“Are you married Brit?”
She shrugged, “No ma’am, I’m not”.
I looked at her again; dark glowing skin, irresistible brown eyes, heavy eyelashes and thick long hair. A young, Indian pretty woman. She was distant at first, ready to do what she was told without a word. I could tell that she was Indian but I asked anyway; I had to start a conversation somehow. I said “I like your hair” and she smiled, she said “No I like yours” and then I looked in the mirror and studied our reflection; we shared the same hair colour but mine was sleek and smooth and hers , wavy and uncontrollable was held in a tight braid. I observed her features discreetly, we look alike I thought.
She preoccupied herself with preparing the cream while I casually undressed myself. With soft long movements she evenly applied the mixture on my body and I waited for the burning sensation to kick off. “Have you ever tried bleaching before Brit?” “Yes yes, it’s very..” she couldn’t find the words so she grimaced instead and I knew she had indeed tried bleaching before. I wondered if she had tried it back at home or if it was a newly-acquired habit she had picked up when she started working at this beauty saloon, so many miles away from home. I trailed off while Brit was silently reapplying more cream, brushing at the same time the one I already had on me. I thought of my Arabian friends who were the only ones who understood my mission to find a good beautician when I was studying abroad and they used to giggle saying “English girls don’t even bother to wax, they don’t even care if they have dark hair on their arms!” Brit and I kept for ourselves for a couple more minutes when I broke the silence; “Are you married Brit?” “No ma’am, I’m not”.
“No ma’am, I’m not”
At that word I shut my mouth embarrassed by the ease she had called me that. She didn’t seem to notice. Without her realizing, she had put up a fence, one that I didn’t know how to cross.
“I like your colour Brit”
“What?” she asked puzzled. Her sparse knowledge of the language restrained her from asking more. I wondered if it was the unknown words that puzzled her or my statement.
“It’s dark Brit, you’re lucky” I said. I touched her arm, caressed a spot for just over a fraction of a second and I felt it soft under my fingertips. “Your skin, the colour, it’s dark. I like it!” I tried to explain. She briefly looked at my exposed body noticing my bathing suit marks and my tanned colour.
“No, dark not good. Yours good. White better.”
I didn’t reply. I remembered I read somewhere about bleaching beauty creams that take your colour off, as if someone’s skin’s colour could ever be as ugly as body hair, skin whitening creams. I smiled bitterly at the thought of the sun lotion in my bathroom that assured “deep tanning in just a few hours” but provided no protection from the Mediterranean sun’s rays.
Would you still call me “ma’am” Brit if you knew I’d love to have your skin’s colour? That I sunbathe for hours and hours on end and I never find myself tanned enough? I’m risking my health just to have your colour Brit. If you want to have my colour and I yours then surely you know that I’m no better Brit. I’m just a couple years older Brit. And I’m a young woman too Brit. My country was under British colonial rule too Brit.
We were alone in the beauty centre’s dimly lit bathroom, I was naked and she was clothed and as she kept applying the cream on my naked body I thought of us exchanging skins. I would get some of her colour and she some of mine and then we would mix them up and we would both end up with the colour of our chosing. We would then apply it on each other’s naked bodies, just as you did with the bleach Brit.
I looked at her again.
Why did you call me “ma’am” Brit? My name’s Valentini.