Saturday mornings were the worse, because it was wash day. The thick mane which never grew past the back of her neck would be cursed. She squatted beneath the stand pipe, head hung between numb legs fighting to keep their balance.
Protecting her drowning face from burning soap and cascading water, she breathes through her mouth, all the time trying not to swallow. She came close to drowning many times, but the roughness with which the hair was being groomed kept her conscious. The antiseptic smell of the carbolic soap cleansed and knotted her wiry hair. Two wash and one rinse, all with the same soap. Her red merino and plaid bloomers now soaked, removed by the hair washer, as boys play marbles and girls hopscotch nearby.
The good, big towel used only for drying hair and beach trips covers her slender face. Entrapped between the hair washer’s legs, she grimace as the towel is rubbed vigorously against the scalp digging into the mole. Once the hair is dry, the hair washer sends for the alcohol to re-wet hair. The liquid burns bruised skin and opened eyes as it sinks into the pores to prevent ‘head cold.’
The coconut oil plastered unto the root, runs to the strands sticking to her ears, neck and forehead. The sharp plastic comb digs like a gouge, dragging the tangled tresses some falling to the ground as she cries inside. The stress on the head bellows sleep and with each doze she is awakened with a ‘conch’ and ‘hold up you head.’ The twist and finishing wrap, results in bumps of fresh hair sitting tight on the glistening scalp; ‘chiney’ eyes now formed from skin stretched from the head.
Wash day over, brief relief, until Monday morning; when the blue bubbles and black elastic bands will be used to strangle the thorny hair that Granny fights so hard to control, wanting Girly to look decent, wanting her to be pretty.