Heaven, if it exists, begins with someone washing your hair, and a deep scalp massage. I don’t know what happens after that, but at least you are clean and presentable for the afterlife. 

When I was little, I was convinced the stars were angels, and that this was why, “I wish I may, I wish I might,” worked any at all. It wasn’t wishing so much; it was praying. Then I saw It’s a Wonderful Life, and loudly proclaimed that they stole my idea, which everyone laughed at since the movie premiered in 1946. 

The first time I went as blonde as I am now was by accident. They sat me in the dryer with foils all over my head, as I’d been doing for a year with soft highlights, and then forgot about me. I read a whole, outdated magazine with a bunch of stories I already knew, and I wondered at the construct of time and how anyone functioned without checking an iPhone display with every fidget. 

My hair turned out to be exactly what I never thought I wanted, but loved. When I asked for the same thing next time, they didn’t believe the color I was suggesting.

“No, we never go that light for you.”

“That’s what it was last time - I have a photo.”

“No. I always write the color down, see, yours is not that blonde.” This, in fact, proved nothing to me as it was just a string of numbers. I felt strongly that the photo was a better argument, but I acquiesced to some kind of compromise which was, at its core, not bad and not not bad either. 

It’s difficult to make yourself heard when you aren’t the one holding the bleach. 

“Are you allergic to anything?” I was filling out paperwork, and we were at the medical history section. 

“Bees,” I said. 

“Um, how about medicines? Penicillin, or…” 

“Oh. Morphine.”

“Morphine? That’s it?”

“I mean, I think? I had it in the hospital once and I got very hot and my throat started squeezing.”

This to me seems like a poor reaction to something designed to give you ease, but it never fails to garner a raised eyebrow, like maybe a rapidly closing airway isn’t the worst that can happen. 

The ghost I had in my Wrigleyville apartment tried to choke me once. I woke up gasping and swatting the air. He was a trickster, not a pervert. I think he was ten or twelve. Once I saw him bouncing a basketball into the street. 

He snuck all around the building, and wasn’t always in my place, but when he was, he’d slam the doors, make like a breeze with all the windows closed, and constantly turn off the heat. Occasionally, and only for company, he would turn the shower off mid-rinse. One time he knocked the bedroom doorknob out in the middle of the night, you know, just for funsies. 

I wasn’t bothered by him until the choking, which I’m pretty sure my then-boyfriend did not believe. 

“You do have terrible dreams,” he said. 

“But I don’t wake up like that. It was like when the ghost at home used to sit on my bed,” I said, derailing all of my credibility. 

I moved shortly after that, but my next place had mice and I kind of missed the pre-teen angst. I hope he found some solace, and moved up to that head massage we all long for.  

In the weeks before I moved to California, as more and more people found out, I got a flurry of unsolicited advice. 

“Good luck out there with all the other yoga babes.”

“I couldn’t live out there because I’m too career-driven, but maybe you won’t care as much.”

“You kind of look like everyone else, but I hope it makes you happy.”

All real things that real people said because people are not self-aware nor very helpful. And I am glad that I didn’t listen to any of them beyond writing them down so I could do exactly what I’m doing now, which is list them as evidence of wrongness. 

That line between knowing when to fight for what is true and when to let things be false is a dotted one I think. Porous. You are able to float between sides like a ghost. 

I always wish the same thing on stars. I won’t tell you what it is, but you can know it’s never changed. Sometimes I pick a star and realize it’s a plane and I get sad that I wasted sacred breath on something less than an angel. 

We all have a story and we want it to be right. For life to have meaning and for hurts not to be in vain, and to be special and different and true. 

When my dad was little he never understood the big reveal in The Wizard of Oz. They didn’t have a color TV, so when Dorothy landed in her magical new world, it looked to my dad as pretty much the same. It wasn’t until he was an adult that he saw it in color. 

“Did you know it was supposed to be in color?” I asked. The Wizard of Oz was my favorite movie as a kid, and I couldn’t imagine unknowing the yellow bricks into grey bricks. 

“I mean, I guess I had heard that. I don’t know, it was still cool. It was still a different world with talking scarecrows and singing. But it was wild to see it in color!” 

I have a hard time letting things be false, but sometimes there is more magic in that state. When a plane is the brightest star you’ve ever seen, coming straight for you, at least for a moment.