Since she was a little girl, she longed for a mane. Though her kinky waves were always clipped to her scalp, she longed for the luscious waterfalls of the honey-haired women on television and in the magazines her mother read. A mane was exactly what she thought it to be: thinly smooth, unknotted and endless. She wanted it to be endless.
Whenever she told this to her mother (a tall, round woman), she would laugh in her deep, raspy voice and lean down to touch her daughter’s tiny mousy ringlets. “A mane is a difficult thing to have.”
“But I want to be a lion.”
Her mother would smile and stand and return quietly to whatever she had been doing, saying quietly under her breath, “And so you will.”
And, for many years to follow, the little girl thought of herself as less than a lion, dwelling in her head-hugging curls, knowing that if they ventured any further from her scalp they would weave together, create something quite unlike the strands she longed so deeply for.
But, shortly after the little girl’s legs decided to grow and her jaw started to harden into something similar to a diamond, people started to call her beautiful. It was to her begrudging and ever-confusing surprise, and went against everything she had ever come to believe. She did not condone it, and she did not expect it, but it came, as quickly as the padded filling in different parts of her body.
Soon enough, people started to give the girl little green pieces of paper due to her beauty. They would push her in front of three-legged machines, blinding little suns surrounding her, simply because she was beautiful. It made no sense to the girl, but she could not stop smiling for these photographs, for this praise was all she had ever wished for.
And since praise does not stay praise, but morphs into the pressure to fix something unbroken, the people who handed her those odd little pieces of green paper began to offer her a mane, a mane she had wished for and wanted her whole life.
They brought forth for her approval an abundant variety of synthetic manes, manes that they pressed against her plastered smiling face, manes for which they constantly asked her opinion and for which she constantly knew not what to respond. When the strange, micromanaging people became impatient (as the girl was impatient for them to become), they brought her gently into brightly lit rooms with brightly lit mirrors and brightly lit people.
And the young girl, remembering her lonely mother’s words and her lonely mother’s hair and the way her lonely mother’s still cheeks looked when she was laid into a sleek box, let them slip the alien mane over her head.
Words and illustration by Ella Luna