My mom wants to bring me to the village
hairdresser. I make a fuss in the car by kicking
the back of her seat every two seconds. She
doesn’t say a word. Angrily looks at me in the rearview mirror. I’m chasing my own thunderstorm.
I don’t want to leave the car. She removes my seatbelt and pulls me out by my overall straps. “Oh, stop
being such a nuisance. Don’t you want to start off the
new year fresh? You’re going to have a nice mushroom
haircut like everyone else. Otherwise, what kind of
impression would that give of us?”
At lunchtime, we head to the hairdresser’s, which
is in a basement. It’s a funny place. When I walk in,
the smell of hairspray burns my nostrils. Three chairs,
one of which is waiting for me. The chairs in the back
are occupied by two women reading magazines with
massive round blow dryers covering their heads. It
looks like they’re going to be abducted by aliens.
There’s a door at the other end of the room leading
to Gisèle the hairdresser’s house. On a zebra print
shelf, miracle products promise a transformative
experience. There’s something for everyone’s wants,
everyone’s needs. I open the bottles, charmed by
There’s a poster displaying the newest, most popular haircuts. My mom points to a little blond boy on
one of the posters. “Give him a Nick Carter haircut,
he’ll be cute as all that. I’ll come back to pick him up
in two to three hours if it isn’t a bother. I have to run
some errands in town.”
I’m stunned that my mom would leave me for so
long. At my age, trapped in a chair, three hours is an
eternity. She kisses my head before leaving.
The hairdresser has rings on all her fingers which
come alive like centipedes. Her rings are silver, in
the shape of hearts, arrows, one set with a diamond,
another with amethyst, the rest engraved with her
children’s names. My hair strands are seized, one
after the other, between heart and arrow. The scissors chomp my hair. I watch the strands fall, my eyes
“Don’t make that face, little guy. It’s going to grow
Gisèle goes to get a cigarette from her purse. She
sets down her scissors. Lights up. A cloud soon appears above our heads. Gisèle asks one of the other
women to open a window. A small guillotine window.
When she turns my chair in its direction, I count the
number of people passing by outside. We can only see
their shoes or their sandals walking past. I imagine
that the shoes and sandals are bodiless, the bodies
at home resting. We’ll never know.
Sometimes when she’s in front of me, my nose almost presses up against her large breasts. I try to move
my head. She warns me not to move, otherwise my
haircut won’t be even. When she brings her face close
to mine to cut the top, she squints her eyes, closes one,
checks if she’s done well. She has the intensity of a
huntress. She stands for a while in front of my face.
Her fingers smell like Alberto mousse and cigarettes.
“You look like an angel.” I smile at her. I want to count
each freckle on her face. I like counting. I ask her how
many heartbeats we are given before we die.
“That’s a big question for such a little person.”
She takes a second to think about it. She looks at
the ceiling as though the answer to my question is
“I don’t know, but when I think about it, it makes
my heart pound faster, so let’s cool our jets, eh?”
Gisèle keeps a bobby pin between her pursed lips.
They’re plum coloured and make her skin look green.
Probably why people gossip that she’s a witch. They
say she’s a husband thief, a home-wrecker. I can’t see
any danger because we exchange smiles and conspiratorial looks in the mirror. The other day at church, she
sat at the back, alone, at the periphery of everyone’s
thoughts, almost forgotten. After the communion,
my dad went to talk to her. Standing in front of the
confessional booth, he tucked a fallen strand of hair
behind her ear. She smiled. Her eyes bore into his. My
mom always insists that she, and not my dad, bring
me to the hair salon.
I look at my hair on the floor. A blond cloud splayed
open. Even though I’m having a nice time with the
hairdresser, I can sense a feeling of dread creeping in.
I feel like I’ve lost a limb. I have the exact same haircut
as the little boy on the poster. I don’t look like myself.
I look like someone else. I have the same haircut as
Nick Carter. I could be his double if the Backstreet
Boys ever needed a replacement. Gisèle takes off my
black cape with magisterial flare.
“Tada!” I’m not me. I’m someone else. I don’t recognize myself in the mirror. I keep touching my hair
while she goes to check on the ladies at the back of the
salon. She lights another cigarette. I pass my fingers
through the few long strands left, then through the
shaved area. She flattened my femininity, a forest of
trees uniformly cut, leaving only the stumps. From
now on, I’ll be afraid to wash my hair because I’ll have to pass my hands over the coarse short hairs
that bristle against my fingers.
“I like your mom and all but you’ll have to remind
her that I’m not a babysitter,” Gisèle tells me. “You
can also tell her that she can pay me at the end of the
month, that’s no problem. It’s been a good month, so
I’m not stressed."
Another two hours of waiting before she comes
back. One of the women leaves before my mom
returns and another client arrives. I spend the time
imagining what the witch’s lair looks like upstairs.
There are probably men sleeping, victims of her
spells. The missing husbands. The casualties of love.
I spend two hours daydreaming about the long and
radiant hair of the girls in my class and wonder
why boys have to keep their hair short. I wish I had
Rapunzel hair. ⁂
Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay is a writer,
actor, model and
trans activist. She is
the first trans woman
to be nominated as
an actress at the
Awards. Her other
two poetry books: Le
ventre des volcans and
Les secrets de l’origami.
Dandelion Daughter is
translation of her
novel La fille d'elle-même, which won the
2022 Prix des libraires
Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch is the author
of knot body, which
was shortlisted for
a Quebec Writers'
and The Good Arabs,
which won the 2022
Grand Prix du livre de