White Girl Flow is part two of my Black Beauty Series. Medusa is part one. The goal is to have four of five short stories that tie together at the end, but I'm not sure how it ends.... I usually write my stories knowing the ending, so this is scary for me.
Ashley’s face contorted in pain and her eyes teared as Chantel pulled the wide-tooth comb through Ashley’s thick, dry, coiled hair.
“You’re the only mixed girl I know with hair worse than regular black folks,” Chantel said, sucking on her teeth.
“Fuck you, Chantal. Why you gotta say that every time you do my hair?” Ashley’s white father and black mother should have guaranteed she’d be born with good hair but instead her hair was like a wired brillo pad.
Chantel popped another nap and Ashley pulled away and screamed. Three kids, two girls and one boy between the ages of five and eight sat on the couch near the shop’s window and laughed at her pain. Ashley shot them a murderous look and they looked away, but their giggling only increased. She hated when folks brought their bad ass kids to the salon. They were loud and always laughed at her while she got her hair done.
The 23rd St. Beauty Parlor sat in an old shopping center between a dollar store and a bingo hall. Dingy beige paint peeledpealed from the corners of the walls and strands of black silky #5 littered the floor. One of the three hooded hair dryers sitting in the back of the shop didn’t work and had an out of order sign on the cracked plastic seat.
“I need the good stuff,” Ashley said, trying to ignore the muffled laughter of the kids.
“The stuff I put on your hair last time was the good stuff,” Chantel said.
“You know what I mean.” Ashley didn’t bother to mask her frustration.
Chantel frowned. “That shit is banned.”
Her hair grew uncontrollably and it never stayed straight for more than a few weeks until they’d discovered a process called Brazilian Blowout a few years ago. “There is no way you can get your hands on some?”
“It’s banned for a reason. It has crazy levels of formaldehyde in it. And fuck you for not being concerned about my well-being,” Chantel hit the back of Ashley’s chair. Chantel was skinny with a medium brown complexion and always wore a gold hooped nose ring.
“We’ve been doing it for years and neither one of us has ever gotten sick.”
“Well, I don’t want any problems either.” Chantel rolled her eyes and waved the comb back and forth. “I’m not willing to die just ‘cause you want straight hair.”
“Just get some weave,” said Treva, a short brown-skinned hairstylist whose workstation was across from Chantel. From the mirror, Ashley saw Treva gluing black silky tracks of weave onto her client’s scalp.
“My man doesn't like weave.” Ashley sighed deeply and leaned back in the chair. She looked past Chantal and her gold loop nose ring and at the piss-colored stains on the ceiling.
“Well you know who does do that shit still?” Treva asked.
“Who?” Ashley shot straight up the moment almost sent her out of the chair.
Treva looked above Ashley’s head, suddenly silent.
Ashley followed Treva’s gaze to see Chantal shaking her head and mouthing the word “no”.
Ashley turned back towards Treva. “Don’t listen to her. Who does it?”
“Crazy Jade,” Treva said, enunciating each word as if saying the person’s name invited something evil and forbidden into the salon.
Ashley furrowed her brow. “Who is Crazy Jade?”
Chantel pointed her comb at Treva. “Really, Treva? Really? You just had to say something, didn't you?”
Treva shrugged. “If you ain’t gonna do it, somebody needs to. Her hair is the nappiest of all nappyville.”
Treva’s insult hurt but Ashley boxed the pain away and sat straighter. “Who is Crazy Jade?”
“The red-headed lady living in your mom’s apartment.”
Ashley leaned forward. “You gotta be more specific than that.”
“You’d know her if you’ve seen her she’s a light-skinned red-headed girl with freckles.”
“Red- headed with freckles. Is she even black?” Ashley asked.
“Her nappy hair makes her black, just like your nappy hair makes you black.”
Ashley placed another hurt feeling in her box, and transfixed her gaze on Treva. “Is she licensed?”
“Am I licensed?” Treva laughed, dimples dancing on each cheek. “Are any of us licensed?” Ashley looked at the expired certificates on the wall both Chantel and Treva displayed proudly next to their booth.
“Yeah, you got a point,” Ashley said and they all laughed.
After the laughter ended Treva said, “You can’t tell it by her nappy hair, but Crazy Jade can do a mean blowout.”
“But why do they call her crazy?” Ashley asked.
Treva shrugged and suddenly decided to pay attention to her client’s weave.
Ashley looked at Chantel.
Chantel said, “Don’t ask me I don’t deal with her. And I ain’t gonna curse myself by talking about her.”
“Curse? What the hell are you talking about?” AshleyAshely asked. They had given her hope and now suddenly they were taking it away.
“Well there are different stories,” Treva said.
As she spoke, the entire beauty shop quieted. The kids even stopped fighting with each other and crept closer to listen.
“Well I heard she’s a voodoo priestess and she got run out of Louisiana after they lynched her husband. And,” Treva paused and looked around the salon before she stopped at Ashley, “her red hair and red freckles are the mark of the devil.”
“That crap only exists in movies,” Ashley said, relieved. Once upon a time she used to believe in that shit, but she’d said Bloody Mary and Candy Man in the mirror enough times to know none of that shit actually happened. “Chantel, what do you think?”
