Befriended| November 15, 2022
“I… I… This is just hobby. A little job on the side,” I say. A side job I started because I don’t have friends like Dini Harris
IN a perfect world, Zeidy would still be alive and Bubby would never have gotten sick. I would still be living in Lakewood with my old group of friends, the perfect social circle where I could talk and laugh and be my perfect old self.
I pull a strand of hair and drag it at the ends. At least having silent conversations with Styrofoam heads doesn’t give me the anxiety I get when I have to talk to my new classmates.
“You’re a natural,” Mrs. Lady-In-The-Chair says.
I smile hesitantly. Natural. Sure. When it comes to wigs, maybe. Not when it comes to forming new friendships. There’s a Biology midterm scheduled to tomorrow. While my classmates are partying and joking and studying, I’m here doing the most atypical thing a high schooler would do: cutting a wig.
I flip the bangs and snip a piece of hair on the left side.
“Wow,” she breathes. “I’m so glad I got your number.” She turns her head to the side. “So, you’ve taken a course on hair and decided to pursue sheitels instead?” She gestures toward my tower of clips, scissors, brushes, and bobby pins. “You must really enjoy doing this.”
“Yeah.” I smile at the reflection in the mirror. “I like what I do.” I’d also like to make some new friends.
The lady in the chair looks good. Great, in fact. The front bangs frame her face nicely, and it’s only the third time I’m cutting a wig.
“So,” she prods, “what school do you go to?”
“Nice. Then you probably know my daughter.”
“Dini. Dini Harris.”
“Oh.” I pause mid-cut, nearly killing the sheitel. “I… yes. Yes, sure. Dini.” Snip. Snip. Snip. Bits of hair are flying to the floor. Dini Harris. “Of course, I know her! She’s actually in my grade.”
Mrs. Lady-In-The-Chair Harris beams.
Dini Harris is Miss Popular; she has a chain of girls following her around the school building. With a tilt of her head and her charming smile, she has teachers and girls eating out of her hand. She reminds me so much of my friend Mimi, back in Lakewood.
“Ohhh! I can’t wait to tell her that you recut this old rag.” She pats some frizzy hairs down and turns to face me. “This is so cute.”
“And I can’t believe she never mentioned that you do sheitels. You’re like a pro! How long have you been doing this?”
“I… I… This is just hobby. A little job on the side,” I say. A side job I started because I don’t have friends like Dini Harris.
The girls are laughing over some joke. I gingerly make my way through the maze of lunch room tables to the corner of our class table. It’s no fun being the new kid on the block. Lunchtime is a bummer.
“Ohmigosh! Aviva! There you are!” Dini pats an empty spot on the bench beside her. “You seriously do wigs? My mother was raving over your magic hands that liven up dead wigs.“
Magic. Ha! Like magic friends. This is so, so fake. I give her a half smile and awkwardly unwrap my bagel. Her mother probably put her up to this. Poor new girl who occupies herself with sheitels instead of friends.
“No, seriously! This is way too cool! We’re gonna make you popular. You must style our hair. And wait — the dance! The Shabbaton!”
“Yes! You’ll do our hair! It’ll be epic!”
“What?” I can’t remember the last time Dini spoke to me, and now I’m suddenly surrounded by an audience of three.
“Our hair,” Nomi points at her bun. “You’re gonna make waves!”
Dini giggles. “Pun intended.”
I almost snort into my tuna sandwich. “Umm… I don’t love playing with hair.”
“Right. That’s why you play with wigs all day,” Faigy winks.
There’s an uneasy silence. I pick the sesame seeds off my bagel.
Dini jabs Faigy in the ribs. “Faigy’s just kidding. But come on! This is what friends are all about!” She stuffs a forkful of salad into her mouth. “So, when can we come over?”
“Yeah,” Dini says, “to see your salon!”
I nearly choke on a cherry tomato. This is ridiculous.
“Are you okay?”
“What? Um… yes. Yes, I’m good.” I swallow hard. “So, you want to see my place?”
“You know, if it’s hard for you, we can just get together,” Dini says lightly. “We don’t have to do hairdos.” She nods at the others. “Right?”
Right. Of course she’s right. But really? Is this how they want to befriend me? Through my wigs? What about just getting to know me — the person I am?
“Right.” I crumple a piece of silver foil. “But it’s okay… it’ll be fine.” I shake my head trying for nonchalance. “Come over tomorrow. After school.”
“Wow! You’re amazing! It’s gonna be totally awesome!” Dini squeals.
Absolutely. Awesome. What have I gotten myself into?
There are whoops and cheers and high fives. Tomorrow, Dini and Nomi and Faigy will take turns sitting on my hydraulic chair. I’ll be lathering and rinsing and massaging foamy Dove shampoo. I’ll be curling and straightening and pinning. And I’ll be blowing blissful heat on a friendship that’s all about hair.
“You want to come tomorrow?” I ask as I dump my school bag onto the kitchen chair while quickly scanning the pink Post-it that Mommy left on the dinette table. We’re at Bubby. Hugs, kisses and love. We’ll be home soon. There’s dinner in the fridge.
“Yes. Tomorrow. I know it’s so last minute,” Mrs. Gordon chatters into my ear. “But my sister’s l’chayim is also happening last minute.”
I open the fridge, grab a plate of meatballs and spaghetti and stick it into the microwave. I never did get to finish my tuna sandwich. I’m starved.
“And my sheitel looks like it came out of the washing machine, and I heard such great things about you. So I really, really need your help.”
I hold the phone six inches away from my ear. Mrs. Gordon isn’t letting up.
“Please? You’d be doing me the biggest favor. I’ve tried every sheitelmacher. Everyone’s booked!”
I could technically cancel on Dini. We could reschedule for another night. Or I don’t have to reschedule at all. Friendships aren’t supposed to form based on talent.
Or is it just an excuse, an opening, for Dini to take the first step?
The microwave pings. Steam is rising from the plate. The spaghetti is hot and tempting. New friendships are not. Especially ones that feel forged.
“Tomorrow,” I finally say. “Tomorrow should be fine.”
But it won’t be fine. Not when I have to call Dini, fumble on my excuse, and cancel on her plans.
I twirl my fork around a strand of spaghetti. Dini, Nomi, Faigy… Do they really want to get to know me? Or is it kindness on behalf of the new kid who entered school in the middle of the year?
And I? Do I even need Dini and her friends?
I pick up a pen and doodle on the napkin in front of me. Mommy and Shuey won’t be home till later. Studying Chumash and Global won’t take me more than 20 minutes. It’s kind of quiet here.
The pen is working furiously, creating rough, horizontal lines. Yes. I need them, I whisper to myself.
An image of Mrs. Gordon and Dini arriving at my doorstep together flashes through my mind and I feel the butterflies somersaulting. I fidget with my cell, flipping the cover open and closed. I quickly call Mrs. Gordon back before I lose my nerve.
“I’m sorry, but I realized that tomorrow won’t work,” I babble. “You can come over now, if you’d like.”
I finish eating and get up to rinse my plate. It would’ve been easier to style Mrs. Gordon’s wig tomorrow. But it also would’ve been an excuse. A simple excuse to drive away an opportunity of friendship.
I squirt some soap, place the plate in the dish rack, and head to my room to heat up the curling iron.
Because even in a perfect world, hair gets styled and friendships get formed.
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 936)
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