by Gianna De Persiis Vona
Sherry spends a lot of time thinking about her hair. If she should cut it or leave it long. If she does cut it, how short should it be? Then she thinks about how she spends an awful lot of time thinking about if she should cut her hair or not, and what does this say about her. As a person. There are a lot of other things she should be thinking about. Like global warming, and plastic bags, all of those plastic bags, and paper cups too, that get thrown away into the landfills. And war. There are people being killed in Africa, and Iraq, and other places, people who don't have enough food to eat. Places where people do horrible things to each other, to kids even, things so bad that when she reads about them in the newspaper it makes her feel sick and fearful in the pit of her stomach, like maybe life is more frightening than should be allowed. Yet, despite how she feels when she reads about these things, or hears about them on the public radio station her best friend's mom is always playing, all she can manage to think about is her hair and if it will look bad short, because that is what she really wants, to cut it short. But she's afraid that she'll look like a boy, or look stupid. One would be just as bad as the other. She will be sixteen in a few weeks, and while this isn't terrifically old, she figures it's old enough that she should stop spending so much time thinking about her hair and spend more time thinking about things that really matter, like plastic bags.In her house, they keep their old plastic bags in another, bigger plastic bag under the sink, to be recycled if her mother ever remembers to take them to the grocery store, which she never does. Unless it's a really gross plastic bag from the bottom of the bin, with moldy vegetables in it; then it just gets thrown away. Whenever Sherry has to put something in the garbage, she is faced with these bags, which are so abundant she often has to reach down and stuff them back into the bigger bag. As she does this, she imagines, just for a second, how there are millions of other houses across the country with just as many plastic bags under their sinks, and how even if she looks like a boy if she cuts her hair short, the bags will still be here. They will still be a problem.
Sherry's best friend, who she isn't talking to right now because they have had one of their bad fights, says that if more people don't stop thinking about their hair and start worrying about the things that really matter, then the entire Earth will be uninhabitable by the time she and Sherry are old. They'll have to live in a plastic bubble, is what Zarina says, and Sherry knows this is true because it's what they teach her in school, and it's what her mother says, and it's what she reads in just about everything. And yet no one seems to really care. Everyone just keeps on going about business as usual, driving big cars, throwing away plastic bags, and acting as if the layer of smog that hugs them all is just for pretend. But when it comes down to it, Sherry has to admit that she spends more time worrying about her hair than she does about anything else, so she guesses she is just as guilty, and that this must be the "public apathy" Zarina's mother is always complaining about.
Sherry thinks Zarina's mother is all right. Her name is Connie, but she likes everyone to call her Pansy. Sherry isn't sure why. She thinks Pansy isn't any better of a name than Connie, but she tries to remember to switch, even though she and Zarina have been friends since the second grade and Connie has only been Pansy for the last four or five years. Pansy wears long skirts, doesn't shave her legs, and never seems to do anything exactly specific, though she claims to make her modest living selling her beaded jewelry. But Sherry has never actually seen her sell any, so she wonders about it sometimes, where Zarina's mom gets the little money she has.
Her own mother works all the time just to support the two of them; full time at Wells Fargo Bank is barely enough. They get by all right, but it's not as if Sherry can just go out and get whatever she wants. It's not as if she'll be getting a car for her sixteenth birthday. Her mom gets up early every morning and goes to work, stays there all day long, and comes home at six o'clock complaining that her feet ache and that she's sick to God of coming up with things to make for dinner. Pansy, on the other hand, is always breezing in and out, but to no place in particular, and she never complains about her feet, only of hot flashes. She complains of those a lot, and Sherry and Zarina, when they aren't fighting, roll their eyes and giggle and then Pansy says, "Just you wait, girls. Just you wait."
This is what she and Zarina had that fight about, the environment. Sherry had spent the night. She didn't sleep well because Zarina's brother Zeek, whose room is right next to Zarina's, fell asleep with his television on and Sherry kept waking up to the dull sound of explosions and gunfire. For just a moment, in her sleep-addled brain, she would think they were under attack and would wish desperately that she was at home, because if this was war, she wouldn't want her mother to be alone. Then she would realize it was just Zeek's television and she would fall back asleep. So she was tired and cranky the next morning and just wanted to eat her breakfast cereal, which was honey-sweetened granola, nothing like the stuff she can get at her own house, and Zarina wanted to talk about politics again and how even if she did have her license and enough money to buy a car, which was clearly a hypothetical situation, as she had neither, she would choose to ride a bike instead. Sherry said what bullshit that was, that it was sure easy for Zarina to give up driving when there was little to no chance of her being able to get her hands on a car until she made enough money to buy one for herself, but that if someone was to offer her one, it's not as if she would say, No thanks, I've got my bike.
Zarina snapped at her that not everyone was so fucking apathetic, and that some people actually cared, actually had high morals that they were willing to stick to if it meant helping to preserve the planet for just a little bit longer. Sherry said she just wanted to eat her damn cereal, and pointed out that Zarina had yet to give her a definitive answer on whether or not she should get her hair cut. Zarina snarled that all she cared about was her fucking hair and why didn't she just go fuck herself, which was out of line, and probably meant that Zarina was about to start her period, because that's when they have their worst disagreements.
Sherry decides she's going to just do it. Get her hair cut. She'll take the risk, and that way,