Day 6: Shorn by Olufunke Ogundimu

My mother scraped my hair off, when I was 13 months old. She told me my tightly curled baby hair was full save the bald crescent at the back of my head. She cut my hair to rid me of my blood hair; my birth hair. My hair grew back, thicker and fuller. My childhood was filled with weekly sojourns to the shops of hair weavers – shuku, ipako elede, koroba, patewo, kolese hair styles graced my head. My hair was weaved, combed, twisted, pulled and wrenched out from its roots but it stubbornly grew. It reached out for my chin and tickled my back.
When I was 11 years I cut my hair. My secondary school, Girls College, required that it be cut short. For the first time in over a decade, I felt the wind tickle my scalp. I would linger in the bathroom enjoying cold water trickle from my scalp to my toes. My hair grew half an inch longer each month, so I cut it every three months for the next six years. Secondary school was a blur; those six years ran by me. I try to remember all the days of those years. I cannot. But I remember the haircuts days. Girls’ college’s gates released me in 1989. I allowed my hair to grow again. I twisted, pulled and wrenched my hair again but willfully this time. I let it grow for six months then I poured it in to another mold.
I tortured it; I poured hydroxide on it.
It grew long and silky but I had to add hydroxide to it every two months. Not long after it tickled my back again. I spoilt my hair with aloe-vera gel, coconut oil and Shea butter. It shone like a mirror reflecting the in the midday sun. I stopped twisting, pulling and wrenching it. I let it grow and so it grew and grew.
Until my father’s sister had to cut my hair again. She scrapped it off with a new razor blade until my scalp tingled and bled in some spots. I promised myself I would never cut my hair again. I would never let a razor blade, a pair of scissors or clipper touch my hair again. I thought I had succeeded in burying that hair cut in my past.
Today, I remembered that haircut because I cut my hair. I cut off four inches of straightened African hair. Yesterday, my black silky hair was fourteen inches long. When I asked my hairdresser to cut my hair, she was so stunned her drawn eye brows disappeared into her receding hairline.
‘Are you sure?’ she asked.
I have never allowed her to trim it, let alone cut it. ‘Yes, I want it shoulder length, please.’ I mumbled.
‘Scissors!’ she snapped at an apprentice and pushed me into a chair before I could change my mind.
She combed out my hair and snipped. She cut deep into my heart. Goose bumps appeared on my forearms. And I began to cry. Not the loud, noisy tears. They were quiet and unseen. They rolled down my heart and clogged my lungs.  The salon’s cracked linoleum floor was soon covered with my hair.
She kept cutting.
I remembered our tears, I remembered our fears, and I remembered that haircut that I had buried in my past… My mother sat on a stool outside my father’s family compound in the village, her shoulders bent under her grief. She did not see the mosquitoes dancing around her head or feel the sand flies biting her. Big painful tears fell from mother’s eyes. They fell on the packed laterite mixing with her cut hair. The keening of our women folk wrapped her in anguish. She sat weeping beside the empty grave of my father, keeping a vigil as required by our customs.
‘Are you cold?’ my hairdresser asked, ‘You are shaking.’
I shifted in my chair. My brain struggled to lock those painful memories back in my past. I couldn’t sit still as my heart bled and my body jerked with the pain.
‘I’m fine.’
But I couldn’t stop shivering. A dam had been breached. Memories swirled around in my head. I tried to keep them locked in.
 She cut my hair.
 On the floor that day was hair from all of my father’s female relatives; my mother’s, my father sister, her daughters and my sister’s and my hair. Grey fluffy hair, jerry curled hair, purple tinted hair, relaxed hair and tightly curled virgin hair. As my father’s first daughter, it was my duty to sweep up our hair. I poured the libation of our collective grief into his grave.
‘Do you like the hairstyle,’ my hairdresser asked me. I jerked out of my past.
I peered into the mirrors lining the walls of the salon. The mirrors reflected my hairdresser expectant face and the fear in my eyes. My hair grazed my chin. I took in a deep breath and closed my eyes, shoving that hair cut back into the past. I took in a deep breath. My shorn locks are still rooted in my head and heart. It will grow again. It will reach out for my chin and tickle my back again.
‘I love the haircut,’ I said.


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