I was born with straight, brown hair. For the longest time, I thought it was boring. I thought to myself, wow, what I would give to have hair with a story behind it. Hair that bounces and speaks something of the personality of the person it is a part of. I wanted hair that I could twirl around my finger without looking like I’m spinning spaghetti around my fork. My curly hair friends exclaimed that my hair must be so easy to brush. I thought to myself Yeah, that’s true I guess. But I still want hair the bounces and curls around my face. That must be better. It’s different from boringness of straight brown hair that looks like a mouse might share. My curly haired friends grew up and got keratin treatments to tame their manes, and I had trouble understanding it. I didn’t get why they all wanted my hair. One day, I was brushing it after getting out of the shower at a friend’s house. She was amazed that my hair dried so straight and manageable without using expensive serums or special conditioners. I had always swiped the ones from hotels because I never gave a second thought to the conditioner I used in my hair. They all left it the same: straight, with a glossy shine. I imagined all the hours my curly haired friends had spent in front of a mirror, desperately trying to get a brush unstuck. It was extra effort I didn’t even have to think about. And that my friends is exactly how privilege works. Hair might not be that serious to you, so You can apply this story as an allegory to racial privilege, heterosexual privilege, male privilege, or socioeconomic privilege. They’re things we’re born with, like our hair. But those who have the advantage at birth often don’t understand the people who don’t. It’s part of our privilege of education that we learn about it.
Things are getting bad again
Words start to feel like stones
And hugs like suffocation
While hazy moments of laughter
Cover the emptiness of my chest.
You’re not full, argues my stomach
You’re broken, says my heart
Every line that has been spoken to me
Telling me how to define myself
Comes back into my mind
Like a fog that deepens in the night.
Just keep your opinions to yourself sometimes
You’re actually smart?
No boy will want to listen to all that.
Crazy feminist bitch.
If you just worked on your stomach a little…
Try being less sensitive.
Get over yourself, it’s not all about you
Calm down, you’re being wild
You’ve been dating for 8 months, don’t you think you owe it to him?
I don’t like the way your words affect me
But I wish you tasted them too
Safa means ‘safe’ in Farsi
She explained as
We made the trek down
From the ranch house to the barn.
By the time we reached the bottom of the hill
The paint cans in our hands were boulders
And we set to work with rollers,
Covering the old wood the color of the open sky
And changing the decrepit and forgotten place
Into a home.
Four beaming eyes with pupils the size of saucers
Still slink away from me.
I know they’ve been hurting
And I know that they’re scared
But I don’t pretend to know what it feels like
To have your life in someone else’s hands.
But that’s why we’re here.
To open our arms
To make a home
To open some souls up to life.
I ask myself
Why I push you away
And why I wait for hugs to end.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because
The last time I lost myself in someone
He twisted me and then spit me back out
Because I believed in waiting.
I wasn’t ready for him to force me down
But he did and no words can bring me back to that moment
He copied me by waiting patiently
For the moment to strike.
The moment when I was slow to react.
When I accepted the culture of the party life
And being with an older guy
And losing who I was to a bottle of Malibu.
In one moment, he shoved me down
And with me, my sense of self.
No, I’m not ashamed anymore.
When I’m proud of myself now,
It’s because I fought a boy who tied my worth
To my body
A boy who disregarded my freedom with one simple hand.
So I hope you get it.
Why when someone has complete control over me
I just don’t want to surrender so easily.
So I hope you get it
Why it took me a while to like your hugs.
How is it possible for one person
To put the dew on the leaves
The planets in their orbits
The sparkle in my eyes?
When I try to tell you
What I was like before–
Nothing escapes my lips
But now that I’m okay again
I’d just like to say that–
It’s been quite some time
Since someone reached out
To hold my hand like you do.
Thin and skeletal wrists protrude out of a jacket much too large for her and grasp the black leather bound around the thin driving wheel much too tightly. Eyelids heavy with sleep close for a moment and then open again, somehow even more like slits than before they closed.
A pre-made playlist from the browse section plays from Hannah’s phone. The playlist is called, “Have a Good Day!” The exclamation is for emphasis, as if a well-wisher wouldn’t have completed his job if he hadn’t added that specific punctuation to the playlist she specifically seeks out. Soft beats and strums of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” leak out of the sound system, filling her metal box sanctuary with the happy go lucky anthem. Her obsessively repetitive toe tapping attempts to follow the repetitive rhythm of the song but makes no progress in matching its relaxed beat.
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s alright
The light changes back to ready and hopeful green, yet still Hannah does not move a toe. Honks and swerving pursue as angry cars with somewhere to be and somewhere to go get tired of dealing with her problems. They all leave without asking why she stays. They are only angry that she does stay. Finally, she accelerates and turns and keeps moving without so much as slowing down until she stops inside a diagonally painted box. An artificially lit green sign looms over the store’s parking lot. She goes into the store, but leaves just as quickly. They couldn’t help me, she reasons.
Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Desperate to leave and return to the exclusivity of a book tucked behind blankets, she shifts to reverse and bends the wheel to get out of the tight space. A fraction of a second away from turning the wheel back to the direction she wants to go, another driver enters her life. He doesn’t see her sitting there in her silver car that was paid for by weekends of sacrificed time, suffering through a few measly dollars of tips. Honking ensues from the panicked young girl and the car behind her waiting for her spot, watching the miserable and panicked scene unfold. The man doesn’t heed her warning, and his car bumps the back of hers. It’s not catastrophic or earth shattering or any of the usual things that usually constitute an influential moment. It’s a bump.
The man with the growing white beard apologizes profusely, citing numerous excuses for his lack of looking to see that she was there. That she existed in that space at that time.
“It’s okay,” she lamented, forcing a smile to make the man feel better.
Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
It’s All Right.
The moment is yet more proof that the moments that break people aren’t necessarily extraordinary or consequential or obviously influential. Hannah’s car is undented and pristine on its outside as she flees the scene of the mix-up, but its interior is breaking down, as are the lives of countless high school students across the nation confronted with interior disorders.