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no invitation

We are at a 3 year old's birthday party in the back room of a cafe. Music is pumping from a tiny speaker. Balloon animals are popping, and waving in the air. A man in a yellow dinosaur costume dances wildly. Parents snap pictures with satisfied smiles on their faces.

A little girl approaches gingerly and stands in the doorway, straying from her parents somewhere inside the restaurant. She cannot be more than three. It must be hard to ignore all of the noise coming from this room packed with celebration. There is a perfect little pony tail at the back of her head. She hesitates, as one foot poises in the air and then rests back down. How to understand that she was not invited. How to understand the laughter, the loose jumping bodies, the presents piled high on the window. None of this connects to her. There is a little plate of food waiting for her back there, in the quiet restaurant. Maybe a warm bowl of soup, thick with noodles. I watch her for some time.

That night, her empty e…

not just then but before, and slowly after


E turned to me and asked if she could get a haircut. I did not hesitate and told her it was her hair, and she could do whatever she wanted. For her entire life she has never gotten a haircut beyond the random trimming seasons I perform, with her sitting patiently on the edge of the bathtub as I squint, snipping until I think things look alright.
"How short?" I asked her.
Her face twisted around, unsure.
Later, she showed me a picture of Jennifer Lawrence and said "something like this". There were other pictures, all of tough, independent, young women. I did not smile or even joke around with her. I just made a plan, found the right salon and printed out some pictures of what she wanted so we would not leave anything to chance. Ten years old, and her first haircut outside of the house. We tromped through the snow, just on time for our appointment.

They let me sit in an empty chair not far from them. I had the Leica with me but the woman cutting her hair was shy and said please no pictures. She wore Uggs covered in gold sequins, and a sweater dress that hugged her thick frame. Her eyes were kind enough, and she treated E like a young woman not a little girl.

The hair fell in chunks. E held that long stare we all do into barber shop mirrors, seeing herself not just then but before, and slowly after.

It was all over before we knew it. The blow dryer yawned on, making the air smell hot and a little bit burnt.

"I needed a change." She told me, once we were outside.

I leaned my head back, looking at the bright sky, the haze that hid the stars but drew the edges of a collection of clouds.

There was nothing operatic about it, this simple act of getting a haircut but a realization crept along the back of my neck as we made our way home in the darkness. This was just one step that would soon be followed by other ones, the steps of a young woman, not a child.









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