A Completely True Story
One day Edward lost his hair. It caught me off guard, though I suppose I knew it would happen one day, as his father is bald, his grandfather is bald, and if I am to be honest, I suspect his mother is going bald as well. I never talk to her about it, and I certainly don’t plan to. I did buy her a nice, thick, green knit hat for Christmas, but that seems like all one really can do. Still, I didn’t expect it of him. And certainly not all at once.
Edward came home from work with a newspaper over his head. When I saw it I thought, perhaps it is raining out, so I asked him, “Edward,” I asked, “did it start raining?” I had thought it was a nice day out, so nice in fact that I was planning to mow the lawn, but if it was raining I honestly wouldn’t bother.
“No,” he answered, brushing past me into the kitchen where he set his briefcase on the table and dropped into a chair. I didn’t believe him. I often don’t believe what he says, because I often don’t say things that are true, not like I’m telling a lie, but more that I just like other-than-true answers better than the actually—true ones sometimes. I looked out the window and saw with satisfaction that the sun was out and the grass was too long, and started to think happily about mowing again until I looked back at Edward and noticed his shoulders slumped down and his forehead stuck to the table. This is when I knew something was wrong.
“What’s wrong, Edward?” By now I had surmised that the newspaper had nothing to do with rain, and it was rather odd to have it stuck to his head. So I asked him, “Edward,” I asked, “why is there a newspaper on your head.”
He didn’t answer, per say, in that he didn’t use words, so to speak, but he let out a moan into the table. A long slow moan, and as he did so, I watched his breath cloud the surface and knew for certain now that something was wrong.
“I’ve lost my hair.” He muttered into the table after five minutes of his moaning and my staring had passed. I didn’t believe him, as I often don’t, and had to look for myself, as I often do. I lifted the newspaper from his scalp and saw that it was true; he had no hair left. I thought it was nice that the newspaper had left some smudged letters on his skin, so he wasn’t completely bare, but wasn’t sure what I thought about him not having any hair. Especially all at once. It would have been nice to get use to this sort of thing over time, maybe a few hairs here, a few hairs there. I might have liked helping him comb it over in the morning for a few years before we were both ready to admit that it would look better to just shave it off anyways, and why had we been bothering with the morning grooming that really didn’t fool anyone, but probably made the teenage girls down the street laugh when he walked past them to work. That would have been nice.
But I wasn’t ready for this.
“Well, the relationship is probably over then,” I said. I’ve said this to him before. It isn’t ever the actual truth, but it’s what I say when I don’t know what else to do. I suppose it’s not the nicest thing to say, but by the time I think of the nicest thing to say, like “I’ll never leave you,” it’s always too late and I’ve said this instead.
He shrugged his shoulders and continued to moan into the table.
I paced around the room and wrung my hands, because I couldn’t think of what else to do. I was a little worried that his head would get cold while I was thinking everything out and deciding whether or not I would stay with him as he got old, so I ran upstairs and got his mother’s Christmas present out from the box in the closet where I had been saving it and put it on his head. He warmed up a bit at that, and the moaning stopped. Which was nice, because one can only listen to moaning for so long.
I made him soup and we both decided to go to bed early. I slept far to the right on my side, and he slept far to the left on his side, as we usually do. I woke up once in the middle of the night, rolled over, and wondered if that man with no hair was really my husband, but then I thought about the water aerobics class in the morning and was comforted by that and fell back asleep.
At first he tried wearing baseball caps around, but his boss at work told him, “No hats is the dress code.” We went wig shopping for him one weekend, but we had trouble finding ones that didn’t make his scalp itch. And I understood his aversion. I wouldn’t stand an itchy scalp for the world.
It would have been nice if Edward’s hair loss had remained exclusively to his scalp, but over the next few weeks he slowly began to lose hair from the rest of his body. First his right eyebrow dropped off and then his left. A few days later he lost his mustache, which had always reminded me a bit of Burt Reynolds, and I thought without that mustache, it might really be the end of this relationship, but I decided to give it a few days to think about it. And a few weeks went by. And a few months after that.
And as the weeks went by and the months went by and the years went by, I noticed, that where Edward had begun to lose hair, I had begun to grow it. It was Edward who had pointed it out first, saying one morning that my hair looked like it had grown overnight. Which, honestly, is a strange thing to say because of course hair grows overnight, as I imagine it grows all the time, and I told him this, to which he responded, “look in the mirror, dear.” Which I did, and I was astounded to see that my hair, which had been a nice chin length bob the night before, now hung about my shoulders.
I was alarmed and pulled my sewing shears from the drawer and lopped off my hair at the ears. The next morning, when I woke, my hair was at my knees. Each day, I’d try to cut it, and each night it would grow back longer than before. Eventually I gave up and took to wrapping it around myself each day. At first it was difficult to get used to wrapping my hair around my body in a way that encouraged movement, but after weeks of perfecting the perfect body hair twist, I found it really was quite comfortable, and furthermore, with such nice long hair, clothes weren’t necessary at all.
Edward and I began to have fights about the temperature. He’d turn the thermostat up as he sat bundled up and hairless, wearing all his clothes shivering to stay warm. I’d turn it back down and peel the thick layers of my hair back from my skin, hoping for relief from the heat. Eventually my hair grew so thick around me that it was difficult to move. I stayed mostly in my chair by the window, a large hairball, so to speak, and Edward would bring me the paper and tell me stories from the society page.
I grew concerned about Edward too. He seemed too cold to sleep at night, even after putting on all his pairs of socks and rolling up into all three of our good comforters. One night I woke to find him crying gently into the blankets, his shoulders slumped and his forehead dropped to his chest. I knew that something was wrong, because Edward seldom cried, especially at night, so I asked him, “Edward,” I asked him, “what’s wrong?’
“I’m too cold to sleep,” he responded and moaned into his blankets.
I felt sorry for him, and lay there for a while, me on the far right side of the bed and him on the far left, as is our habit. I tried thinking about my old water aerobics class to distract myself, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Edward and how cold he must be. I lay there a little longer, listening to him breathe, and then I took my hand and began to make a pocket in my hair. I worked it bigger, until I was quite sure that it was large enough, and I burrowed an opening and stretched my hand out, “Come here Edward,” I said. He looked over at me and smiled a very nice smile, took my hand and crawled inside my hair where we both curled up and fell asleep.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
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