Iâ€™m standing naked watching them throw my clothing into an incinerator. I feel horribly vulnerable, both physically and generally. My arms are wrapped around me, trying to cover what I can.
They took everything, not just my shirt and pants. Underwear, socks, shoes, everything. Even the simple stud earrings I had been wearing. Iâ€™m surprised they left me my hair elastic.
â€œSit down on the chair.â€ Jean, who seems to be in charge says, pointing at an old metal folding chair.
â€œThanks, but Iâ€™d rather just stand.â€ I say, dreading the idea of my bare skin against the cold beaten up metal.
â€œItâ€™s not a gesture for politeness,â€ she says as she comes towards me, â€œI need you to sit.â€
She reaches inside the duffle bag they brought and pulls out a big old pair of scissors. The really basic kind with orange handles that every house has in the junk drawer. I am completely terrified.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ I ask.
The other woman, Lorraine, pulls a sheet of newspaper from the bag and unfolds it. Placing it on the stained cement floor next to the chair.
â€œWe need to finish making sure you donâ€™t have any tracking devices on you.â€ Jean stands there calmly holding the scissors. â€œWe eliminated any that might have been in your clothes, now I need to be sure you donâ€™t have any hidden in your hair.â€
â€œWith scissors?â€ My voice breaks with panic. â€œI donâ€™t. There is nothing in my hair. You can check it, and comb through it.â€
â€œCome on, we donâ€™t have time for this, we need to be out of this location.â€ Jean sounds strangely both impatient and completely calm. â€œIf you want to leave with us, you need to sit down now. Otherwise weâ€™re leaving right now without you.â€
My head is spinning. Iâ€™m trying to come up with an out, but I have none. I either comply or get left standing here in some random basement naked. I have no idea where I am. I really do have to go with them, being lost and naked aside. Iâ€™m scared they might not even be ok with just leaving me here.
â€œYouâ€™re being completely paranoid.â€ My voice has become angry.
I sit down anyway. The chair is cold and uncomfortably scratchy. The thought of the dirt and rust so close to the most sensitive parts of my body is sickening. Iâ€™m perched as much on the edge as I can keeping contact with it minimal.
Jean wastes no time. She cuts the hair elastic and my long hair falls loose around me. Shiney smooth black hair reaches my elbows. She drops the elastic on to the middle of the newspaper.
Jean grabs a handful of hair in the front and places the blades of the scissors around it, right against my scalp. The scissors crunch as they close. The blades arenâ€™t very sharp; I can feel the hairs pull and the blades strain to sever it. Finally they close with a click of the plastic handles.
Jean drops the lock on to the newspaper. Itâ€™s about a foot and a half long.
A lump wells up in my throat, and my eyes begin to burn with the tears that are forming. I am heartbroken at the waste of it. I know there are no tracking devices in my hair, but how could I prove it? There was no reason to cut my hair, this is a completely pointless act of destruction. The warm tear runs down my cheek leaving a damp trail.
Jean picks up another lock. The scissors squeak as they open. The blades are against my scalp again. More crunching as the hair is again pulled. Then they click closed again.
I sob silently. Iâ€™m not trying to hide it, but Iâ€™m not looking for sympathy, so I stay silent as the tears make my face wet and I shake slightly.
Jean picks up and hacks through lock after lock. Sheâ€™s going as fast as possible. The main thing she seems to be being careful about is getting every single strand of hair on to the newspaper.
I feel the scissors behind my ear. The blades smooth and cold. Different from the metal of the chair in many ways, yet similar in some ways.
Jean grabs the thin wispy hair from my nape and pushes my head down before she cuts those against the skin.
â€œLean over the paper.â€ Jean orders me, pushing me to turn in the chair.
I bend over the paper. I am looking down at what must be all my hair in a tangled lump in the middle of the paper. The beauty it had on my head is gone. Tears drip off my nose into the pile of hair beneath me.
Jean places the open blades of the scissors against my scalp again and closes them. Short hairs rain down from my head, and she repeatedly opens and closes the blades. She is cutting everything off.
â€œLorraine, burn it. While I do a cavity search.â€ Jean orders then turns to me. â€œOpen your mouth.â€
As I endure the unpleasantness of being prodded, I watch Lorraine carefully folds up the newspaper so none of my hair can escape it and throws it into the same incinerator my clothing disappeared into just minutes earlier.
Finally, Jean hands me a t-shirt, sweatsuit, and a cheap pair of sneakers from the bag. As I put them on, I run my hand over my scalp, the hair is cropped completely unevenly. Itâ€™s stubble in some places, and maybe a quarter of an inch in others.
Two weeks later, the organization I work for has followed my every move, and theyâ€™ve caught up with us.
â€œKelly, what the hell happened to your hair.â€ Jake asks.
â€œWe knew they would suspect I might be a spy.â€ I explain with annoyance. â€œThey thought I might have a tracking device hidden in my hair. So, they cut it off and burned it.â€
â€œThey think we have devices small and fine enough to be undetectable in hair, but it didnâ€™t occur to them that we could inject one under the skin.â€
I just shrug, as I scratch slightly at the itchy spot Iâ€™ve had on my arm ever since it was injected three weeks ago.