The Perm
Ingrid, Age 13, Bowie, MD
Suddenly the balls under my feet cringe. I squirm out of my chair, my neck craned to avoid the searing crunch of my hair being plucked into a blue comb. To my left, my six-year-old sister holds my shoulders against the chair. My first perm in months, and it was becoming a huge wreck. My hair now branched out in these black, frazzled split ends I'd persisted not to trim. Which was just my luck of having two black parents with the same nappy hair as I do.

I strain, powerless against my sister's suctioning grip, when my body flails front-forward out of my seat, and the yank of hair in the teeth of my mother's comb tightens.

"Ingrid! Sit still!" Her thundering voice booms into my ears. Turning, she faces my sister, whom she addresses in a needing tone, "Honey...." and my sister's grip irons through my veins. In a matter of seconds, I squirm into a tumultuous leap towards the pavement, my head curling into my knees. A screech sounds, and, turning to look my mother's way, I see her drop the blue comb to the floor, pausing. Her lips purse into a howling scowl, an ill gleam seizing her face before leaving me alone with my sister. It almost takes a moment before I realize she's returning with step two of our hair-wrangling process, her hands gloved and gelled with a creamy gelatin-like relaxer from a clear tube.

"Now, sweetheart, rememberů" she says almost hesitantly. Her gloved hands cap open the tube, and a cool liquid sponges the surface of my scalp. I close my eyes, lips pursed as my shoulders slump into my seat. Maybe that's why they called it the relaxer, I piece together in my mind. My mother's hands continue pressuring every strand of hair with this foamy liquid, avoiding the bridge of my scalp until suddenly, I start to twitch.

The cream softens the tangles of my hair. Suddenly, I feel tongue soft baby flames on the roots of my skin. I can only muster one thing from this nerving heat compacting on my head, sweat beating down on me. Loud enough, I yell to my mother, "It BURNS!"
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