm in me belly, I shower & dry as the mirror looks on.
My large toothed comb makes its familiar way through the frizzy black hair-
I feel a slowness, a drag, and the once smooth sweep takes a weensy bit longer.
A strange new sensation, a foggy moment, awareness spins, a realization dawns,
This is the day, this is the day that my hair loses its unseen yet heroic stand.

The indiscriminate war on cells has come and gone, the chemo tanks rolled, and won.
Overnight, with not the faintest warning, my hair is falling thick in clumps,
No gun shots felt, or cannon blasts heard, but the battle is won and the flag is raised.
The rest of me, the self I know, has sailed through the deadly red cocktail - intact
But not so blessed my hair, so glossy before the dye and frizz, I let you go and await the new.

The fallen dead lie everywhere, the decay spreads, no surface high or low is spared,
Black hair in funny curves holds fast to the mirror and stares, crackling to touch,
Prickly ends falling down my shirt stick to the rough dry skin and itch, and itch.
The cream and pink blouse has a new ebony weave, a messy tangle on the even print.
The white tiles sniff at the drifting hairs, but smiles, happy at its shining self, - my new chore,
The microwave carousel , the mango in the bowl, screams in raw disgust, stunned,
While the toothpaste, the sheet, the kitchen sink, and the beige car seat,
Are hit by the locust like invasion, and helpless, suffocate in the clutches of its web.
Only the soft floating araliya rocks with laughter, tickled softly by the dancing strands.

How to explain the strange phenomenon to the joyful little children I ponder?
Inspired I tell the doubting five-year-old, “I can do amazing magic and shed my hair,”
“You can’t, you can’t, so show me, go on show me,” the chirpy voice dares
The comb comes free with wads of bunched up hair, an assorted black and grey.
The mouth goes ‘oh’, the eyes grow wide, “do it again” he says, and I obey smiling.
‘See magic’, eyes pop and words spill, “tell me the secret, how? show me how?”
I keep the truth locked away and hold the thought of magic to the eager eyes,
A Bad Hair Week for me, a Week of Magic for the Kids, the thought races in and so I decide.

The remaining locks salvaged and cut, before the forced molting ends, I wrap in paper
To make well placed wisps to peep under the hat or scarf, and pretend to what is gone.
Wigs could fly away, so insecure and strange in fit, and oh so hot in our tropical sun,
I have no models, I know none who has lost her hair, to share stories of awkwardness.
How easy would it be if I were a muslim right now, my life could flow on such normal lines
No need then to brace myself, as I walked as usual to catch the 154, no heads would turn,
No need to face the world that laughs at ‘strangeness’ in its midst, a daunting task right now
Will hands reach out, can the talk of the everyday integrate this change – it is still unknown
People stare and whisper; crass wisecracks invade oblivious to the bruising they bring.

Depleted from the brutal chemo, I walk on alone, wondering at this insensitive world.
With no landmarks or maps to read, the territory is prone to much navigating ills.
Today in church I saw that look, that averting of the eyes when the ‘C’ word spilt out,
I caught the withdrawal , and leapt in to grab the drifting gaze, “Look, my first Pink Scarf Day”
Simply meaning “I am ok” I guess. The energy turned, and ‘Bad Hair Week’ stories flowed.
Thank the Goddess for the people who could take the change in their stride, and relate to “Me”
The “Me” that has never changed, and await the latest Bad Hair story to laugh or cry.
Like the day a small hand pressed at my head in play and the seldom worn wig slipped
A child’s stunned look, peals of laughter, a secret unveiled, questions galore from mouths of babes.
This warmth replenishes my being, pouring vitality through those tired out pores,
Now I speak of “cancer” freely, and often end up swapping stories en route to the 154.

My ‘Bad Hair Week” – you are almost gone, no dark dismay, but mere amusement remains, surprising!
Grief for the loss just a light shadow, and the hairless venture to the world at large, no dire threat.
The feet that walked through the insensitive and clumsy world stronger now,
And the heart that was touched by true, generous and caring folk, lighter forever.

Unanticipated lightness and even a reaching out to the world, sprang gently from springs unknown,
“I can do this, yes I can’ was the hum of the new born butterfly struggling from bondage to flight.

A gentle dance to soft music like running water filled my soul, another layer of ground laid.
‘Bad Hair Week’, you are many things to many people – yet to me you were gentle.
Thank you. Angels aboard.

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