5:45 A.M.

The girl in the mirror stares at me

With bleary, droopy eyes

Focused on the tiny bump in my ponytail.

Disgusted, she shakes her head

Pulls out the tightly-wrapped hair tie

And begins combing furiously.

6:30 A.M. finds her still staring at me

Glowering at the stubborn bump.

Comb passes through greasy hair

Again and again

Hand smoothes it out mechanically;

Bump refuses to yield.

The girl sighs and undoes the ponytail again,

Knowingly forfeiting her breakfast

To continue to try and tame this unruly hair.

The next day, I get up fifteen minutes earlier.

Later, I sit in the itchy pink chair

Watching my nail-bitten fingers

As the social worker asks me a series of meaningless questions.

Excessive hand washing?


Fear of bugs or germs?


Elaborate, time-consuming rituals?

I hesitate, watching my sore fingers tap the pink material.

My other hand automatically reaches for my hair

And smoothes, ineffectively, the stubborn bump

I know is there.

Unhelpfully, my mother blurts out

The story of my early-morning struggles against my hair

Against bumps she claims not to see.

She ignores my evil eye.

This was my secret,

My method of calming those tormented hours


At dawn.

Despite my body's protests

Against such early rising

There was always some comfort

In seeing the girl in the mirror

Struggle with a comb.

Nodding, the social worker gives the diagnosis.

My fingers tapping on the itchy pink chair

The baggy-eyed girl in the mirror

Don't understand

Why a diagnosis is so special.

It won't change us, they cry.

It won't change me.

They can trap me with an O

Secure me with a C-shaped lock

And twist it tightly closed with a D

But still the alarm clock will ring at 5:30

So I can greet my tired companion in the mirror . . .