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I am not a boy.

I have straight, dark hair.

I am four.  My best friend is beautiful. And I am not.

She makes me sit in a chair.
She pulls my hair and twists it around tiny plastic things.
I like to play with the little sheets of tissue paper.

Sit still, she says.
Here, you can hand these to me, one at a time.

I feel important.  I am helping her.

I don’t like the cold dripping down my neck.
I don’t like the smell.
It’s hard for me to breathe.

But she looks determined and certain.  This will make you beautiful, she says.

The plastic things are sticking into my head.
I want to scratch but she says no.
Just a little longer and you will be beautiful.

I want to be beautiful.  Then she will love me.

She pulls a chair to the sink and pushes my head under the faucet.
The water is warm and feels so good I want to stay there forever.

But I have to be neutralized first.

I am wet and cold and the skin of my head feels like a blister.
But she squirts the neutralizer onto my head.
We’re almost done, she says.

The sun is shining.  I can see the lawn through the glass door.
My friend comes to the door.  She is beautiful.

But I cannot go outside.

I am not beautiful yet.

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