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This is one of those episodes in my life that a psychiatrist would probably have a field day with. I believe I refer to it in most of my journal/diary entries as ‘The Martin Chapter’ simply because it was my involvement with him that defined the events. it’s taken me a long time to organize my brain around this subject. It will probably continue coming in dribs and drabs as I sort through the rest of it.

It started when I was living in Nanaimo. I have my theories about how I was attracted to him at first, but I think I’ll save that speculation for a later date. The episode I’m thinking about happens here, and involved my hair. It was the summer and I was feeling the bi-annual urge to cut it. I usually like to cut it so it brushes the tops of my shoulders. It makes me feel sexy. This is what I was thinking when I said:

“I need to get a trim,” I remember saying, checking out the split ends. “Shoulder length I think.”

“I like your hair. I think it would look really good short” I remember him brushing it out of my eyes or something, touching it, at least. He was always very tactile, especially when he wanted something. It was too bad, because I like being touched.

“How short?” I can still hear the suspicion in my voice. I believe I even raised my left eyebrow, to show that I didn’t believe him.

“Here,” he says, touching a spot just below my ear.

“You do realize that it wouldn’t lay straight.”

“It’d be sexy.”

“I don’t know.”

It was the next day that he surprised me. He was picking me up from work in that red, red car of his. (The Red Baron, he called it. A 2001 Hyundai Tiburon. I still see it driving around, with its stupid Hyundai RS-X banner on the front window and its too-many headlights that make it look like a spider. Every time I see it I wonder if the current owner has any idea what Martin tried to use it for. A defence mechanism, he said. Something that people would notice, so he couldn’t get away with anything. Right.)

“I made you a hair appointment. With my favourite hairdresser. She’s been cutting my hair since I was little,” he says, brushing his thinning red hair with those pale, long-fingered hands. Lily-white hands. Deceptive hands.

“You what?”

“It’s for Saturday.”

“I can’t afford that right now, you know that.”

“My treat.”

“Martin,”

“You’ll get it short, right?”

“Martin,” I feel myself starting to whine. I’m angry.

“Just try it. You’ll see. It’ll look great.”

I fume.

“Please, just try it. If you don’t like it, it’ll grow back.”

“It will grow back.”

“It’s just a bob, not like a pixie cut or anything.”

“True.”

“Will you?”

“I’ll think about it.”

Saturday rolls around.
We’re driving. We’ve had our 7-11 stop and he’s got Junkie-XL blaring out of the speakers. We drive into Langford. When we pull into a driveway I realise I’ve forgotten all about the hair appointment. Bugger him for not mentioning it until now.

“You ready?” he asks. I frown at him.
“What the hell. It’s just hair.”

And I get it cut. At first, I kind of like it, because it’s a flirty cut. The stylist does it nicely, without much in the way of ‘product’ which I hate. I feel good, like a new haircut will do. But its not long before I start to wish I’d stuck to my guns. I don’t feel quite like me when I look in the mirror.

“You should dye it black!”
It’s girls night in. We’ve got a plan. I’ve let them talk me into dying my hair. Even though Martin’s expressed dislike for the colour I decide to do it anyway, because it’s my hair. I didn’t really want to dye my hair. To tell the truth I actually like the colour of my hair. But I wanted to fix what had been done, besides, words like ‘dramatic’ and ‘snow white’ have been floating around for a while with the smell of popcorn. Anything was better than what I had going at the moment. But when it’s done I’m not sold on it.

“You just have to get used to it,” says Amber, who’s never dyed her hair as drastically as this.
“You do, you know,” says Naomi, who’s dyed her hair like a rainbow. I want to believe her, but that pale hollow-cheeked person in the mirror’s not me. To be honest, she hasn’t been me since the 10th grade when I had my heart broken for the first time, but this is too far. Where’s that lopsided grin and the sun-streaked hair, the skin that smells like salt and sun and fresh air? She’s not here, that’s for sure.

What I’m not prepared for is Martin’s reaction. He wouldn’t speak to me. Because I’d dyed my hair. When he leaves the apartment, I cry. There’s nothing for it. I can’t do anything else. Lord knows what Amber really thought at the time, but she was right when she said it was a dumb thing on his part. That he was a bastard. But somehow, somewhere along the line I’d got so turned around and twisted up that I didn’t know who was worse. Him for not speaking to me, or me, for doing something that he’d specifically asked me not to do. At that point I started to understand. As I let another hairdresser strip the colour from my hair and chop it all into a neat little boy-cut I started to realise that my hair was a symbol. It was my hair. By letting others change it, I was letting them change me.

A few weeks after this Martin bent the frame of his car running from the cops, ‘just because I wanted to see if I could’. I don’t know if I believe that at all, now. It was a few months after that that Martin ‘ruined everything’ to quote that phone call I got while at work. Shortly after this that I thought my world had fallen apart.

Martin had given me a promise ring. He kept calling it an engagement ring, so I think the whole thing was mixed up in his head. I was pretty certain that things were going to turn out peachy. Especially since he flattered me and planned our future: it all sounded so very wonderful. It was mere months after the ‘corrective’ dye job that he attempted to kidnap a little girl from our apartment building.

I was mixed up. Thoughts kept going through my head like:

Should I stick by this person because I love him? What is everyone going to think? They’ll penalize me because I am sticking with him. Where does that leave the heart? How do you, can you compromise?

I remember the case officer asking me if I was sure I could be the babysitter he’d need when he got out. I was so numb. I think I nodded. I think he also said that most spouses are unable to go through with it. How are you supposed to know when you’re still numb from shock? I spent the next several months divorced from reality.

My friends worried about me. Well they should, but I needed to work through it all in my head in my own time. Mom knew it. She knew also that I never read all her letters. She knew I just needed to know that she was there for me. Thinking about me. I had to go visit him in prison. I had to reconcile who it was I’d loved with the man who looked at me through that glass. I had to make the choice to cut myself off from that on my own terms. That’s why I cried at that ‘intervention’ that my friends staged. I don’t even remember who all was there, but I remember being surprised at some of the faces. I wanted nothing more than to hide under a rock until I figured it all out. I didn’t know I needed to know how much they all cared. I’m thankful they did. Do.

You’ll notice I’ve never dyed my hair again, nor cut it shorter than the tops of my shoulders.

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