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after the dance
by Carlene Sobrino Bonniver

Valerie wasn't beautiful.
Her hair was beautiful:
     long, black, thick, silky.
Valerie was strong. Not defiant. Strong.
When she was 12 and I was 10
I cut her hair.
It fell, like a spell,
     between us.

Her mother had been beautiful.
She was jealous of Valerie
     of her hair, of the way people
     were just naturally drawn to her.

That night we'd gone to a dance
     in East Los Angeles.
Valerie's mother had a lot of what
     she called "cocktails," but
     she smelled like stale beer.
We tried to ignore her.

Back home. In the kitchen.
Valerie ordered into a chair.
Valerie's mother hands me the scissors.
"Cut it," she said, almost off-handedly,
     as if she's said, "Brush it" or "Braid it."
I couldn't move. Wouldn't take the scissors.
Started to cry.

Suddenly angry,
Valerie grabbed the scissors
     from her mother,
Thrust them into my hand and,
     for the first time ever,
     yelled at me.
"Cut it," she screamed.
     her mother fell back as if Valerie had struck her.

I cut her hair
     severing forever
     whatever it was
     that had held us together.

© Carlene Sobrino Bonnivier

after the dance | child

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