I threaded a path down the ramp whose sign on the gantry called out the name of my new-found home, pausing in traffic at the end as we waited for a light. When green appeared, we started moving before the driver of the vehicle directly in front of me decided to attempt a right turn from the lane where we were otherwise waiting to head west. Upon passing them, I stopped again for some folks crossing the street. As I waited, there was a sudden jolt: I'd been hit, I realized. But there was something else that felt off, and it took me a moment longer to realize what it was.
I'd lost my hair.
There's nothing like that moment of panic when you realize you'll need to interact with someone in a situation that is likely stressful on its own without a very key part of yourself. My gender isn't an issue the vast majority of the time. Would it be here, especially if I lacked the contextual cue that helped compensate for the voice I so despised? I cringed, and groped behind me.
Fumbling to shevel my bangs, I collected my license and went out to exchange information. On this day, all would be okay. No one was injured, neither vehicle made unusable, and calm heads ruled. I bade my elder counterpart a pleasant and less eventful trip for his ride further across the city we shared, and headed off to attempt to extract my bike from its newfound tomb in the back of the vehicle for a late-afternoon ride along the river.