Your hair is going gray but you don’t want to dye it yet. That would admit defeat. I part its darkness in uneven rows, with a comb, starting in the front and working my way to the back, hunting. Pull it out from the root, you instruct, but I can’t get a good grip with my tiny hands and I break it, don’t tell you, and I keep trying to find my targets. It’s not fun but I have to do it, or else. You are seated in front of your makeshift vanity and I am standing on a stool because I am not quite tall enough but you don’t care as my arms and legs hurt from the minutes that feel like hours.
You finally give in, and also decide to take me to get my eyebrows professionally done. The Brooke Shield’s look is so out honey, the man at the beauty shop tuts at me. You smile in agreement under your shower cap of black. You didn’t tell me that I would spend my mornings, my hands finally big enough, tweezing my own face, after this, but I do, and it’s all hunting and trying to pull it out from the root and breaking and remembering your anger which is mine.
Later I will think about those days of searching and plucking and breaking the white hairs on your scalp, the veins, blue and red beneath my growing hands, as I move across my own face. Sometimes I think about those weekend afternoons and wish we had shared something more than this.
Your auntie has too many damn kids mom tells me one day over a glass of Chablis. She’d just taken a capsule of Fastin for dinner as she laughs at her cousin living on government cheese and food stamps, cornflakes served with spoonfuls of sugar and powdered milk. Even at an early age, I knew the shame of being poor, of being fat, of being anything my mom thought wasn’t classy. On her second glass, she whispers the story of how auntie’s mom smothered her last child when she fell asleep, rolling her immense body onto the baby as it nursed. That’s why she has so many kids mom continues to whisper into her third glass, her slender hands cupping it like the face of a sleeping child.
The story behind the stories:
These micros deal with the complicated relationship I have with my mother. In “Tweezer,” it’s an exploration of aging and beauty as well as the expectations of being a daughter. “Of Being” continues this conversation with an added layer of trauma from extended family, alcohol and diet pill abuse. I am so grateful to Sarah Freligh and Meg Pokrass for their workshops last fall where these CNF pieces were created.
Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has work published or forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, Reckon Review, The Hennepin Review, Cheap Pop, Milk Candy Review, Lost Balloon, Atlas + Alice, Fictive Dream, Maudlin House, Five South, and Cotton Xenomorph. She is in Best Small Fictions 2021, Best Microfiction 2022, and Wigleaf Top 50 2022. Read Hard Skin from Juventud Press and Kahi and Lua from Alien Buddha. She tweets @lumchanmfa and talks story at www.melissallanesbrownlee.com.
“Tweezer” was originally published in Red Fez, “Of Being” was originally published in JMWW.
Header Photo by Guilherme Petri on Unsplash