At the primary school, we learnt to write the number 2 visualizing the shape of a swan. I do not know why. To make the tedious repetitive task more appealing? A row of swans in my lined notebook, each one slightly different from another. The year 2022 has three swans in it. Swans are both graceful and menacing creatures; you do not want to swim too close to them. Even our Brittany Spaniard Maggie dog knew that, and she was an excellent swimmer and a water bird hunter by genes and reputation.
For the very fresh start of 2022, I decide to have African braids done. This is why I am walking to the Matonge gallery on the first Saturday of the year. Chewing gums spat out during the previous year glued to pavement of Elsene neighbourhood are creating patterns. Close to the Matonge gallery and close to the ground, balls of curly hair are floating, cut off African heads in one of numerous hair parlours. Brussels has perhaps the most hair salons per capita and a square meter. Perhaps hair grows more abundantly on this town´s citizens heads. The nail salons are also sprouting, before, I barely noticed they existed. On the contrary, sun studios are disappearing.
In Matonge, Saturday is the hair day. Here, hair is just the basic material to create sculptures and artistic compositions adorning heads. Business and gossip talks run against the background of loud music. Full blast. I am following a fluffy bundle hopping gently in front of me since I have stepped into the gallery full of people and merchandise: flashy jewellery, scarfs and such. In a nail studio, a young Asian boy is working on the big toe of a woman. Her foot looks ghastly unreal propped against the chair under the table, visually disconnected from the rest of the leg. I rather look in the direction of the corner hair parlour where I have the appointment.
“Have you read your horoscope for this year?” I ask the hairdresser over the amplified rap when I am seated in a false leather chair. I somehow feel obliged to chat with hairdressers. She is a large black woman wearing an ultraviolet top. Her nipples are visible through the artificial fabric; she is wearing a black apron around her waist. I am waiting for her response while she is moving her fingers across my skull, which is becoming a square patterned territory prepared for an unknown game.
“No, horoscopes are bullshit. But I do know a few tarot readers that can provide insights for you, if you like.”
“Okay, maybe. Actually, I have my numerologist and a tarot reader. We have an online appointment later in the afternoon.”
“Good. Then come by to tell me what you have learnt.”
The hairdresser´s remark sounds more like pure politeness than a real interest. A few other customers have entered, and she has already started to chat with them. I keep quiet until the hairdo is done: tiny braids adorned with colourful threads and beads extend way under my shoulder blades. I pay, receives some more cool politeness and leave.
At 3 pm, I am sitting in front of computer waiting for Michele to ring. In a minute, we are together – image, voice and souls. Michele has her hair long hair hidden under a red cape of a gown that covers her body. Her face is shining through the screen stark naked against the red fabric. I have a tendency to tilt my braided head, perhaps due to the weight of beads and threads added to the mass of the hair. How long will I be able to carry this structure along? It would be silly to get rid of it immediately, as it cost quite a sum. Okay, it is not an issue of importance right now; I shake the thought off as if a swan would flap its wings to smooth its feathers.
6 is the card of Lovers in tarot. It is the card of love and choice, of beauty and harmony, too, of athe cceptance of opposites. Is it an accident that six and sex are so close in sound? 6 is the number of Venus. We find it doubled also in the calendar: 12 months (6 6), twice 12 hours of a day, 60 minutes, and 60 seconds. 1+2-3 is 6, as well as 1x2x3 is 6; that is why Pythagoras found 6 a perfect number. Vibration of the number 6 places attention into the heart; it includes the matters of marriage, family, children and parents, close friends, duties, home, healing, security, creativity. We need to learn how to differentiate love from control. Love cannot be bought, sold, manipulated, or controlled. When we do not integrate this, we suffer. We might need to express anger, guilt, and shame first, and through that access love, that is freedom.
Michele´s singing voice is vibrant, calm and assured. Something runs inside my chest, like a beam of energy searching for cracks to get through. Together with that, a wave of fear rises and attempts to keep the chest closed.
“Honey, do not worry,” Michele says. For the time being, just let it out all.”
Michele knows me well; we have been friends since high school; right now, she is living in Barcelona with her twin daughters. Her cape slips off and the long brown mane celebrates sudden freedom and spreads around her face, breasts, and arms.
“Your hair is so beautiful,” I say.
“Honey, your braids are glorious and original, and suit you, too.”
“Yeah, but you have no idea how heavy and eerie they feel.”
“Well, enjoy them for the moment, and then, when you get them loose, you will appreciate the lightness again.”
“Thank you, Michele. Come over to Brussels for a weekend. I will show you around the African neighbourhood.”
“Sounds great. I might get such a hip hairdo, too,” Michele´s laugh runs like a jolly water cascade.”
I take a long exhale. Indeed, I am free to choose. Free to be whom I want to be. A completely new sequence of sensations runs through my body, and even through the beads attached to my hair. A fresh new start.