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Finding the centre
In a tiny hairdressing salon in St James, a striking woman, Angelica (not her real name) with girlish dimples and velvety skin (like the inside of a sapodilla), was blow-drying my hair. There was the sound of running water, women’s low voices, the curiously aromatic, mingling smells of coffee and chemicals. For an hour or two, the women in here were buffered from the harshness of reality. Some closed their eyes under the dryer, allowing themselves to succumb to waves of soporific dreaming.
My phone, then Angelica’s, rang in quick succession. She paused the dryer. We overheard one another’s conversation with our offspring, exhorting them to be safe on the road, encouraging them to study. As women do, we became intimate strangers. It was her birthday. Looking at her, I pictured her in a cheeky dress, delicate heels in a cocktail bar with friends, or having dinner with her husband. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that nothing is as it seems.
She was cooking pelau, she said, and salad for 50 people. Ah, “a domestic diva,” I thought, in the way we like to pinion people with stereotypes. That was not what she meant at all. Bit by bit, as she put rollers in my hair, she told me her story.
“I am the eldest of four children. I never knew my father. My mother was not a stable person. She would leave at night. I didn’t know what she did. I would see her getting bigger, lying down and a baby came. She would be quiet for a bit and go out again until another baby came until there were four of us.
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