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By Mina Hamedi
There’s an incident that I’ll never be able to forget. A little girl was on the N, headed to Central Park from 23rd street last winter. She wore her hair in black braids and held a pack of crackers with yellow cheese. She ate with her hands on the subway, holding on to the pole next to my seat. I moved away, pushing my friend closer to the other side. I tried not to breathe because if I did I would smell the yellow pudding cheese. She dipped the crackers into the cheddar until her knuckles bled yellow. The smudges she left whenever she held the pole or seats nearby taunted me as if they covered every part of the subway car. The little girl and her mother got off at Times Square. It was fitting, I suppose.
I decided to join six friends for a spontaneous weekend in Miami. The girls showered and shit with doors open, magazines on the floor, but smiled apologetically whenever I passed by. I kept my hairbrush hidden in my suitcase, my eyeliner and face wash concealed. I watched the sunset, and the pink tinted ice in the glasses melted on the balcony. The wind picked up the remains of five ashtrays. The girls crammed in front of wall-to-wall mirrors. The musk of different perfumes gave me a migraine. Their shrieks drove me to a cold gin and tonic, lime preferred. By 5am, the perfumes would die out, replaced by the stench of inadequate martinis, bored vodka cherries, a bottle of champagne mistake. A clean bed was an opportunity to be seized. Temporary morning blindness was impossible. Filled toilet tanks, no tissues, and powder smeared on the counter that she promised she’d wipe. When I returned to my apartment in New York Sunday night, the cat squealed at the happy sight of me and walked by, leaving prints of mud.
If it were up to me, my death would be planned. When everything is in my hands, nothing goes wrong, nothing gets dirty. My home in Istanbul isn’t plagued with the dust I breathe in New York. Back in Istanbul, I can throw all my clothes onto the floor and empty the cat’s sandy case onto the carpet. I’m fine with cleaning everything a few hours later. I spent last summer in Italy, but before my flight my family surprised me with a feast. The humidity outside the restaurant mingled with the strips of steak sizzling on pans. The owner brought out shots of clear tequila and mint liqueur and fried rolls of dough doused with cinnamon. All the smells soaked my hair and my scalp. The restaurant owner’s wife said hello, her sweaty cheek pushed mine and her hand stroked my hair. I tried to turn away but her oily fingertips made contact. After that dinner, I couldn’t wash my hair for three days. I couldn’t wash it because something happened, something that wasn’t planned.
After dinner I slept, knowing my mom would lift the shutters to wake me up. I heard my cat tapping on the floor. She fumbled over my blanket. At some point, she may have tripped. She hopped to the first shelf, jumped to the second shelf, and fell from the third shelf. Something like tiny hailstones hit me on the head and I woke up. Squinting in the dark room, I saw tiny shards of green glass. They covered half of my lined carpet. I hit the light switch. I picked up the cat and opened the door. I felt something dripping down my head to the back of my ear.
My mom rushed in and asked me what had happened. She had heard my bad, not excited, scream. I pointed to the glass on the floor and went back inside. I slid into a pair of shorts and squeezed a drop of toothpaste onto my finger. The cat yowled, trying to follow me, but I went downstairs. My mom grabbed her keys and guided me to the car. The hospital is just five minutes away. I held a paper napkin to my head as men in the parking lot stared at my messy hair. Across town, my dad was horse-back riding. His instructor held his phone and, seeing my mom’s message, told my dad to get off the horse and go home. My mom hadn’t given any details about why we were going to the emergency room.
The emergency room doctors thought my mom had abused me. We told them the same story, separately, and they called in a surgeon. As he stuck the anesthetizing needles one by one into my scalp, I felt sticky blood rushing down. The surgeon told me everything he was doing. I just saw the blue sheet they placed on my face. I retraced the past semester. The fact that I answered “yes” to every plan someone had made for me. The random trips and the homework I never finished. The number of nights I fell asleep peacefully on my couch. I thought of all the supernatural shows I watched, dedicated to the messes and gore in every dimension.
“Want to see her skull?” The surgeon joked; my mom laughed.
“We might have to shave your head, dear,” he continued.
I liked the sensation of the hard thread passing through. I didn’t care how much time was passing or about the sweat collecting at the base of my neck. I liked that it would leave a scar. I smiled when I planned what to tell the rest of my family and friends. The surgeon repeatedly told me to come in if I felt dizzy and performed more tests to make sure I didn’t have a concussion. A part of me wondered what it would feel like.
When we got back home, my mom reminded me that I couldn’t wash my hair for a few days. I had to heal. I cried and listed excuses to change her mind. I would be traveling and airplanes always make my hair and skin greasy. She didn’t answer and shook her head, appalled. I picked up my cat and checked her paws for any pieces of green glass. Thankfully there were none. My sister brought me a piece of chocolate cake to make me feel better. I brushed my hair and spilled crumbs, sweeping them under her bed. It felt wonderful. Three days passed and I washed my hair. I keep scratching the scar the stitches left behind. And I know that if I showered in the morning, I’d still shower before I went to bed. Yesterday a little mosquito emerged from my hair as I stared at myself in the elevator mirror. I picked it off and crushed it with my fingers. Then I wiped it on my shorts. I haven’t put them in the laundry basket yet.
Mina Hamedi is a student currently studying Creative Writing at New York University. She is Turkish/Iranian and divides her time between New York and Istanbul. She loves traveling, ridiculous horror movies, and her calico cat.