Jacquelyn Zong-Li Ross writes in response to Mira Dayal’s artist book, Hair Biography (self-published, 2019).
from Fifty Times You Leave Your Lover
They tell you you’re too sensitive and you tell them you’re not sleeping. Like, you don’t lose sleep for just anyone, you know. And now you’re also losing hair. You spend all day carrying others and all night vacuuming the crying room couch.
You once told me that your hair was completely black at birth, but turned red, and then orange, and then yellow, green, blue—a new colour for every person you’d loved. Now it’s quite purple, and you’re not even done living. Not even done dying. Not even done trying on the raw materials.
Wash your hair in the morning. Wash your hair in the evening and let it dry. Wash your hair in the afternoon . . .
The nights lately are very humid, but because other people don’t seem to mind, you pretend not to mind either. Air conditioners sold out for thousands of years: love letter to the architect of cross-drafts.
The worst kind of lover uses all of the ice on the weekend and forgets to refill the ice cube tray.
You make long, elaborate braids and dangle them out of the window and down over the drab city streets. People on the sidewalk duck under your waving tips, your very novel new species of tree.
Good witch, bad witch, in-between-good-and-bad witch . . .
Some peoples’ fantasies involve sex islands, but yours is a clean kind of room enveloping whole neighbourhoods.
The sink is full of warm melodrama; the part, the wrong part for you. It’s cliché to imagine why so many strands of you are always leaving—and just when the moping is getting good.
Begin again, they tell you, and so you do. Because something about the motion of listing feels like travelling.
Every travel agent in the world now booking discount flights along the strand-paths of your romantic ideation.
Not all leaving is questing, but you promise it’s worth it—worth the cost of a salon cut—even if just to smooth out the ragged edges.
Baby pulls all your hair out when you lower them into the car seat. Lover pulls all your art out when you point to the no smoking sign.
“There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but on this airplane, there are only two,” she says, walking backwards down the aisle and extending both arms.
You leave by telephone. You leave by choir. You leave by serial monogamy and serial desire. You leave by polyphony. You leave by romantic attainment. You leave by gothic religiosity. You leave by classical pronouncement.
The champagne is served in a plastic flute designed so as not to produce shards; the corners of you, rounded to reduce liability.
Three drinks spilled on the velveteen cushion.
Two exits by inflatable slide at each wing.
One unbearably lonesome and artless flight—
Fifty times you leave your lover until your lover’s out of sight.
— Jacquelyn Zong-Li Ross