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
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
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 . . .