Confidence comes with practice.
One thing leads to another, and I find myself sitting in a parlour.
I mean, as an undercover agent, no one should be able to recognise me for longer than three months. Some might say that’s just an excuse for a terrible new haircut.
But I kid you not, my latest disguise has me looking like an overgrown five day-old chick with a bedhead. What’s that? Of course I can’t tell you the purpose of my mission.
But the real test for an undercover agent is for hostile forced to never catch you. Unfortunately, I think some of them run our local parlour.
Somehow, they managed to convince my mother that I needed a face clean up.
Me on the brink of university, my mother readily agreed anyway. No prizes for that.
All of a sudden, I find myself taken into a small room and locked inside. A woman, part of the network no doubt, follows me in. She hands me a black cloth bag.
Off with your shirt, she says. Put on the bag. Then she leaves the room.
I’m trapped. Guess I have no choice. I obey.
She comes back in and I’ve worn the bag the wrong way.
Of course it’s my first time. Preferably my last. She laughs and tells me how to really wear it.
Turns out you don’t just drape it around your neck like a preschooler playing a brinjal in the vegetable dance for junior annual day. You take your arms out through the elastic of the bag, which I actually found pretty pointless. If you’ve got a problem with baring and stuff, with the amount of skin you’d be ‘covering up’ wearing a thin see-through black bag, I don’t really get your net gain.
But then of course, I was reminded that I’m an ace in a very allosexual world.
Anyway, I did what she told me to and the put me down on the only bed in the room. Relax, she said picking out her towels.
This reminds me of a suspect about to undergo a waterboarding interrogation.
I think my disguise may have been blown. My identity has been compromised. They’ve got me! And there’s nothing more I can think, so I close my eyes as she brings on a wave of creams and rubs them up my nose.
I’m learning to breathe in time with the few short breaks she gives me between blocking off my air passages.
The lines from the Dire Straits song are running through my head.
And I get trouble with my breathing
She says boys don’t know anything
But I know what I want
I want out.
She then brings a wide flow of steam and focusses the blast on my face.
I keep my eyes closed and steady my breathing. She’s rubbing something around my mouth. Then on my mouth. I am adamant. I keep my lips sealed tightly shut.
I won’t break down. I am better than that. She won’t get any information out of me. She won’t get me to confess. She won’t get a word out of me.
Then she’s pinching my nose, rubbing my eyes to the point where my focus is a bit messed up even now and the torture begins. She’s silent the whole while. I mirror her. I’m not coughing. I’m stronger than that.
She seems to realise that. We’re taking this a notch higher, it seems.
She dims the lights. The bright squares on the ceiling are gone. There’s now a blue light coming from somewhere on the floor. I try to lift my head to see where it’s coming from.
“What’s the matter?” she asks. Very courteous. Very polite. Almost like she wasn’t trying to force a confession out of me.
Two can play that game.
It’s almost a mockery of everything that’s happening around me, but I simply say, “Nothing,” and put my head back down.
She’s turned on cheesy music.
I’d once heard that the CIA had broken someone down by playing Red Hot Chili Peppers on loop. (Not that I would mind them,) It seems she has a similar plan.
But she complies with my request to turn it off as she brings another round of shady liquids.
I turn up YouTube. There’s something I’ve been wanting to listen to, and there’s no other time I can think of where I’d get 49 unbroken minutes to listen to it. (She’d told me it would take half an hour.)
(Since I’m on the phone, I can’t use YouTube and blog simultaneously.)
So I bring my set list into the square middle of an attempted interrogation.
I’m being layered with mysterious liquids with potential side effects, to Gustav Holst in the background.
I swear it feels like I’m in a movie.
I also know know exactly where the Star Wars theme’s inspiration lies.
She probably thought I was listening to Hans Zimmer or something.
We’re mentally jumping through hyperspace in the middle of an interrogation.
And finally, she’s rubbing my face in time to Gustav Holst. Oh my.
Then suddenly, with no warning, she flicks a switch. The lights come on again, harsh, bright, glaring in my eye.
This is going to get serious, isn’t it. She isn’t going to let me go so easily. Her colleague walks in.
“Your hair hasn’t been dried properly,” she smiles. Sinister.
I’m given my two minutes alone to put on my shirt.
To put on my shirt, they say. It’s really just to gather my wits, prolong the torture, give me two minutes alone with myself, to realise the futility of my resistance, the end in store for me, how my fate is sealed.
Two minutes alone to cry in silence, for the hopelessness to echo in the remotest recesses of my mind, for the breakdown to begin.
I sigh, put on my shirt and open the door.
I’m told to go to the room my mother’s in.
I pause by a mirror. The disguise is effective, because I need to double take. I don’t really know the person in the mirror.
Mum seems okay. I wonder if this is another part of the interrogation. Mum’s getting her waxing done. I wonder if they’re trying to scarr a confession out of me. Mum seems satisfied, she even suggests I get myself in the same position.
No freaking way.
I don’t know if she’s actually in cahoots with them. Or maybe they’ve brainwashed her into saying that.
But I’m a grizzly bear, and do plan to remain so in the near future.
The lady working on mum is encouraging too. She says, once you get it done, you’ll be back every month yourself!
God, they get payed to mess with your brains so bad. That doestdo sound good.
And then I have to go. They can’t see an unfinished product walking out into the free world. The transformation must be complete. The message must be strong and the damage… lasting.
And they do it, they do their job well. They pull on it and run their brushes and spray cans and heaters through them. Their relatively short length cannot save my hair from certain fate. It’s straight, flat and rounded down midlenght. God, they’re so professional at it, I don’t even know what to call what they’ve done. But this time, the execution is perfect. I got to sit through the entire process, eyes wide open, I get to watch every shred of my identity being torn away. Ironed out. Falling into line.
It’s done. We’re done. The transformation is complete.
My face looks dull, my eyes bleary and I look like a porcelain china doll.
They’ve got me. The System got me. I hate what I look like. But the job’s done well. My mission is incomplete, abandoned, and headquarters doesn’t recognize me anymore (and neither does my little sister).
And so, I’m going under again.