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Tara Isabel Zambrano

Cutting my daughter’s hair

I am cutting your hair. Your eyes are glued to the ceiling. I repeatedly tell you to look down and you say, “I’m following a bug. It’s going in circles. It’s dealing with heartbreak too.”

I look at the wall - I don’t see anything.

A stray lock escapes my grip and stands out like a lone ranger. Outside, the clouds gather, rumble and roll on top of each other.

“You smuggled me from India,” you say.

“I did.”

“It’s funny how a human fetus has no restrictions across borders, even though it could be the most dangerous item. Someday.”

“Or the most beneficial one.” I tug a little hard. I know what’s coming. The subject of your estranged father. We look outside the window recuperating from the unsaid words and the haircut.

Rain forms oblique lines scripting a message from sky. Your defiant, black eyes shine in the mirror. You look like you know what you are doing. But I’ve been fooled before.

I wipe the tools, comb your hair and pull it back in a ponytail. I imagine the small nerves behind your scalp. The network I created. The body I birthed even when I didn’t want to. I remember the exact moment when darkness no longer trickled between my legs and I realized you were growing quietly inside me. When you came out with dark, curly hair, you waved your arms at me. I remember our first night together – dreamless, connected by natural instincts. The bright and pale days that followed, the evenings that migrated stillness from you to me. And the afternoon that suddenly appeared from sharing every secret to hiding perfumes and push up bras. The lonely familiarity we felt when we kissed goodbye or greeted each other. The fluff of our happiness that gradually disintegrated into a familiar heartache.

A whiff of musky scent makes its way through the small opening.

You cover your mouth with your hands as if it made you nauseous. And I foresee history repeating itself.

“Hungry?” I try hard not to let my voice break into a thousand pieces.

“Starving,” you say, collecting all of me in a single glance.

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