I Wait In Line To Thread My Eyebrows On Liberty Avenue


“They liked the service, but found the setting too foreign, she said. [...] So, following an entrepreneurial instinct, she decided to introduce threading to a familiar environment for non-Asian clients. Last March she opened her SoHo salon, Shobha Threading, where three threaders greet customers in a cozy space with orange walls and wood floors, next to neighbors like Armani Exchange and Dean & DeLuca.” – New York Times, 2002

 

  1. Kaya Beauty Salon sits on Liberty Avenue. It is not wedged between Armani Exchange or Dean & DeLuca.
  2. There is no Armani Exchange or Dean & DeLuca on Liberty Avenue.
  3. I pray to the god of all zoning laws to keep it that way.
  4. On this block: a bodega, a West Indian bakery that also prepares halal Guyanese-Chinese dishes, a hookah lounge that is 18+ to smoke, 21 and over to drink, and a puja supply store with $200 saris hanging like overripe fruit from the storefront.
  5. Incense burns on a nearby table. I stuff the tendrils of smokeinto my pocket for warmth.
  6. Because the AC is always on blast at Kaya’s.
  7. I am reminded of all the ways my heritage slips through my hands as I wait in line.
  8. Because I am suspicious of that word. Heritage. And the way it drains my hands of its blood.
  9. Liberty Avenue is dotted with eyebrow threading salons. White women sporting hairspray hairstyles from the 80s watch quietly from the walls. The summer heat curls each poster at its corners.
  10. I know it is summer on Di Avenue because “Tempted to Touch” blasts from every other Honda Civic running red lights outside.
  11. Drop the Liberty. Call it Di Avenue. Let your grandmother sit on your tongue: ah goin fuh a walk pon Di Avenue.
  12. Guyanese-Creole English has no home in Kaya’s unless you wish to be exposed as Indian, but not Indian enough.
  13. Avenues are borders. We continue to migrate along lines. Liberty Avenue is the carotid artery of Little Guyana. 101st Avenue is Little Punjab and gurdwaras with hot cups of cha.
  14. Indian in looks, but not Indian enough, a Punjabi woman throws at me before shredding my eyebrows into shape.
  15. Languages are borders.
  16. For every anti-black comment an aunty makes about Serena Williams or my curly hair I curse the sugar trade, the British, boats, maps and Sir Walter Raleigh.
  17. We are descended from enslaved Africans and indentured Indians yet we settled in two different boroughs along the border of race.
  18. A man barges through the doors, yells at his wife that he’s been double parked for ten minutes outside.
  19. I tell my friend on Instagram we need to thread toxic masculinity out of the world. He says this is too poetic to be a DM.
  20. Chutney music marks its arrival in the five feet of space a Trinidadian barber rents to cut hair. They are all long blue locks and glittery nails with a deep baritone voice that reminds me of mangroves. Yuh can dance up. Whine an guh dung low.
  21. When it is my turn I lower my head on to the reclined seat, baptize my mind in the rhythm of a song that christens every backyard wedding’s dance floor in my neighborhood.
  22. Diaspora haunts me in the most unexpected places.
  23. I remember I am Guyanese when my eyes stick to the English subtitles floating at the bottom of the Bollywood movie in the background. I measure the impact of colonialism by all the languages I do not know.
  24. The nail technician is from the same part of Georgetown my mother is from. If I feel the weight of the language barrier between me and a room full of women who look like me, what must she feel?
  25. Language displaces.
  26. I learn the meaning of the word diaspora in these “too foreign settings.”
  27. Tell me. What is a “familiar environment” for a twice displaced client like me?
  28. A listicle on Marie Claire’s website lays out a timeline of eyebrow threading. There are no black or brown bodies. Only Elizabeth Taylor.
  29. Colonialism uprooted a timeline of my ancestry. I cannot locate the village my ancestors migrated from in South Asia, or the port of the boat that ferried them across the Atlantic to British Guiana’s plantations. Still they ask me where are you from? before cutting the skin near my temples.
  30. There are no black or brown bodies on this listicle. I refresh the page again.
  31. Diaspora haunts me where white thread meets flesh.
  32. Haunting sounds like hunting.
  33. Heaps of white thread spiral like parachutes on to the floor. Each eyebrow hair is cornered and yanked out like a misplaced word in a manuscript. Delete. Feels like diaspora.
  34. Hold it, she says.
  35. Right hand on the skin above my eyebrow, left hand on the skin below.
  36. Pull until tight.
  37. Do not flinch.
  38. A taut piece of thread is sharper than a cutlass used to cut cane.
  39. Why yuh wan tread yuh eyebrow so young? In Guyana I din know wan ting about eyebrow.
  40. My mother likes unibrows. My luck lives between my eyebrows. Why thread it off my face? My hair is my strength: the hair on my arms and upper lip. She dots a tikka with a black eyeliner pencil where my luck used to live. To ward off badeye—the negative intentions enemies cast at us like a fishing line.
  41. When I am fourteen, my mother hovers over me as Jasbir winds a piece of thread between her teeth and hands. Don’t take too much off. No arch. Just clean it. Keep it thick.
  42. Only Rihanna can pull off pencil thin brows in 2018.
  43. Jasbir does not realize that after a lifetime of watching Bollywood movies and haggling for gold jewelry in Jackson Heights, my mom can understand what she says to her coworkers.
  44. How do you say oddity in your language?
  45. How do you say diaspora in your language?
  46. When thread meets skin, I stop thinking. The hurt stings my eyes shut. Before I can take a breath, my cheekbones are moist with tears that taste like the Atlantic.

A puja shop on Liberty Avenue.

Posters on the wall of a Liberty Avenue salon in Little Guyana.

Community members gather at a gurdwara in Richmond Hill.

Underneath the tracks of the A train, Liberty Avenue.

A Bollywood movie rental shop on Lefferts Boulevard and Liberty Avenue.

Reflection of the A train.

All photos: Nadia Misir.

2 thoughts on “I Wait In Line To Thread My Eyebrows On Liberty Avenue

  1. I love this, Nadia! This is a beautiful piece of creativity that captures so much about Guyanese culture in the diaspora. A perfect blend of history, language and contemporary practices that highlights the harmony and dissonance that often exist among interacting cultures. Excellent!

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