“I think no matter how nappy my hair was, I wouldn’t go to her,” Chantel said and lowered her voice and looked towards the kid’s. “Because from what I hear she’s a witch and she has a room full of plants and spell-books she uses to make her potions that will turn loud ass nosy ass kids into roaches.” Chantal stomped her foot and the kids (and Ashley and Treva) jumped. “Sit y’all asses down and stay out of grown folk’s business.”
They small trio groaned and skulked back to the couch.
“Well I don’t believe in none of that,” Ashley said. “There is no such thing as voodoo priestesses or witches. Treva, you got her number?”
“Nah, she’s a competitor and she’s crazy. Why would I have her number? I'm surprised you ain’t seen her, though. She always out there at dusk gossiping just like every other grown ass person in your momma’s ghetto ass apartments.”
“Well Chantel,” Ashley hopped off the chair, “I’m a go see what Crazy Jade can do for me since you're not willing to give me what I want.”
Chantel said, “Whatever,” and turned towards her mirror reorganizing the bottles on the counter before she unplugged the curling irons. Ashley suddenly felt guilty.
“Don’t worry,” Ashley said. “I’ll be back for my trims and touch ups”
“You better,” Chantel said without turning, but Ashley heard the humor in her voice that said all was forgiven.
Scene 2: Ashley and Her Mother
Ashley stood outside of Apartment number 131 of Vista Apartments. Her mother’s apartment sat across from the office, the pool, basketball courts, and the playground.
Kids were already out flying back and forth on the swings and gliding down the plastic yellow slides. Occasionally bouts of laughter were interrupted with angry shouts as two small girls fought over the only working swing. Six boys ran back and forth on the basketball court, their shirts off and the sweat on their backs and chest glistened in the noon day sun. Most were dark, but there was a light-skinned boy also. They All of the boys were all lean and muscled and beautiful. Two groups of giggly teenage girls watched from the shade.
This had been the setting to her childhood. She been raised in various apartments like this, moving every year or two when her mother decided she needed a change or didn’t feel like paying the rent.
She missed the gossiping and the laughter of living in apartments. Two years ago, she’d gotten a government stipend and moved a few miles away into a house in an all-white neighborhood. None of the neighbors talked to each other, and none of the kids were allowed to play outside. Her neighborhood was quiet and boring, but her boyfriend, Reggie, urged her to stay. The all-white school was better, he’d insisted. Their child would be guaranteed a better education.
Ashley tried the knob of her mother’s door. Of course, it wasn’t locked. Her mother, Cora, and her daughter Ebony were on the floor playing the Mickey and Minnie mouse matching game while Judge Judy chastised someone on Cora’s 17 inch television. From the amount of cards on Ebony’s side, it looked like Cora was letting Ebony win.
Ebony glanced quickly at Ashley and said, “Hi momma,” before she turned her attention back to the game and flipped over a card. “I got it, grandma,” Ebony said and clapped. Joy and triumph glittered in her eyes.
Ashley had no doubt if it came down to Ashley or Cora, Ebony would choose Cora every time
“Yeah you got it, baby.” Cora stood, looking disappointed to see Ashley “You back already?” she asked. “Your hair don’t look any better.”
Ashley slid her hand down the ponytail she’d did haphazardly when she left the salon. “Chantel doesn’t have the stuff I like.”
Cora was dark and shapely and always wore a blonde wig, and occasionally blonde weave if she could afford the good stuff. She had flawless dark, coal skin.
Cora walked the few feet to the couch, sat down. From the side table she pulled out a pack of menthol cigarettes and lit it. She exhaled deeply as if she’d been waiting for a while to light up. After she exhaled, she said, “Well that stuff never worked that well anyway. You just got nappy hair. But not like my grand baby. My grandbaby got good hair.”
Ashley bit her lip in frustration. It hurt to see Cora show Ebony so much love, but always took at every opportunity to put Ashley down. Ashley had given up a long time ago trying to get her mother’s approval, but when Ebony was born and her mother showed so much affection and love, the desire to receive the same affection welled up again.
“They told me there’s a woman in your apartments that does good blowouts,” Chantel said, trying to distract herself from the pain in her chest. “I was thinking I would go see her.”
“Who?” Cora asked, brow furrowed.
“Crazy Jade.” Ashley sat next Cora on the couch.
Cora’s eyes widened. “She gave me some lightening cream that goes on as smooth as butter. I'm almost as light as you.” Cora craned her neck towards Ashley. “See?”
Ashley looked at her mother. She was exaggerating. She wasn't nowhere near being light-skinned, but she was much lighter. Ashley should have noticed it before, especially since her face and neck were a shocking four shades darker than her chest.
“Maybe I’ll go see her right now,” Ashley said.
“If she can do hair half as good as she makes bleaching creams, you should have white girl flow. Bet.” Cora took a puff of the cigarette and shook her head.
“But why do they call her crazy?”
“Don’t believe what you hear. You know how folks like to gossip. She is just out there trying to make a buck to feed her child. So people want to talk about her ‘cause she don’t tell her business.”
“Do you know where her apartment is?” Ashley asked.
Cora nodded her head as she inhaled the cigarette, her cheeks caving in and her eyes closing, before she breathed a cloud of smoke and put out the cigarette in the ashtray next to the couch. “I’ll show you,” she said.
Ashley followed Cora out of the apartment. “Damn it’s hot out here,” Cora said before she pointed across the apartment complex. “You see that apartment right there?”
“Yeah,” Ashley said.