Urban Decay and a Pair of Scissors by Headboy
Sandy dropped her keys on the table after a long day at work. Her eyes were bleary, the job sucked, her apartment was too small and in a lousy neighborhood. Being twenty-one was supposed to be an adventure, not a prison sentence, she thought to herself.
It was six months since she moved away from home, out of the comfort of mom and dad’s suburban split-level. She’d run through her life savings faster than she’d thought, took a job that didn’t pay what she’d hoped and, in general, settled for less than she was looking for, all for the sake of adventure in the big city, alone.
That was the worst part for her, the being alone part. Her roommate was never home, and when she was, the girl was semi-distant, surly and never up for a good time. Sandy could smell marijuana seeping under her bedroom door, the stench filling the small, dilapidated, apartment. She never smoked it, couldn’t stand the idea. “That’s probably why she’s always moping, or scarfing Doritos,” Sandy thought to herself.
Sandy went into the bathroom, to do the one thing she could to relieve the stress of a lousy day stocking shelves, dreaming of a better way to realize her dream: to be a poet. She was realistic, there is not a lot of work for poets. You cannot open a poetry boutique, or have a mail-order poetry business. She knew she’d have to have a day job most, if not all, of her life.
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The bathroom’s gray walls danced with shadows from the candle Sandy lit. “Ambiance,” she said aloud, laughing at herself. Steam rose up from the tub as it filled with scalding hot water. Her back was one big knot, the hot water soothed it, and she’d lay back, read a magazine, and leave the shampoo in her lush, auburn hair, enjoying the tingle. It was the lone reward she had. She stocked the magazine rack at work, and any leftovers, she could take with her.
Without cable TV, and having sold her CD collection to pay for a new set of tires, Sandy was without entertainment. Radio stations in Southern California were all formula, and in this neck of downtown, the place that would soon be raised for redevelopment, night life was a non-entity.
She read the latest issue of Modern, looking at the luxurious homes of the filthy rich, letting her tight, flawless, body recoup from ten hours of grueling labor. She pulled a comb through her hair, looking at her reflection in the mirror, and how the candle flame danced and how it cast shadows on her face, making her features look alternately flattering, and foreboding. She opened the medicine chest to get her razor, she loved shaving her legs; the cool, slow, sensual curves of her legs were something she was proud of… long hours of running the streets of her hometown growing up, there’d be none of that now, not in her current neighborhood.
Inside the medicine chest, she saw her roommate’s stash of marijuana, not hidden, just put away. Sandy felt overcome with boredom, curiosity, and the quest for trying something new. She grabbed the smallest of the three joints that taunted her, smelled it, winced and put it back.
A smile came to her face. “Innocent girl caught in drug flop-house,” was the headline to her local newspaper back home that flashed in her mind. The smile got wider as Sandy figured how her poetry would have a street credibility if she at least tried pot once.
Having used her last match to light the candle, Sandy bent over the flame to light up. Her inexperience with smoking anything got the best of her, and her bangs swept through the flames. Sandy didn’t notice immediately, she was concentrating on the joint between her lips. The smell of burning hair was overpowering the stench of marijuana.
Sandy looked up into the mirror, stark terror rained across her face. The joint fell from her lips, she slapped her forehead with reckless abandon. She shook for a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity as she starred into the mirror. The candle light flicked continually, changing her face in the mirror, an inch-wide strip of her bangs had been seared up to her scalp. It sat there, mangled. Stinking, burnt and ruined. She sobbed slightly, trying to survey the damage.
She looked down on the floor for a second to try and look the damage away. The joint was at her feet, still burning. Sandy picked it up, inhaled and coughed horribly. The heat on the back of her throat was totally foreign to her. A complete shudder hit her as she couldn’t believe what she was doing. She inhaled again, flicking the ashes into the sink. She changed the part in her hair, attempting to cover the damage; it did not work.
Her bangs only stuck out at odd angles, looking awkward and feeling singed all over, not just the mangled part. She finished smoking the joint, her mouth was dry, her body felt strange, her lips were numb. The effects of marijuana coursed through her body, she walked, naked, toward the kitchen for something to drink.
“I’m walking to the kitchen naked,” she sang, giggling. The bare fridge held a six pack of Bass Ale, mustard and some wilted celery. “Can’t drink celery,” she said, grabbing the beer and heading back into the bathroom.
Naively mixing pot and alcohol, Sandy starred at the mirror, picked up her razor and thought, “Let’s just get the burned up parts out of the way and see if we can hide it.”
She pulled the razor over the patch, careful not to cut off any more of her hair. As she grabbed the rest of her bangs with one hand to try to clean things up with the other hand, she forgot the lit joint was still in her hand. A “shhhtch” pierced the air. More hair fell into the sink, severed by the absent-mindedness brought on by her present state.
Sandy threw the joint into the sink, swearing off forever, but stuck with her auburn bangs now jagged and mangled beyond repair. Also, she was stuck with a mind that could not focus. A mind that had never experienced anything like this before. She began sobbing at the sight of her bangs, then laughed at them. “Could I comb the back forward?” she thought. “I’d look silly bald,” she said out loud, thinking of ways to fix the mess she’d put herself in.
In her hazy logic Sandy remembered her friend Kelly from high school, the swimmer who’d shaved her head for the state finals. “It looked good on her,” Sandy thought. “Would it look silly on me?”
The words, “Only one way to find out,” came out of her mouth with a smirked bounciness.
The scissors were in her hands before she’d thought twice. Sandy didn’t think to hesitate, she didn’t think at all. The first snip sunk in near the left temple, and nicked the flesh on top of her skull. She rubbed the uneven bit, thinking how great it would be in the mornings to not have to put forth any effort doing her hair for a while.
She slid the scissors up and over her right ear, letting them cut as they moved. Sandy smiled. She’d never seen her ears exposed. The back and top of her locks dropped quickly, unevenly to the floor, into the toilet, all over the sink. She felt frustrations being vented as she hacked away at her mane. Angry all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, her movements became violent, brutal.
The poverty she was experiencing, the “mommy’s good girl” label she’d had back home, her frustrations all fell away. Sandy lost her balance, as she jerked back and forth. She looked into the mirror again, nothing left but patches of stubble, in various, uneven lengths.
She rubbed shaving cream over her head with a smile, sobering up a little at the sight of herself. Short, careful strokes revealed a pristine scalp. Sandy loved the smooth feel, and the whiteness of it. Slowly, the hairline went back further and further. She rubbed it, and fell in love with the languid transformation of herself. She’d never given it much thought before, but the strangeness of taking away from herself what she once held so dear was liberating. No longer would she have to deal with hair in her eyes.
“Poor, bald and lonely,” she said, feeling her head with her hands, and finding it sexual, sensual, and just plain new. “On the plus side,” she thought, heading to bed, “being bald is free. So is sleep, and tomorrow is a new day.”