This week’s fiction piece comes to us from Keisha Cosand of Huntington Beach, California. The short story ‘Mal de Ojo’ depicts a complicated mother-daughter relationship, with a hearty dose of Mexican folk medicine thrown in.
Mal de Ojo
At the time, I had no hair. I was born with no hair, but that isn’t unusual. However, a four-year-old girl without hair is a community concern. As time went by, my mother, the family, and strangers in public began to worry. The nearly invisible peach fuzz never sprouted into anything more. My mother had been a Texan beauty queen who had made it to the state finals six years earlier, in 1969. Now, just twenty-four, married, with me, she considered a thing like a daughter with no hair a serious dilemma for the family. She began to panic, and growing my hair was her mission, her great cause. My great-grandmother told her to shave my head of what little semblance of hair I had—then thick curls would blossom from the hard ground of my skull. I saw my mom contemplating the razor in the bathroom one day, and I ran and hid in the hall closet. I was scared of the dark, but I closed my eyes tight, held my knees to my chest, and prayed to Jesus for hair.
Other matriarchs, well meaning of course, suggested things like spraying Pledge on my head every day for a month, poking it with a straight-pin to create small holes for the hair to grow, or, possibly even worse than the razor, a daily dose of milk of magnesia to loosen things up. After dinner one night, my mom insisted on trying it. I gagged at the smell and clenched my lips fiercely closed.
“Take it!” she said, and she stared long and hard into my face. I stared back with equal intensity. My heart began to beat faster because I had learned when to be terrified of my mother. This was one of those times, and I weighed the consequences in my brain.