You felt along the length of the strand from the root to the tip. Rough. Just the way you liked it. You felt it a few times, pulling gently to test the strength of the root. Did it hold? It did. It held well. One quick jerk, and the strand was in your hand.
The roughness was not as exciting now. The strand was dead. You piled it beside you on the bed with the others: a tiny stack of soft black against the freshly washed white sheets.
You went back to hunting with your fingers for another one, rifling through the mass on your head.
‘I am feeling scared’
You know exactly when it started. You remember the exact moment, even. Not the pulling, but the beating of your heart. A Durga Puja dhak (a traditional Indian drum) thundering inside your head. The only thing that seemed to slow it down was the pulling, as if you could set the pace of your heart through your hair strands.
Scene: Sixth grade. A week after summer vacation. Shazia waited for you as the rest of the class emptied the classroom, trickling out for the next period. She turned and stared at you.
“What’s wrong?” she said.
“I am not sure.” You had your right hand over your chest, wondering why it was beating like that.
“Are you okay?” She had concern in her wide eyes.
“I am feeling scared, but I don’t know why. I mean … I am not scared, but I feel like I am.”
“Should we tell the teacher?” She was serious, this one.
“What!” you laughed, “No, it’s probably nothing.”
She relaxed and smiled.