By Kennedy Coyne
One fleeting moment a lapse in time made obsolete in transit grabs you, and
pushes you over the edge. It swallows you up, and traps you in an impenetrable state.
Perhaps the change begins with a dream about someone in your past, its sole purpose to
shadow the entire day with angst. Or maybe it’s the tiny pebble that makes its way into
your tightly strapped shoes, as you fight the urge to rip them off, sit on the gravel
pavement, and give up, right there. For you this serves as a reminder. A reminder of
your mistakes, and of your shortcomings. It would be easy to summon yourself to these
subtle hints prescribed to you by something of a higher power. In the distance you see a
toddler, unsteady on his feet. A breeze blows, not hard, brushing hair against your face.
Strong enough though to cause his anticipated fall faraway. People rush toward the boy.
They make sure he is okay. No one is here to break your fall.
You are driving home and rain drizzles onto the windshield, the night at its
darkest hour. There is something exotic in the air. The droplets trickle through the crack
of the window and a slight evening breeze blows through your hair. You approach a
small bridge just over a quiet river. Listening to Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout a
Revolution,” you imagine the effect it would have on the night if you deliberately steered
off course, a cynical ending to fit the evening’s earthy romance.
You lift your foot off the pedal, slightly, while listening carefully to the creaking
wood beneath the rusted Honda Accord. The car bounces up and down over the uneven
planks, moving slower with every second, teasing you. Oh, the idea of controlling your
fate. Up. Down. Up. Down.
Tears stream down your face, and the wind thrashes harder against the
windshield, shaking the vehicle. Now your body is pulsating, and to match the intensity
of the evening, you have forced your right foot onto the gas pedal, softly at first and then
harder. Turning your head, a scream escapes you. You have safely driven over the
bridge. Failure. Fingernails dig into the leather wheel, as you plan and envision another
means of escape.
In the near distance, headlights shine upon a wooden pole. It cannot, will not, be
as effective as the bridge, but it will have to do. It needs to. This is your chance. Check
your makeup. You must look flawless before you go. Pulling down the visor you
carefully wipe the black from beneath your eyes. Perfect. But your hair, it’s tangled and
ratty. You just can’t get it right! Go full speed ahead, at that pole. Do it, and this will all
be over. Life in its simplest form will no longer weigh you down, and you will be free
from yourself, free from those rigid thoughts.
You hear voices. They are gentler than the ones you are used to, those that echo
in your mind. These are softer, and perhaps not as desperate. They fill the silence of the
square, barren room you find yourself in. You feel free. You are free.
A little girl with long, strawberry-blonde hair observes her mother standing on a
black and white tiled bathroom floor, with a curling iron in one hand and a cigarette in
the other. She makes sure each curl sits perfectly atop her head. The girl watches in
admiration every morning, taking sips of her mother’s coffee. Taking after her, the
daughter is careful to brush her hair so that each strand lies in place. Today she picks a
green barrette to wear, ‘ABC,’ making the choice without help. But there are too many
options: a faded pink barrette with three strawberries stacked on top, a purple teddy bear,
a yellow ‘1234,’ but somehow, today it is easy. And, as a safety of sorts, her mother is
there, a support, fixing the stray strands she must have overlooked.
As you grow older, your hair isn’t neat, nowhere near perfect. With each day, it
gets a little messier, a little more tangled. And soon you can’t get the knots out. They
live beneath the surface, where no one can see them. You know they’re there. You can
feel them. To your dismay, the snarls you had tried so hard to keep hidden soon become
A woman, she resembles your mother, sits with you all day and night for the next
week and watches your every movement. You ask her for a pair of scissors. You need to
clip out the wild clumps. They’re growing larger, and the noisy voices are coming back,
they must be deliberately taunting you. But she says she can’t give you weapons. She
will cut your hair for you. It probably won’t solve things as that pole could have, but will
be enough, at least temporarily. It must. There are no other options in this empty space,
and you are unsure how long they will keep you here. You need to get better, you think
to yourself, as you feel chunks of hair fall against your back and onto the floor. She cuts
it all off. But even now as the knots and tangles are gone, your head fresh, you wonder,
who would want to see you like this?