Kerri stuck her hand in the drawer stuffed mostly with athletic socks and pantyhose. In the front of that drawer she kept business cards, gifts certificates, and coupons. “Gotta be in here,” Kerri murmured, though this was only the second most likely place for her to find the card. She could have sworn it was in the recipe card file box on the shelf of her computer desk where she kept old floppy disks and her main collection of business cards. Those less important got stuffed in the sock drawer.
Kerri had only tolerated three women touching her wild curls since she asked her mom to please leave it alone at the age of ten. No one had touched in two years. Most days she twisted it into a knot to avoid frizz that followed if she left it down.
“My kids are interracial and I’ve got several Puerto Rican clients, too. I know exactly what to do with your hair. You will have big, sexy curls, and no frizz.”
“I won’t have to set it, or use all kinds of gels? Those gels control for two or three hours, and then my hair dries out and starts to turn into a giant sponge.”
“Your hair will be beautiful, trust me.”
Kerri had trusted the woman, and determined to have the new type of perm done. She couldn’t remember the name of the perm or the woman. The perm would cost a hundred dollars, because Kerri’s hair was long and thick. There would be additional charges for a trim. Kerri didn’t have the money six months ago, when she met the hairdresser, a fellow Northerner, in a checkout line at Hecht’s Department Store. She had barely managed to put aside twenty or so dollars a month since then, with Barry’s income down so drastically since he’d started his own business, and then the extra bills that had come in for new tires and Kerri’s co-payment for knee surgery.
She emptied all of her dresser drawers, her purses, searched every hiding spot she could think of. The woman worked at home. She wouldn’t be in the business listings even if Kerri knew the name. Kerry needed to find that card and spend the money she had saved to treat herself, before another bill came in and she lost her nerve.
Frustrated, Kerri sat down and cried. “All I want is nice hair, Lord,” she said. “I know it’s petty to you, but I just want to feel beautiful. She heard the silence in the empty house. This was Barry’s late night. “I keep talking, but are you listening, Lord? Why don’t you answer me?”
She punched at the remote with her forefinger and stopped at every channel. Nothing. Finally she stopped at TBN. “Oh, no.” There were at least a dozen preachers and singers on at once, and Kerri knew what that meant – fundraising. She changed channels again.
Kerri stopped channel-hopping to stare at a group of Cher impersonators trying to out-vamp each other. They turned out to be contestants in an annual Cher Convention held in (where else?) Las Vegas. Kerri glanced at the clock and back at the t.v. This would be on for about eight minutes longer, then maybe she’d find something worth watching. Cher had always been one of Kerri’s favorite performers, but drag queens imitating her were only slightly less entertaining than watching a clothes dryer spin, Kerri thought. Her attention drifted. “Maybe I need to buy some wigs, like Cher.”
The t.v. cameras were suddenly focused on a little girl with a huge, distorted face, sitting up in a hospital bed. The real Cher leaned forward and kissed the girl on the cheek. “With or without the surgery, honey, you’re a princess,” she told the young patient, Elizabeth. One eye drooping and watering, Elizabeth bared her teeth as if trying to smile.
Back to Las Vegas, and Cher was surrounded by drag queens. “Isn’t this in bad taste,” an interviewer asked.
“I only answer to two people, myself and God,” Cher answered. “The Cher Convention raises a lot of money to help these kids with craniofacial disfigurement. It’s all worthwhile to see children smile.”
“Oh, Jesus,” Kerri said out loud, “this is not the answer I was hoping for. Thank you, though for reminding me that frizzy hair is not something worth crying over.”
A contact number appeared on screen as the program ended, and Kerri dialed it.
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