Been sniffing any yellow markers lately?

I couldn't believe I was hearing this voice. It had been, what? four years? But, yep, there she was. The girl from the campus bookstore, short brown hair and those sharp green eyes. Standing in line behind me in the Pizza joint on the edge of downtown. She was smiling, satisfied with herself for recognizing me before I saw her.

Whatcha doin' with yourself? I haven't seen you around for awhile?

She had this way of bobbing side to side as she talked- foot to foot-that reminded me of a metronome. She had gained maybe five pounds, but it favored her. I always thought she was too thin. The early fall sun had burned her cheeks and they were apple red. Fetching, as ever.

"Well, I left town for awhile, now I'm back on the other side of the lectern, I'm a grad assistant in English."

She raised a soft eyebrow and grinned, then looked down at her nails (unpainted and chipped). When she looked up again I could tell she was going to ask me something. "Go ahead and ask, you were never so shy before."

Before

She used to tease me about everything. My clothes (Wow, that is like the THIRD T shirt I have seen you in-very striking!). My hair (It's neat how its too long in the front and too short in the back at the same time, who does your hair anyway?) And the markers. I lost them on a weekly basis. She used to hint that maybe I was sniffing them. (Inhalant abuse is a nasty habit she would say-mock serious) So as I kept coming back to buy more I always found my way to her register. She had an Odie dog glued to the top of it and a Toad the Wet Sprocket sticker on the side. It was the 80s, what can I tell you. But we never moved past the verbal sparring. I was dating others on and off and I knew she was a good three, maybe four years younger. We left the tension as it was, in the store.

Now

Well, I'm not in English, but I'm still a student here-last semester in Music theory. Does that mean we can't...you know,,, do stuff?

She bit the corner of her mouth as she looked away again. The red neon sign blinked in the window over her shoulder as we both considered the question.

"No, it doesn't mean that. I think I would like you to come over and eat some take out some time, maybe, I don't know... sniff some yellow pens, does that sound OK? "

She grinned, surprised I think, at her own forwardness. OK, great...well, I gottago

She scribbled her number on the back of cardboard coaster and then scooted out the door-clunky heels scuffing the floor as she left. A thin black line in her wake. Something else to remember her by.

Stop.
Open this in a new tab. Hit play. Listen. Read along.


1. For a short time in my young life, my father was in charge of my morning routine. Wake up, kiddo, brush your teeth and then we’ll brush your hair. And every day he knew the challenge awaiting him: the miraculous rat’s nest my head had produced with only eight hours sleep.  My mother says it came as no surprise the day she came home to my bobbed off hair.  My father was never fond of untangling fishing line, and he looked at my hair no different. 

 

2. It took her seven years after she left to finally write me back. She said, I bought your shampoo for a year. I smelled you on strangers. I still do.  

 

3. Her fingers fit fantastically on my cranium.  Her palms were the perfect size to sit on my temples, her pinkies arching like the most wonderfully fitting glasses above my ears. The right amount of pressure. She would wrap her hands around my head and dance her fingers down the back. She would tap each set of fingers in a wave. Forefinger, middle, ring, pinky, repeat. She would whisper Ah-sip-it-all, ah-sip-it-all, ah-cip-it-all,oc-cip-it-al.

The year I almost died- she did this for me all winter. To keep me awake, to put me to sleep, to keep me from going under in a tub full of water.  I remember looking up at her, my eyes underwater, her body distorted. She was washing my hair; the soap stung. 

There were tears in her eyes.  Her hands found the position they were built for, scratching her nails into my head trying to clean the hospital stench off of me.

Ah, sip it all up, baby.

You can’t die on me now. That’s not how this works.

 

4. He told me, don’t laugh- but when your hair is this short it is so, so soft…like a bunny

He patted my head.

He ruffled my feathers.

 

5. Once, she cut my hair in the kitchen of her apartment on a Sunday afternoon. The sun shone in through the window above her sink.  The curtains couldn't contain the light. I sat in an orange vinyl chair salvaged from a college town thrift shop and watched a prism cast a dancing rainbow on her smoke-stained what-once-was-white walls. She did her best matador impression, fanning out the thin brown plastic cape and snapping it tightly against my neck.  

We were laughing, she couldn’t hold the scissors still. She leaned in close to my ear, her lips were so sure of themselves. Shhhh. Be careful, don’t move. She steadied her hand against my temple, I giggled and said, who cuts hair left handed. She said, be serious, hold still I closed my eyes and heard the snapping of the steel blades against each other next to my ear.  Perfectly sharpened scissors shearing off those shaggy locks that I had been growing for so long. A perfect cadence, snip snip,  snip snip.

I watched my thick hair pile on the floor at my feet.  She swept it up, every last bit, and distributed it amongst the plants on her windowsill.

You have no idea how much you will help them grow.
 

6. In the third grade, my grandma broke my heart by refusing to cut my hair in my requested style: a boy’s cut

Every month or two, I climb into my bathtub, naked and armed.  Closing my eyes as muscle memory controls my hands passing the guarded clippers over the occipital bone. Ah, sip it all up.  The old growth falling in small increments, like snow flakes, sticking to my shoulders, my chest. Running the clippers behind and over my ears, the buzzing clippers vibrating not just my ear drum but my entire head.  And then, requiring the most delicate touch, I clean the hairs from my neckline without the guard and without a mirror. 

I still hear my grandma’s voice in my head every time. People are going to think that you’re different.

Good.

Let ‘em.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.