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A Woman's Hair Is Her Crown And Glory photo

The Flores twins request identical curled ponytails for prom. At the last moment, Lupe wants bangs, making her prettier than Berta. Yoked chestnut mares, they dance away. Next, I braid Mrs. Nagy’s long hair like a loaf of challah, free of charge for her birthday. She covers it with her headscarf as though to let it rise, a secret bounty to be shared only with her husband. At noon, the sun is partially obscured by clouds, and Mrs. Balasubramanian comes in her black mourning gown. Her heavy hair floats in the basin like a stranded baby seal, to be tamed and bundled into warm towels. She must look her best when she visits her daughter. Mrs. Fairchild, recently divorced and dating again, follows. She needs a quick blowout, so I comb and press her golden hair until it is a sheer curtain fluttering around a face thrown open to love. Cassie comes at dusk, of course, for the elaborate beehive her johns like. She tips double what the others do. When I lean her back to wash her hair with rose-scented shampoo, she cries, and the mascara runs to her ears as though to tell all it has seen. It is night when I lock the door and remove my wig. Green and spiky, it perches on my fist like the crown of a cactus. I smile at my reflection in the shop window and a bald woman smiles back, resembling nothing, expecting only me. 

image: Michael O'Shea