Melissa Ostrom



I miss it, you say, your hands taking hold of what’s left.

I pull back. You can’t miss it. You never knew the full of it.

What it was.

Six years of silver. Visible in the dark. A small celestial body, I was my own nightlight.

Snarled at the nape, snare for wind, knot of sweat. Where bindweed chokes Mother’s herb bed, in that mesh of weaving vines: my head, the white trumpet.

Cropped, thick, at last tangle-free, then abruptly, smoothly brown. Three years to be taken for a boy.

Longer, middle-parted, feathered. With my big glasses, I was an insect; my bangs, the wings. Shy, aimless, alighting in books.

Even longer. Suddenly, inexplicably, all curls. A stranger on the subway tested a ringlet before he left. It springs, he said, like an actual spring. I didn’t deny it. I had sprung.

Long, thick, dark, responsive to tempers and weather, so alive with developments, it was its own twisted story. I braided it in the morning and never bothered with a tie. The curls clasped each other at the end, self-contained, contented, like nun’s hands linked in the sleeves of her habit.

A thing for a man to touch. To feel on his stomach. To graze a thigh.

Wet, it made the naked me almost decent, sleekly covered from head to ass.

I wore it half-up on my wedding day, felt it thicken with pregnancies then, after both, saw it thin and straighten too.

How straightened children make us.

And now, there is less. No thick forest of tendrils and twirls. My hair matches my daughter’s in fineness, my son’s in plain brown. A torn veil, a flag at half-mast on a windless day. Too light to wear so long.

So long: to length, to curls, to thickness. (Will you permit me this goodbye? Forgive me the vanity?) My hair was the instrument by which I measured. It was an instrument of pleasure.

Eventually, it will whiten.

Today, it is nape-short. It does not curl. It waves.



Melissa Ostrom lives in rural western New York, where she serves as a public school curriculum consultant and teaches English at Genesee Community College. Her fiction has appeared in Juked, Corium, Monkeybicycle, decomP, Lunch Ticket, and elsewhere.