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Dear Little Black Girl

Fatima Allen

Dear Little Black Girl,

Have you ever noticed the way their hair shines in the movies? The way gusts of wind brush through it ever so slightly. The way a man’s fingers flow through it, like wading your hand through warm water. Always in slow motion. Always just as they’re about to kiss, just on the cusp of falling ever so effortlessly in love. It is in that moment that I begin to wonder about my own hair. How it doesn’t flow in the air, or fall off my shoulders so generously. How the colour isn’t as light as raw honey––perhaps because I am not as sweet. I imagine a man’s fingers getting caught and tangled in between my tightly knitted curls. How we would fuss and fumble before ever meeting each other’s lips. How falling in love might not be so effortless for me at all. But then, how would I know? I’ve yet to see someone like me fall in love in the movies.

It’s such a strange thing, how much of our identity is wrapped up in our hair. It is as though, over the years, it has grown with me. Through the bad and the good. Through all the breathtaking firsts and the heartbreaking lasts. It has been cared for, kept and loved by my mother who rubbed us from head to toe with olive oil and bathed us in our innocence. I wonder then from where it is I learned to hate it so much? My hair. How it has been through hell and back—burned and broken, cut and parched— and still, it sits so lovingly, so forgiving, like a crown on my head. My hair. How it has been neglected by me because they don’t teach little black girls how to rub themselves from head to toe with coconut butter and bathe themselves with love.

Do you remember, how you wished you were like all the other little girls. Normal, like the ones in the movies, on television, in the magazines… But you were different and somehow ‘different’ became a synonym for abnormal and disorderly. Just a little black girl drifting in the wind. I am so sorry that you were not taught that black is a synonym for beauty. I am sorry that it has been our journey to go through life struggling until we have taught ourselves what should have already been known: that we are destined for greatness, that we are at the base of innovation and change, that we have the power to make people think. Do you remember how often your tears fell on nights where you couldn’t help but compare yourself with all the other faces and bodies? The ones that engraved themselves in your mind and float like constant reminders of what everyone else is—or should be— and what you are not. And well enough, that that was our journey because it just demands that I learn to love myself. It demands that I go looking for the truth about myself and that I rewrite the story for generations to come. I am grateful for my hair and my skin because struggle has brought me here. I have fought to love myself and because I have been forced to fight so heavily and so wholeheartedly I will be damned if I ever let anybody take that love away from me again.

* * *

His skin, as dark as night, glimmers under the touch of moonlight. My chest rises and falls while my eyes stay locked with his. I could get lost in his eyes. Deep and dark, like black holes, they consume me, overwhelm me and I am not sure how but I know that I cannot escape. It is fight or flight and I don’t know what to do. His smile is white, like bright stars, we are close enough that I can feel the warmth of his breath pass through his parted lips. It feels like years have gone by since we’ve been standing here, staring, unwavering. He breaks the silence with his body as he raises his hand. My chest rises and falls underneath his touch just as his fingertips graze my sternum. In one slow motion he pushes past my collarbone and reaches for my neck. He stops with his thumb pressed against one side and the rest of his fingers on the other. Cuffing my throat he squeezes with just enough power that I feel it tremble through

my entire body––I have never felt anything so real before that I am so afraid I might snap out of a dream at any moment. He lifts his hand again, this time until his fingers reach my lips. Shivering and terrified but trusting enough to finally close my eyes and press my face into the palm of his hand as if to say take me. He reads me like an old book, a favourite, with teared pages and tattered edges. A fragile thing, with words too big and sentences so arduous it cannot be read just once and understood fully. I barely notice his hand has parted from my face, but just before he leans in to meet my lips he pauses. With caution and ease, he brushes a chunk of tightly knitted curls up and away from my eyes. I find his gaze once more as

his index finger raises my chin so that my lips meet his. He kisses me ever so effortlessly, just like in the movies. Ever so sweetly, it reminds me of chocolate.