Closeup on young woman combing hair
Waiting at Aveda
by Susan Budig

As I sit here, waiting,
I play my hair.
Each end a snake’s forked tongue
flicking the air.

Amber calls my name,
makes eye contact,
while shaking hands.
I follow after her to a row

Of sinks and adjustable chairs.
My hair has been growing,
graying, for three years.
Now as the scissors do their work

I will be left in the middle —
a bird’s nest of severed hair.

Fingering the frayed tips,
I think of my hair’s history
tangled with memories of my sister.

When we were children,
she had long, brunette tresses
reaching past her shoulder blades.

Mother insisted I keep my hair
bobbed. Never long enough to pull
back into a ponytail. Or plait into braids.
Short dishwater blonde.

My childhood chore was to clean the bathroom,
I’d find her long strands
wrapped around the hairbrush
and circling the drain.

Amber guides my head back
Lathering up with madder root,
Rinsing in rosemary mint.
My nostrils tingle with the bouquet.

Seated at the mechanical chair,
My reflection echoes
In triple mirrors. Amber smiles,
How would you like it?

Different, I say.
Any way,
But how it is now.

I remember the way my hair
fell across her face
as she lay in her hospice bed.
I leaned over, kissing her cheek
for the last time.

But it wasn’t the last time
because I kissed her once more
weeks later.

She was cold by then
and didn’t feel my hair’s wisps
as they caught in her lashes
glued on by the mortician.

Amber makes the first cut
radically above my ear.
The strands slide down my breast
And lie in my lap

for a moment
before slipping the rest of the way
to the linoleum floor.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote “Waiting at Aveda” based on a true-life experience of losing my sister. After the loss, I didn’t want to cut my hair because I felt it linked me directly to her. Eventually, I had my hair cut and saved the nine-inch-long ponytail in a box that I still have stored amongst my keepsakes.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Budig’s articles appear on the Arts&Entertainment pages of Mshale newspaper. She freelances as an independent radio producer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: At home with short hair and pensive expression in 2014.