Hair & Other Drugs

Or maybe you’re here, standing in aisle one of Walgreens on 169th, staring at the bottles of conditioners and creams. For bouncy ringlets, buy the jar shaped like a pint of ice cream. You cannot afford the jar shaped like a pint of ice cream. For something to make the men you sleep with and the women you love say you smell nice, the one laced with coconut and macadamia. You still can’t figure out how to make your Chicana hair love you. Or even just agree with you, for fuck’s sake. This kind of resentment. Imagine it: you bring a bottle of cantu to the counter, just because you want to know what it does, and the cashier with tired eyes pauses just to laugh at you. Your mom has straight hair, hair that is thin and dirty blonde, hair that never fights her and but instead sings I am the American Dream. The bottles she buys are shiny and made of gold; she is made of gold. $11.97 after tax, the same price as the diapers she bought just last month for her mom, who waited in the car with you, asking, Where are we? Who are you? You told her you were her granddaughter and she smiled, lifted her brows, not even halfway believing you. You little brown thing. Her hair is no longer red, copper cherry, American Dream. A shame. Instead it is grey and cut closely to the scalp the way a four-year-old soccer son’s would be all because the retirement home mistook her for some other old lady who needed a touchup. I swear everyone in that store thought I was buying these for myself, your mom said, laughing, shining, tossing the adult diapers in the back. I swear Nana thought I kidnapped her, you said, not minding that she was sitting right there because you knew she wouldn’t understand. She still hums gently, your Nana, the way she’s always done. If your hair cannot be the American Dream, you might as well teach it to love you. You grab the macadamia conditioner and call it a day.

Ciara Alfaro (she/her/hers) is a student at Colgate University, where she studies creative writing and women’s studies. She is interested in families, sisterhood, and the ways in which different bodies navigate the world.