Getting My Hair Braided was a DEEP Dive into Baltimore

The other day I worked from home and had been wanting to get my hair done so badly I was torn between just going to the barber shop for the umpteenth time in my adult life or getting something done to it ON that day or else…

Once I was done with work around 4 I started looking on Craigslist for a braider since I don’t really know any salons in the area yet. I filtered my search to only those with images and went about scouting what the internets were providing. I wanted mostly someone who wanted/could do it NOW.

I went through the process of texting those I was interested in with information on what I was looking for, when and a picture. One said she could do it now. So I agreed that I’d come by in an hour – it wasn’t far from home after all. I went there completely swagLESS. No makeup, a big tshirt, jeans and flip flops. I think I may have had lipgloss in my pocket, but I didn’t even use it (the pros of living where you don’t know too many people).

It’s funny how the scenery changed drastically once we crossed over a certain highway. It was so tangible –  you could scoop whatever it was. The sun felt like it burned harder…possibly from the absence of trees lining the wide bright concrete sidewalks. The air felt heavier, pregnant. The heat rose thicker.  The street itself like it was holding it’s breath in anticipation of something. Quiet so it didn’t snitch.  I caught myself quietly exclaiming – this is REAL.

I got there and she didn’t have the hair needed so we took the same uber to the [Korean owned] beauty supply a block and a half over (BEAUTY SUPPLIES IN THE HOOD ARE THEEEE BEST btw) and walked back. I was so glad I looked like crap and only had a book in my hand.

Got into the house and she said we should go upstairs to her room because it’s quieter and there’s a fan there. So up we went. Her life was in that room including her adorable baby she laid on the bed. There were pictures of herself and the baby celebrating every month until the present 4th stuck on the fridge.

I sat in a chair and she got started. Her cousin who was supposed to be helping do the ends of the braids since someone else was supposed to come 2 hours later […never did] camped out on the bed. She occasionally yelled at the tv and more often at one of the 4 or 5 children under 7 who came in the room crying or yelling about something.  She never once got up. Her main movement was reaching back to the baby crying on the bed and patting her quite firmly to quiet her.

A few hours later she got through the packets of hair we had bought, burnt the ends of my pixies and showed me the final job in the mirror.

It was NOT nothing like the picture I’d showed her. Not at all.

Fewer things infuriate me more than hair done NOT how I wanted it. I don’t care that it looks nice or ok. I said thank you, called my uber, paid and went downstairs to do my short wait since it was a minute away. I started walking towards the door for that short “Arriving Now” wait and she told me that no no NO – you do not do that around these parts. “You hear those helicopters?!” she asked. Yes what do they mean? Someone was shot in front of her house in the middle of the street LAST night. When the uber pulled up, I jumped in and while he waited for my address to confirm I urged him to start driving. We zoomed past 2 cops and 2 cop cars parked at the top of the block.

Are you SERIOUS?! Yes, dead serious. She didn’t know the person who died or who shot him and as much as she lives there, she does not go outside except to go somewhere ELSE.

This is where a young lady with a marketable skill planning on starting her own salon in a few months with a young child she’s supporting has to live. None of those children went or go outside and neither will hers if she stays there. That is life for her and for some.

I don’t know if it was literal or in my mind, but crossing back over that demarcating highway the breeze DID blow a little cooler, the trees [that were there] swayed gently and street lights [that were there] shone a little brighter.

I learnt so much about America, wealth disparities and myself in that single trip. I didn’t know it would be, but it really was a deep dive into what Baltimore is about and there certainly is a LOT to be fixed. Not so much so that the city is “cleaned up” as we have all come to see that with gentrifying comes erasure. There was just too much NOTHINGness. Long and hot summer days with nothing to do are the devil’s workshop. Making it hard even for those who are about something and wanting to do better.  This canNOT and should not be life for anyone in these here United States.