Pieces of Her
Her seaweed long hair, now freed of her body, stuck to the white subway-tiled wall of the shower in fine brown swirls and curlicues. In the center of the elaborate design, the hair looped to form double Ls. A tangle beneath the word, an underline. An emphasis. Pink mildew colored the grout in places and determined water droplets clung to the tiles as if for life, refusing to fall. There were other designs too – abstract flowers made of her pulled locks – maybe roses, maybe hydrangeas in their angry beautiful balls.
Hello, her hair read.
That’s what she wanted to tell me? Hello, I am here. I am still here. But you aren’t, I wanted to say. But I also didn’t want to lay blame.
Along the side of the tub were bottles of shampoos and potions, grapefruit and peppermints. A bar of soap with her fingerprints still pushed into the aloe and jojoba, imprinted whorls of her. Her razor, blade up.
It had only been a week. And this was the first time since she died that I dared to take a shower. I didn’t want to take away her words, but already the moisture was causing her hair to droop.
I pushed my fat finger against a swirl of it, pushing it upwards. Sticking it to the tiles. Stay.
I always found it rather gross to find mats of her hair, stringy dangly pieces, strands of dead skin cells covering the shower wall. I don’t want to clog up the drain, she’d say. I bought a hair trap, but that didn’t stop her.
Later, during treatments, I noticed that the fine bits of hair on the shower wall had become fuzzy spiders covering the wall – an infestation of her.
When the air in the bathroom cooled, and as soon as the water evaporated, her hair began to slip down the wall. The double Ls slithered downward. The O withered. Soon it would just be “he.”
I rummaged through a junk drawer, pushed aside paperclips and souvenir magnets of places we never got to visit. In the back of the drawer, I found a roll of clear packing tape. I cut the tape and laid it over her word. Smoothed it out so that there were no wrinkles or air bubbles.
After a week, moisture had gotten trapped under the tape. I could barely make out the hair anymore. Her hello was just some darkness slopped onto the white tile, a blemish. It was not the beautiful thing that my wife was. Is. Was.
I stopped showering, willing it to dry out. I wanted to feel her there in the shower with me, her violin backside, soaping herself and then me. I wanted to pull her into me and play her music.
But then a corner of the tape came loose, flapped in the breeze made by the uneven windowsill. Every other second it would crinkle. Slap the wall. Otherwise the house was quiet. I pushed it back down. Pressed another length of tape down. But the walls were too damp. The hair trapped creating its own ecosystem. It looked disgusting. I left it anyway.
A few days later the tape came loose again and when I saw it in the mirror, wilting plastic, scraps of hair stuck to it, trapped, I squeezed my fingers into my palm, leaving half-moons where the nails pushed in. I shoved the glass shower door aside, it rolled on its track and slammed into the wall.
Goddamn! I grabbed the flap, pulled at it. Fuck! Ripped another piece down. Why!? And another. The tape caught on my arm hair and I yanked it off. It smelled like rot and mildew and pineapples and I remembered when we went to Hawaii on our honeymoon and she ate pineapples until her lips puckered.
And then the whole mess came off the wall, tape and hair and damp. And I fell, the floor wet beneath me. I breathed. The persistent drip from the shower head. Drip. Drip. Drip. Down into the hollow gullet of the drain. I carefully pulled each strand from the tape. It no longer said Hello! Or even “he.” It was nothing, just a balled up dead fragment of her.
Some of the hair had broken when I pulled it from the tape. I held it in my hand, these – I counted them – thirteen – fragments of her. All together her hair had been auburn and thick. Brown indoors but once the sun hit her head, it shone like a polished piece of mahogany.
Thirteen flimsy pieces. That was it. I held the pieces of her in my hand. They were so fine. Delicate and easy to break. Nothing like her. I clenched my fist. Held her tight. Clutched her last remaining fibers. All of her would never really fit in the palm of my hand, I knew that. Our life, our marriage, our love, our sex, our laughter, our pain.
I moved aside the hair trap, fed each piece of hair down the drain, one by one. Until the only thing left I had of her was everything else.