Asher shook the purple wig in the young employee’s face. “Is this the cheapest one you’ve got?”
“I told you the answer. You’ve been here for three hours. You’re disturbing other customers.”
Asher turned back to look at the empty store. “What customers?”
His face turned red. “Listen, I’m going to have to ask you to leave, ma’am.”
“Fine.” Asher threw the wig onto the floor. It flopped wistfully before settling down. The employee made a little gasp. She marched down the aisle and out of the store, frantically adjusting her even cheaper, fake plastic wig as it threatened to slip off her head.
She didn’t stop walking until she reached the door to her apartment. After wrestling with the keyhole for a while, she managed to open the door with a long creak. Clothes were littered all over the floor, giving off a strong odor. She carefully stepped over them and headed to the bathroom, which wasn’t any cleaner: the sink had lost its original color long ago. She walked towards it, keeping her eyes on the floor. She took a deep breath before looking back up in the mirror.
Where to start? She hated her wig. Hated it. What else could she afford though, when she could barely cover her rent? The wig was bought used two years ago when she realized she was going bald. There were better wigs out there, she was sure.
She ripped the wig off her head.
She shouldn’t have. She looked worse. She placed her hands on the sink and wept, or she tried to. She just wanted an excuse to look away from the mirror. She ran out of tears long ago when she started to notice bald spots in her hair. It was back then when she wanted to become a model. That night, when she was diagnosed with alopecia areata, she ran away from her mother, got a job somehow, then a second, or maybe a third. She shrugged, her reflection copying her. It didn’t really matter when she had been kicked out of her last workplace for being “unstable” and “unreliable.” I can redeem myself, Asher remembered begging, crying over her boss. He just walked out of the room.
She picked up her wig from the floor. It was wet and covered with unidentifiable matter. Gross. She dropped it. It was a bad habit.
Crouching low so she wouldn’t have to see herself in the mirror, she backed out of the bathroom, leaped over some more clothes on the floor to reach her bedroom. She looked out the window. Stores were starting to close one by one, the bookstore around the corner, the butcher shop in front, the…
The salon. What did a salon have? Hair. Hair that Asher did not have. She had an idea: a terrible one, but brilliant, or so she thought.
She picked up the darkest clothes she could find on the floor. A random black hoodie, jeans from a week ago, at least. They didn’t smell too bad. She pulled out her drawer, found a knife, and tucked it in her pocket. Just in case.
It was only when she got off the elevator and walked confidently towards the crosswalk did she realize she didn’t have her wig on. That was a first. But it was too late. Her hands reached towards the glass door of the salon. It was locked. Everything was dark inside, as far as she could tell.
But the window. A few tries and it gave way with a soft pop. She reached inside. Her fingers fumbled around the door before it closed around the handle and managed to push it forwards.
Her heart pounding louder than ever, she stood still, her hands reaching for the knife inside. The window, being unlocked like that? In this day and age? She couldn’t believe it. She looked around, her eyes adjusting to the dark.
The door in front of her burst open. Light flooded into the salon before she could react. It was a woman with the kind of hair anyone would expect from a salon owner, but hers was long, so unnaturally sleek and black. But Asher wanted it.
“Why are you here? I mean, you’re…” the woman pointed at her.
“Bald?” Asher’s knife was in front of her before she knew it. She could barely see in front of her, was it rage? Panic?
“Hair. I need hair.”
The woman took a step back.
”Now!” It was not a scream, but rather a gurgling cry.
The woman’s eyes shifted towards the knife.
“Look, I understand how you…”
“Understand? You don’t know shit. Your sympathies mean nothing. Nothing! Look at you with your perfect hair, a salon you own.” She gulped. She pointed at a picture on the wall, presumably of the woman’s family, she didn’t know, she didn’t care. “A family…” she said, like it was evidence. For what?
Her knife dropped to the ground, and she started sobbing uncontrollably. She couldn’t stop. Her face burned with the effort it took her to cry. She couldn’t see. She would rather leave. She would... The tears took over her train of thoughts.
A hand rested on her shoulder.
Asher looked up. The woman proceeded to sit on the nearest chair without another word. She raised her head towards the mirror, a spotless one, the kind with extravagant gold decorations around the edges. Asher could see the woman’s face, her eyes confident but steady as she raised her scissors towards her hair.
Asher desperately searched for words that weren’t there. She didn’t know what to say. So she watched. She watched as clumps of hair fell into a box. She watched not the woman herself, but her reflection. The calmness was mesmerizing. It was without incident, unaffected by change, by the razor the woman now had in her hand. Asher could almost forget that she was shaving her hair. Becoming bald. Like her. One snip at a time.
She watched as the woman wove her hair together, like a baby watching her mother. She also watched, how many hours later she did not know, the sun rising in the background. When the woman finally rose from her chair, she turned towards Asher with a smile on her face: the kind that affects others.
“Is this enough for you?”
Asher snatched the wig out of the woman’s hands and tried it on her head. It felt funny, but there was only one way to make sure: she looked in the mirror to be greeted by a person she forgot she knew. Her face scrunched up. She heard herself crying, sobbing, weeping again, as the woman opened her arms behind her. Asher collapsed into them. So there they stood for a while, one bald and the other with hair, just like before, but not quite.
But then she had another idea. One that would work this time. She pulled herself out of the woman’s arms and reached for the scissors. She pulled off her wig and started snipping through the hair, real human hair. She was soon left with uneven strands of hair in her hand, which she handed back to the woman.
“No one is bald anymore.”
She put her shortened wig back on. There. Without turning back, without another look in the mirror, and without waiting for the woman’s reaction, she pushed the front door open.
It was cold. The wind no longer touched her scalp.
Maybe she could go to an audition today.