Since I was a kid, I always had a long healthy mane of hair. In fact my dad always tells people this story about how I came out of the womb with a full head of hair. I was in love with my hair, anytime someone asked me who my first love was or who my one true love was, I would say it was my hair and I would be only half kidding.
The one person who came close to how high up I placed my mane in my heart was my best friend Ufuoma. We grew up together, and were inseparable, we were both Urhobo so we would often tell people we were sisters and get away with the lie. The only one who probably loved my hair more than I did was Ufuoma and she’ll spend hours playing with it. She would tell me “Ak if I had this your hair ehn, my shakara wouldn’t end oh!”
After secondary school, we both went of to different Universities. I went abroad, while she remained in Edo state. We tried to remain as close as distance would permit us, but you know how the saying goes, “out of sight…”.
By my third year, we had grown very distant and barely ever spoke. By the time I was due to come back for the Summer break, I realized I hadn’t heard from her in months and I hadn’t even made the effort to reach out. Even after I came back, seeing her became just one more item on my to-do-list that I felt obligated to check before going back to school.
One day my mum, came home with the news that she had run into Ufuoma’s mum somewhere, and she had informed her that Ufuoma had cancer of some sorts when she asked why her daughter hadn’t come over to the house to see me yet. I broke down when I heard the news, I was completely torn apart and as hard as I tried not to make what I heard about myself, I could not get over the fact that I hadn’t bothered to reach out to her at a time she needed love the most.
I went to see her at the crack of dawn the next morning, and that was only because my mother had stopped me from dashing out the night before. She was out of the hospital, and at home with her family. Her cancer had gotten to a stage where she was literally just waiting for death. There was no strand of hair left, anywhere on her body, and she was so thin it seemed her skin was going to break over the points her bones jutted out, if she made any sudden movements. I tried not to cry in front of her at the request of her parents and so instead we spent time catching up on all the parts of each others lives we had missed.
Ufuoma died that summer, just a couple of weeks after I had found out. I had seen her everyday after the first time I saw her, but I was home when her sister called to break the news that she had passed away in her sleep. I spent hours curled up in a ball crying my heart out, at some point tears stopped rolling down my cheeks but I remained in that ball, rocking myself till I slept off.
They buried her almost immediately, I remember getting home from her funeral and sitting in a daze for the longest time. I’m not sure how much time had passed, when I got up abruptly and walked to the barber shop my brothers frequented I quietly asked them to cut of all my hair. The barber rudely grumbled “hope lice no dey your head” while eyeing my thick, long hair. I quietly said no as he began to cut shave it all off. I barely heard the buzz of his clippers and didn’t even realize when he was done.
You might call the act unnecessary or overly dramatic but for some reason it made me feel better about losing my friend. It’s been six years since I lost Ufuoma, and I still keep my head bald. I have no explanation for it, the same way I had no explanation to offer my parents when I went home from the barber’s hairless six years ago. It just feels right, for me it’s my way of paying a life long tribute to my best friend.