Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Vision from another era

I saw a young couple in the Cancer Center yesterday who struck me as jarringly out of place. I saw them both from the back, one sitting on a couch, the other on a chair in front of the computer available for common use in the waiting room. I couldn’t tell the gender of either from behind.

The one on the couch had a very full head of
dreadlocks, long, tied back. It prompted a conversation in my head about why anyone would do that to their hair. The process that creates dreads is the same as that which produces felt. Once matted, it’s completely irreversible. Although they can be washed, they sometimes, as in this case, tend to look unkempt and unclean.

In some cultures, dreadlocks are a religious symbol, but this was a young white man. The hair was more likely a rebellious statement.

Before she turned around, the smaller member of the couple could have been a young boy. Her face was distinctly feminine, but her hair was scraggly, uncombed, flying off in all directions. She wore a baseball cap, backwards and with the brim askew toward her left shoulder. She was wearing a long, flowing, colorful skirt, and flip-flops that gave the appearance she was barefoot. She reminded me of women I saw in Brooklyn in the 1950’s, women my mother referred to as gypsies, though I never knew anything about them beyond their physical appearance, their pierced ears, and the babies they nursed as they rode along in the trolley cars.

This couple struck me as straight out of the sixties and seventies, a vivid reminder of my friends, the “dirty hippies” I ran with for several years. We were criticized for not making the effort to fit in, for not upholding common rules of appearance. The more we were criticized, the more we needed to show off how different we were. We were outcasts then, and this couple successfully captured the look and feel we aspired to.

Then a nurse came out and called the name of “Miss So-and-so” and these two walked into the treatment area to meet with a doctor. My heart broke. Still adolescents trying to find their way, these kids were having to deal with life-threatening events.

Cancer sucks.

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