To Rocío, I really hope that's how you write your name,
How's the salon holding up? Well, I say salon and mean the little room at the side of your parent's house. I ask how's it holding up and mean that I pray every night you're not one of the small names who will be erased after all of this is over. And I write you this letter and I mean thank you. But you already know that.
You already know that because you already know my mother. Sometimes I wonder if you know her better than I do, but I quickly convince myself that we're all just trying to unravel a different face of hers. She remains elusive, despite being seen. She stays hidden because she is found. She knows her own details so well, she forgets to look at the bigger picture sometimes. What do you see in her, through the heat of a curling iron? When crafting intricate masks for her to wear? I think I caught a glimpse of it the other day.
The loneliness and quiet of a world inside four walls have made us find each other inside the corners. It is sometimes jarring, I'll admit, but we've found a way to dance around one another. So as a sign of truce, mom asked me to dye her hair. It was a deep plum color. We didn't have the right tools or the right hands, but she was patient. I parted the hair into four sections. She asked me to make sure her grey hairs didn't show. I told her she was beautiful, and she made a face at me through the mirror. I laughed teetering at the border of tears.
I know my words fell on deaf ears, that she was made to believe at a much younger age that she had to choose between being strong or beautiful. That she was made to believe she could only be beautiful at a much younger age. That her beauty was made to please, to wear as a mask. Traded, shown, performed, never owned. And despite this, her smile was wide with truth when I was finished. It was the same smile she wears every time she comes back with glitter on her nails or golden on her eyelids. A smile that lets you know that deep down she doesn't only believe it but knows she's beautiful, even though she'll never dare to say it out loud.
A smile that pulls heaven down to grace our foreheads, archangels never looking smaller. It takes patience to recognize it and even more love to walk women like my mother down the long path that it takes to reach their long-robbed bodies. This transmutation, this claim of justice, this home-coming. I see it when my friends get suits tailored for them, measuring tape curling around them as a sign that everything's in place. I see it when adorning my sisters born in different bodies, the pearls in their eyes bringing them one step closer to euphoria. I even see it in you, Rocío, when you tell me about the hairstyles you wish you were brave enough to pull off, the dim salon lights wash you in the hallowed reality that you have a choice.
So I thank you, for painting her nails a different color every time. She'll spend the whole month stealing glimpses at her calloused, rough, painfully wonderful hands. I thank you for never trying to cover her up, for making sure to picture her in outlandish jewel tones, in orchid and teal. She'll complain about the fake eyelashes but dance the whole night. I thank you for knowing that you can't convince her with words, that she will only listen to the silence after you sculpt her before a mirror. That her beauty is malleable, elusive, delicate, and free.
I thank you, spinner, who pulls the silk of women's power out of their pain. I thank you, confessional, that swallows their muffled screams, their whispered secrets. I thank you, hairdresser Rocío, that makes my mother see herself as beautiful, even when she's not allowed to.
Yours never and forever,
someone whose name you're not sure how to spell.