There she was. Her hair fell in her face as though hiding the pain that lay beneath her beauty, the pain that all of her except her eyes so very well concealed. Once locks of flowing hair revealing her facial features, almost accentuating them, now looked as though they were made for but one task. That was to cover as much of her face without seeming too obvious. Her body was draped in black against the white of her skin. Somehow in that state of hidden pain was not beauty but grace- the grand vestige of the past.
She looked on at the charades of the world around her. There were the imbeciles, in groups of two or five, in the utter tomfoolery of their youth imagining the universe to be concentrated in their little circles.
“ I am above these circles. “, she thought.” We all are but meaningless. How does it matter if I’m happy or sad if none of the pieces fit?”
But there was a time when the pieces fit. When she was young, pure and free. When her hair flowed down her back and not her face. When there was no burden of hiding the key to her mind’s secrets. But that was a different time. Logic and reason, slow to penetrate had robbed her of her illusions. She had lost faith. Then there was a time of crisis of faith. But now, there was no faith to lose.
But the only remaining vestige of these memories that mattered to her was freedom. When she was without a care as a child or in the most troubled times of her teenage when she felt she had nothing to lose-she had felt free. Sometimes in the most unpleasant situations, as the vanquished and not as the victor – she had felt free. It was just a feeling that she had had a taste of, but never was she able to define it. It was the feeling that would make her want to scream in ecstasy the feeling that would make these little Dante’s circles bearable.
Her mind went back to the days of the open hair, to when the pieces fit as the imbeciles continued on their futile jests.
“Innocence “, she thought,” what a word! I wish I could go back to it! But here I am without freedom! My once prized possession ! And now I am tied down to society’s whims.”
There she was in college. Making her career- her bright future. But what was the point of this future as long as it was not free? She was told by voices with faces day in and day out – “Don’t think too much! Art! Freedom! They’re just the passions of youth! Do your math and read your science. Stand on your feet, become someone and only then will the world listen.”
“But what good is any money, any fancy degree without that feeling of innocence?”
And as this anger against her fate rose, as the poet within her, as the artist within her died, her hair grew to cover her face. The more did the key seem to become heavier.
“I must rebel this cannot be my fate! I am a free thinking woman! My fate cannot be spending days behind a desk and earning money! Money! What a shame! Money and success! That is all the world thinks of! That is how it will measure me! But I will show them something else to remember me!”
The increasing black in her clothing with the occasional graffiti of and her face obscuring hair were , but translations of her thoughts. In all of this she thought she looked much better without her innocence. She wanted to be darker, more obscure, to defend herself against the judgements of the world. Her visage was her defence against the world. Nobody could look inside.
She had long thought of herself dressed in black, walking down a dark street with a cigarette in her hand! Alas she would have to wake up the next day and attend classes that would make her fit for an unfit society. So much so, to be fit enough to succeed in it.
She rose from her chair. One can only sit alone in a public place alone without feeling awkward. But then again, she exuded awkwardness. Angst was her crown, anger her beauty, all concealed with one tuft of black hair.
But what was it that she could do to assert that she was not just a number with a percentage sign after it? How could she prove that she was not like the others, just another number and not a name? The ghosts of the dead poet and dead artist in her played havoc with her mind. She had to rebel against her own inhibition she had to exercise her own freedom!
Then came to her the idea she had toyed with for some time now. Narcotics! Drugs! Nobody expected a prudent medical student to be on drugs ! That would change the way she was perceived. She would no longer be the nice girl with straight hair anymore. She would be the mystery lady in black holding so many secrets in those curls over her face. Yes that was who she wanted to be!- the black magic voodoo woman- bathed in the sensuousness of her mysteries-so deliciously degenerate – so well concealed.
She decided to gradually ascend the scales of her degeneracy .Tonight she was going to get drunk! Her steps traced the pathway to the liquor store. But there was something fighting the ghost of the dead artist. It was the little girl with straight hair. As she walked , this war increased in ferocity. This was a war between what she wanted to be and who she was and the casualty was her present.
“No I can’t give in to these feelings. You have to be bad to deal with this world.”At this point the alcohol would probably serve to drown the pain more than stating any point.
“ It must be done.”, she said to herself.” I must exercise my freedom”.
And her freedom did her in as good a stead as did her money. In a few minutes, she was carrying a bottle of cheap vodka covered in brown paper to her room. Whether it would drown her angst or set her free, she just didn’t know.
As she returned that evening, she saw yet another young girl, with all her sweetness and innocence and hair clear of her face. “Memories cannot weigh me down.” But the war of ghosts still raged in her mind.
She returned to her room, concealing the liquid of her emancipation. She sat down at her dressing table, in front of her mirror. The ghostly war was raging now. And the image of the little girl with her straight hair kept haunting her.
This was too much for her. Too much angst for one day. She had to drown it all away in cheap vodka. There, she had her first sip , straight from the bottle. Her throat burned from her miscalculation. But the ghosts in her head kept fighting.
And then she looked at herself in the mirror. Beauty in black. The better part of her face covered by her long hair. Now she could let her guard down, when the world was not looking down at her , judging her. She gently lifted her hair and pushed it behind her shoulders – revealing her face in the faint glow of the lamp nearby. Her face still retained some features of when she was ‘free’. The same lips and the same smile. But her eyes told a different tale. They had seen faces, but her face was seen and judged by the eyes . Maybe it was the vodka, maybe it was the effect of the dim lamp, that it struck her.
Somehow, she again had a feeling, something she thought herself incapable of now. She understood that her hair looked better drawn back ,her face looked better without hiding in her lush black hair. That was the end of the war. The little girl had won. The innocence that she shunned , seemed to be giving her the same ‘feeling’ of freedom again. She drained away the remaining vodka. And in that semi-tipsy state she drew her hair back, behind her shoulders and her eyes again had that singular look of innocence.
It did not matter where she hid the key anymore. She now hides in plain sight , for all to mock , but for her to relish…..