“You know I’m from Iran,” the woman stated in Italian as she stood a few inches from my face. I sat on the stool by the door of the little shop. Next, to me, her front desk was littered with papers and appointment books, a few black and white photos were tacked up on the wall. A Quaran sat on top of a bag of nail polish.
“Yes.” I replied. Unable to make eye contact if I tried because of her proximity, almost pushing me against the wall, focusing on the individual hairs that make up my eyebrows. She held a string between her teeth, tied it in knots, and somehow magically cats-cradled it into a hair removal device. “Threading” they call it. You’ve seen it more recently in the past years in the US. In the Middle East, it’s one of the more popular ways of hair removal – men even going to get those perfect lines for their beards. With eyebrows, it’s less stress on the skin when compared to wax, and quicker than tweezing. I had found Mariam online after another eyebrow tech had disappeared after I had gone to her a few times.
I usually hate the process, the small talk in Italian, and I avoid it. But this conversation wasn’t the normal “where are you from.” She knew I was American, and suddenly we were talking something so much bigger than us.
“What do you want with Iran?” she asked as she plucked another rouge hair out of my face with her tweezers. “Why cause so many problems?’ She asked with honesty, asked with pain in her voice, frustration.
“I wish I knew,” I told her. I have been watching the news at home. I’ve seen the controversies and the world arguing about life, when it’s created, who has the right to manipulate it, who has a say. In the background of this easy-but-difficult debate, the US has been evacuating oil sites and embassies, seemingly prepping for something far away, that won’t affect the Americans that are worrying about having or not having babies, but will affect other babies, already born. But they won’t matter, because they aren’t American babies.
I told her what I knew. I told her why I wasn’t in the country. Why I didn’t have the answers. I told her my husband was Syrian, that I’ve read the Quran. We talked about the lies. We talked about the truth. She urged me to fight it, as she wedged herself closer to me, her deep brown eyes focused on her work, while her heart poured open to the foreigner in her chair with the messy eyebrows.
I told her I wanted to write a book, to share my story. Then she told me hers. Marriage, children, divorce, travel. Two convoluted stories that brought us to a little shop outside of the walls of Florence. Two “stranieri” speaking in another tongue, two women wondering what will happen to their homes, and if we wrote down our stories if anyone would listen to the lessons we’ve learned along the way.
“I don’t have time to write,” she said as she stepped back and grabbed my face in her hands, slightly twisting and turning me to make sure she was satisfied. “I meditate in the mornings, and in the evenings.”
I told her if I ever write mine, then I’ll help her with hers. She thanked me, told me not to dare touch my eyebrows until I visit her again in a few weeks, and I walked out into the sun, wondering what this world would become if we only talked to each other a bit more.