I would paint it Black if I could. My mom still does not get the idea that being the only one with different hair color at school does not make me special, but instead makes me a freak.
“Your mom probably ate too many oranges while she was pregnant,” one of the boys in my class tells me as he holds in a laugh, and the girls don’t stand up for me; fearing being laughed at for defending the “Orange Head.”
It is an everyday struggle, and all my attempts to ease it are in vain. I even hit a boy once for pulling my hair, we ended up at the principal’s office with both sets of parents apologizing and exchanging fake smiles. When we got home, my mom and I argued over the “topic” of changing my hair color; so that I would avoid another principal visit.
Arguing with my mother feels like talking into space; all my words are swallowed as if they weren’t even uttered in the first place, then they drift into nothing; unheard and incomprehensible.
“Freak!” I say, and she says special. “Everyone dyes their hair,” I say, and she says that I should be myself. I don’t know which “self” she is referring to; since I have no power of deciding for myself.
I took a habit of skipping school and heading to my favorite spot in the neighborhood instead. There, I sit on a bench overlooking the ancient Nile River. I close my eyes and through my mind’s eye, I see Blue waves, and I smell the early morning breeze, it dances its way through my nose and mouth and up to my lungs. I inhale and exhale, as deeply as I can. The breeze cools my insides but warms my heart. I open my eyes to a fresh, and a new perspective.
My backpack is my all-time companion; I open it and get out my sketchbook; it smells of Roses and Jasmine. I make sure it always smells of Roses and Jasmine. I draw Blue waves on the margins and draw myself standing in the center with long Black hair and shiny black wings. I don’t know why I chose the color Black for my hair; I’ve never considered which color I wanted instead of Ginger. But I always trust what I draw unconsciously and try to rationalize what it means.
I go for a walk by the Nile, which is probably the best treat you can give yourself on an early morning in winter. The city is still quiet at that time. As I walk, my mind wonders if bullying is a choice or is it ingrained in people, if there is a strategy to avoid it. Maybe if I searched hard enough, I would find an answer on how to treat unreasonably mean people. Why isn’t it the other way around? Why don’t we bully the bullies for once? Would that make them act out even stronger, or would they change themselves? Whirls of questions bang the doors of possibilities inside my head.
My best friend once told me that even if I changed my hair color, they would still annoy me; because they are mean anyways. I wish she was still here and didn’t have to switch schools last summer. We would have been walking together now, sharing sketches and mixtapes.
My feet take me to the bridge that connects the East and West banks. Still overlooking the river, I climb the bridge’s fence and sit, dangling my legs in the cold air. Most of the boys at school wouldn’t dare sit where I am sitting now. But still, they have power over me, damn it!
The water looks so pure and vast from up here. I wish I could dye my hair as Blue as the sky, but Blue would totally be worse than Ginger. Ugh, till when would I have to make decisions based on how people would react?
There must come a time when I would be free to dye my hair Blue and paint my body with Roses of all colors, to tattoo Black wings on my back so that the masterpiece is complete. I smile wide at such imagery.
I won’t deny that I thought of jumping so many times; because I can swim, and I don’t fear heights. I’m always certain that if I jumped, I would survive it.
Something far in the water catches my attention and cuts my train of thought. First, I can’t distinguish what are the small figures in the water causing a splash, but after a second, I realize that they’re the arms of someone drowning.
Without a second thought, I jump. I’m swimming faster than I ever did, as I get closer to the small figure; I see that it’s a little girl, and she has bright red hair, just like mine.
My legs and arms feel numb from the freezing cold. But suddenly, an encompassing sense of warmth descends from my hair and moves down to my body, and with each surge of warmth, my hair starts glowing fiery red. I reach for the girl and as I hold her, the warmth encompasses both of us, and I close my eyes until we reach the shore safely.
Out of breath, I open my eyes. I examine my body, and I am not wet. It’s 6:30 in the morning. I get out of bed and check my hair in the mirror, and it’s still Ginger. I run to open my sketchbook; the last drawing is a one with waves on the margins and me standing in the center with long red hair and fiery red wings, and a little girl standing by my side, holding my hand.