“It’s not you.” He announces with the sound of annoyance in his voice mixed in with concern for my well-being.
I don’t say anything. I’m pretending I can’t hear him. The hairdryer buzzes in my ear with a high-pitched rumbling sound as heat burns my scalp. The hot air tosses long strands of brown bits in all directions.
When I’m done, I stare at myself in the mirror. My hair is windswept. Of course, windswept summons a romanticized vision of some breathtaking brunette beauty with silky hair. The beauty’s strands of tresses would be swirling around in all directions as if some fairy godmother placed each piece perfectly in the air; it would be the godmother’s final attempt to win over a passerby who may be doubtful of how utterly gorgeous the woman is.
I glance at myself through the mirror. Perhaps hurricane-swept hair is a better combination of words. Frizzy, dry, and poufy hair tops my head. It stands tall, but also wide, making it nearly impossible to see my ears. I attempt to push some hair back behind my right ear and the rebellious brown strands instantly bounce out as if they are shouting, YOU WILL NOT CONTROL ME!
I huff at myself. Dark circles form underneath my eyes. It’s quite nice. Now I look like a raccoon that’s having a bad hair day.
I mumble, “I miss the days when I could wash my hair and go. No blow drying. No straightening required. Just wash my hair, tie back with an elastic, and go!”
“Then don’t do it.” He says.
My eyebrows pull together in confusion.
Well – maybe it’s more annoyance.
I don’t want to go down that road – that road we’ve travelled down on so many mornings. Then again, I need to provide some explanation. Otherwise, I’m just a crazy woman with a scent-phobia.
I stumble on my words. As I begin to say them, I know it’s not going to be enough. But I say the words anyways. “I have to blow dry my hair. It gets the smell of shampoo and conditioner out.”
My eyes shift to the large assortment of products that stand at attention on my counter: the Aloe Vera moisturizer is next to the unscented moisturizer; strawberry perfumed deodorant sits beside the odorless one. I stare down at the Moroccan oil that I slather through my hair on weekends. The hair product makes my locks a little softer, and smooths out the overwhelming waves that I adorn on my head that’s reminiscent of a 1960 bouffant hairstyle that I wear Monday through Friday.
But the Moroccan oil – it’s scented. So, it rests on the counter. Waiting for the weekend, when I can tip the bottle back, drizzle some on my fingertips, and run it through my hair.
Ahhhh….My brain purrs.
Oh my god. I’m a scent addict!
My husband rolls his eyes at me and says, “There’s no smell of shampoo in your hair.”
Stubbornly, I counter his argument with an intelligent and well thought through statement of: “Yes, there is.” With my well-articulated response that a five-year-old could have said behind me, I reach below my cabinet and pull out my hair straightener, and set it to 440.
He edges over to me and sticks his nose towards my head and announces, “I can’t smell anything.”
I shift. Then I say, “Well, the hair dryer got rid of most of the scent. But the Flat Iron will get the rest out.”
My husband throws his hands up in the air, grabs his shirt, and begins tugging it over his head.
I do believe I won that argument.
Beep, beep, my Flat Iron chants to me. On its command, I reach down with my right hand and wrap my fingers around the hairstyling instrument, and use my left hand to grab big chunks of hair that I quickly run through the plates of the device. Within seconds, my nose twitches at the familiar whiff of singed hair.
Tired of the routine, tired of worrying about everything, I stare down at the woman I see in the mirror. I wish I could shut up the voice in my head. And it’s just in my head. No one has ever said anything to me at work. But I exaggerate everything. One sneeze, over yonder, four floors down from where I sit, and perspiration will gather around the back of my neck instantly as my breathing becomes more shallow and I wonder, oh no…. Is someone having an allergic attack because of some scent I’m wearing?
I worry about smells: fruit scented deodorant, orange perfumed hand cream, or lavender-laced cosmetics.
But it’s not only scented products. Oh no, my mind has had some fun in taking things to a whole new level. Because once you’ve removed all scents from your life, you only have what’s left. And sometimes what remains is that “wet dog” smell because Fido wanted to be affectionate just before I left to go to work, and brushed up against me and it leaves a lingering reminder that yes, I do own a dog!; or a chemical smell will sometimes ooze from new clothes I purchased when they heat up because of the sun. Then there’s also the worry that my fragrance-free deodorant will fail at work, and then my perfume for the day will be Eau de B.O.
I blink at myself.
Hair is slightly flattened. (Still frizzy, but I found my ears!) No makeup. (Oh lord, I can’t even think about it.) Black pants. Grey shirt. Blue circles under my eyes.
I’m ready for work!
I stare down at the Flat Iron. I flip the power button off, and yank the cord out of the wall. Before I walk away, I bounce my head back into the bathroom where my Flat Iron sits on the counter. I pull it away from everything so that it’s not touching my makeup bag, hairbrush…well, anything.
Because you know, I don’t want to burn the house down.
As I start to walk away, there’s a twitching that begins in my fingertips, and before I know it, I’m spinning around again to check the Flat Iron one more time.
I don’t have a problem.
I’m being careful. This is one of those times you can’t make a mistake. My Flat Iron can touch something like the plastic on my hairbrush causing it to heat up, and it could ignite, and because no one’s upstairs right now, no one will know there’s a fire until it’s too late, and our whole house will be engulfed in fiery red flames.
I’m just being careful.
My fingertips begin to twitch. I spin on my heel. I’m standing at the top of the stairs in my home. I have two choices:
Option 1: I can go and check the Flat Iron again. But I’m certain I turned the power button off, I remember I pulled the cord out of the wall, and I know it had already started to cool down because I placed my hand on the straightener for several seconds and it was warm – but not hot.
Option 2: I can go downstairs, get my bags, walk out the front door, and get on with my day.
I take a deep breath, and turn around as a voice quietly says, Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..
Then, I begin my descent.