With love, from Toothpick

A grownup is a child with layers on. – Woody Harrelson

Au pays des cheveux gris (17 July 2020)

The moment captured in Au pays des cheveux gris is peaceful and quiet and soft, like the dawn. The five figures waking to this dawn are both sagacious and childlike: on their heads are piles of gray hair; on their skinny, imperfectly shaped bodies, pure white onesies. They stand intimately near each other, in harmonious solidarity. Whatever the day has in store for them, they will face it together with a perfect balance of wisdom and innocent curiosity.

This concise little interpretation of Au pays des cheveux gris might be true and good, but it overlooks an important detail: two of the figures, the ones who have their backs to each other, aren’t touching. There is a break in the line-up; these people are not standing as one unified group, in fact, but two.

To truly understand what is happening in Au pays des cheveux gris, I will ask you to do two things. First, imagine that all the figures are the same person; imagine, in other words, that all of them are you. Second, imagine that you are a sentence, and that this sentence reads like in Arabic, from left to right. This sentence, you would agree, is comprised of two clauses.

The first clause of the sentence begins with you as the adult you have become. Your hand rests on a younger version of yourself: the inner child, Frankie. Frankie’s outdated hairdo is still yours, much like the wounds at the root of her pain and confusion and self-loathing are still yours. She stands between you and the other inner child, the pure and beautiful and lovable little Toothpick.

Frankie touches Toothpick on the chest, where her heart would be.

“You are me,” she says.

Toothpick touches Frankie back, on the stomach, the core of the body.

“And you are me,” says Toothpick.

Water stain for Au pays des cheveux gris

Frankie is prickly and a little savage, she tends to see things through a negative lens, and her anger and insensitivity bubbles always too closely at the surface. It is hard to love Frankie. But if at her core she is Toothpick, it stands to reason that she is indeed lovable.

This core might be difficult to see underneath all the layers of hurt she has nourished and allowed to harden around it all these years, but like the outdated hairdo, these layers are not intrinsic to her. Consequently, they are not intrinsic to you. You can chop off your hair; you can cut away the layers that imprison you. You can get to the second clause of the sentence as one new person with a magnificently new and modern hairdo. There, in the second clause, you will find Toothpick. She has grown, but she has not changed. She loves just as big; she forgives just as readily. That is her nature.

The sentence that is Au pays des cheveux gris does not end; there is no period after the duo of the second clause, only the possibility of new pages. If the ones that came before it were authored by Frankie whose wounds had been left to fester and poison the the narrative, the new ones will be signed With love, from Toothpick.

Oh baby, baby, yeah! Yeah baby, baby oh! (25 September 2020)
Waterstain for Oh baby, baby, yeah! Yeah baby, baby oh! (Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn)

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