• Bethool Z. Haider

An Ode to my Long Hair

I. Death


In the fall everything seemed to be dying. In an unexpected move to the east coast, I traded the sunny home I grew up in and its pink roses of August for my first Real Autumn, where plants which once were flowers shriveled into stubs of brown mulch. Leaves which once had homes on trees plunged to frigid deaths. Wind which unabashedly pushed animals into their winter tunnels, stealing the life force from the sun, from the world, howled around corners and masqueraded as smoke from our mouths.


In the fall I grew my hair out long for the first time. A lifetime of impulsively short cuts ironically cut short by the longest spell of caution I’ve yet experienced. But in the fall, when the barber shops were closed and I was too timid to take a scissor to my own head, I sat back and watched.


In the fall I died endlessly, each day waking up a new person in the same place, the same cavernous aloneness threatening to drown me. Aloneness is not an adjective, like loneliness, but a physical being. My Aloneness. It accompanied me in the solemnity of my bedroom just as it followed me near people, near animals, near crowds of voices, near lights. Aloneness which creeped into my visage in the veins under my eyes, which bloomed a shade of lavender in circles I had never seen before. Aloneness which created deep veins under my skin, like roots of a willow, climbing up my arm. Aloneness which rendered me a tree falling silently in a forest—unheard, unseen, unknown. Am I a person at all, I often thought in the fall. Am I a person at all, when I am alone by myself?


II. Sin


To kill is a sin, so I’ve heard. To allow the darkness inside of you to spill out onto another being—it’s a sin. To steal away the love of God by spoiling his biggest gift. A sin.


But what about the man who snips a daffodil to hand it to the one he loves? What about the Gardner, pruning the bark of a tree to re-plant it and once more allow it to grow? What about the wind, which, in its recklessness, blows out the daintiest candle’s flame. Are they, too, sinners?


I don’t know the answer. So I hold myself still, in fear. I refuse to hurt a living being. I refuse to cut my hair. I pick up leaves from the ground but can’t pluck a single flower. I let my hair grow long. Long, long, long. Unable to snip that which my body produces, I watch as my hair grows. With a tiny pigtail which hardly graces my shoulders, my reflection is familiar. It gets longer and longer, gracing my back, my arms, my waist. My reflection morphs and becomes someone else, someone I do not know. The temptation to return to my old self draws me to scissors.


But I cannot sin. I do not sin. Who am I to call forth such authority, to be the god of hair? Who am I to create such death?


III. Time


My long hair tells me how long it’s been. I feel it all so strangely, the weight of many months and people and time. They grow upon me like ivy, their slick tentacles dragging into my skin, staining me. Time exists in a bottle, sealed shut. I swallow it whole and feel it expanding within me.


I busy myself by growing roots. When the doors open again and the sun tells me it’s spring, perhaps they will be too deep for me to move.


A body changes so slowly, we hardly notice. My hair grows, and I don’t see it until months later. The rain falls drop by drop. It pools in a micrometer. A millimeter. A centimeter. Minute by minute, we fail to notice. But suddenly, a puddle. Suddenly, a pool.


I did not notice, but suddenly I am sprouting leaves.


My skin grows thicker. Underneath, I see layers of myself from past-selves. I live inside myself, watching my hair grow. I do not move. I am like the trees that stand outside my window. But where time stole their leaves, time has given me mine.


IV. Growing


Growing your hair requires strength. It requires restraint, like iron on wrists. It requires loss. Loss of control, which I once kept so firmly in the tiny length of my hair, the shortness of my bangs. It requires death, in ways, of the person who I was without it. It requires focus: focus upon the new person I will become. The new person who braids her hair now, every night. Each pleat a promise to keep going. Each pleat a tally on the wall.


Growth requires powerlessness against something else. A force, which refuses to stop, which wishes, at all costs, in all scenarios, to continue blooming. Little blossoms of sunlight inside, pushing us upwards. What is this force but God? The little thing that makes a seed grow. That’s god too. The push inside of me, which causes my hair to grow. That’s god too. I know it is. Because despite this winter, where everything dies, somehow I keep growing


By Bethool Zehra Haider


Bethool Zehra Haider is a law student from California. She loves writing and thinking about shades of purple, the moon, and flowers. Find her at @bethoolzehra

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