A sample-sized packet of Pert Plus shampoo came in the mail.
I showed my mother, doubtful whether such a prize would be allotted to me alone.
(more) "Can I have this?"
"Be my guest," she said, prodding the packet back across the table disinterestedly. She settled back into her chair, into the more certain pleasures of her cigarette. "Watch your hair doesn't fall out."
I didn't know better than to consider the free sample a luxury. I ran a hot bath excitedly.
Our regular shampoo was a communal, litre-sized bottle of liquid coloured like antifreeze. It was from the Bargain Bunker and was so cheap it had the most literal name: Blue Shampoo. The label featured a silhouette of a family walking toward the middle of nowhere.
To my eye, that silhouette was of my own family, about to stride off some invisible ledge: my mother and dad, my brother and me, all of us standing up straight for once. Whenever I bathed, up to my neck in docile, lukewarm suds, I'd stare at that label. Its generic potential drew me.
I still had notions about the reformative, even magical, properties of soap and cosmetics, ideas based on viewing umpteen hours of television commercials. I pictured my own short hair transformed: once I rinsed away the greenish scrim produced by the windfall shampoo, surely a cascade of hair would unfurl from my head and fall in slow motion down my back. I would be beautiful and free, which is how the TV models seemed to me as they shook their hair with their eyes closed, not caring who looked at them in their languidity. Their vanity was not laughable (like mine). It was so obvious that they should be confident and duly admired, whether they noticed anyone else looking or not.
Didn't get any play from Alfredo. Not the three nights he slept over on the couch, not any of the days afterwards when he came by to play with Kalya--though that would've been weird, to mess around with my baby niece's daddy when he came over to hang out(more) with her. But I would've gone for it. Alfredo is hot. He was then, anyway. Maybe now he's just some guy in his--shit, his late thirties. Kalya's twenty-two, so yeah. I'm thirty. I used to seem so much older than Kalya, so much younger than Alfredo. We haven't seen Alfredo in twenty years, now.
Kalya's mom took off when Kalya was three, left a note that said, "You guys know I'm messed up. I'm glad Kalya has you. Has good family. Thanks!" We haven't heard from her since. Me and my mom and my grandma, who's also Kalya's grandma, raised Kalya ourselves. Sometimes my uncle Bruno helped some. Mostly he just came by with presents, then crashed out on the couch until he left again.
Family is crazy. Not mine more than anybody else's, probably. But I wouldn't really know. Because you're only inside your own.(less)
Her eyes were full, swimming
as they looked into my own
We were drunk, floating
treading in the moment
Afraid that the next would follow
and it would all be gone
(more) swept under the sea
by the sea
We disappeared into each-other
emerged months later, different
changed, with eyes still swimming
and each moment remained,
didn't get any easier.