I examine my body in mirrors. In a year’s time, my hair has grown longer than it’s ever been; near the ends it feels like old hay, thick and unhealthy. I run my hands through it and think: this is Medusa’s hair, when she is cleaning herself in seawater at night, running across the white sand, her snakes with their eyes half-closed, dormant, shedding scales dried out by salt. Under the fluorescent light of a hotel bathroom, my hair resembles a horse’s mane, caught and collected against my neck, tangled, dirty; but during the evening, when I spot my silhouette on the wall, I see no hair, only fur down a wolf’s back. Prey or predator, girl or Gorgon; I still haven’t decided which I am. I am pulling at Penelope, undoing her work, ripping my hair from where it’s been threaded with silk and perfume, into her tapestry. I am running away, on the shore, hovering between water and land, my body flipping, switching: sweet, gristly, tender, crippling.
My mother is consoling me; she holds me, she lets me rest on my head on the hollows of her collarbones, my hair falling over her arms. “My God,” she says, “so much hair. It seems like a curtain, more than hair.” I think of actors in porcelain masks on a stage, appearing and disappearing as a velvet curtain rises and falls. For some characters, I bare my canines and carnivore’s nails; electric and vicious, leaping up to kick flat in the chest, splitting the braid of blood that knots hearts. For others, I slip into yellow moon eyes and milky mouth; demure and gentle, so loving it’s as painful as any wound. Kindness like my monster Medusa bathing in the dark, to save the fishermen; cruelty like a hero, under the sun, with a shield of mirrors, putting a sword to her neck and swinging. They both have their own evils.
I’ve learned that a necessary consequence of living is the disloyalty of the heart; but my spine will always be mine. My feet and teeth, those too. And my hair, of course: short, long, unwashed, clean, wrapped around my body, pulled across my face. It springs from me like Aphrodite from the sea. Whatever I am, carnivore or carnation, moon or monster: I cut my own hair.