Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sunday Scribbling: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow (a short fiction)

Medusa by Carvaggio

Ed note: Yes, that is an unforgivable pun in the title...but what can I say? It fits my story. :)

It wasn't once upon just any old time. No, it was May 24, 1980—the day my sister and I were born.

“Gemini twins!” shrieked my Tia, happy to flash her astrological know how. “And they're right on the cusp.” The cusp of what, she refused to say.

We were not identical twins. Marta, my sister, was a whole pound heavier than I was. I know they say you can't remember your time in the womb, but I can imagine it—her using those fetus fins to sweep in more and more foody goodness, which I spun around in confused somersaults of starvation.

But that wasn't even the main difference. No, my sister was blessed with something else. The most beautiful, wavy, fairy tale hair you ever saw. Never frizzy, never flat. The kind of hair described as “raven tresses cascading like a waterfall” down some heroine's back.

And the rest of her lived up to the promise of her hair.

As for me? My hair also reminded people of a story—the story of Medusa. Kinky, curly wild hair that stood up and snarled at you. It would bite if you got too close.

I'd like to think the rest of me was an improvement over the tale my hair was telling people.

Things went along, we all grew older, and then one day, just before I turned eighteen, I woke up and saw that my hair was about six inches shorter. I thought it was a joke.

“Marta...did you cut my hair while I was sleeping?” It's kind of an odd question, but if you knew us, you would understand why I had to ask.

She sniffed, “Me? I don't go near that stuff without a rosary and a bottle of holy water!”

So it wasn't her. And if it wasn't her, then it wasn't anybody.

The next day, and the day after that, more inches. My hair seemed to be getting sucked back into my head.

I can't say it was any great loss.

On our eighteenth birthday, we had a huge party. Sometime after the cake was cut, I heard it.


My scalp had finished drinking in the last of my hair. I was now completely bald.

“Ay, Dios mio!” My mother said. “It wasn't very good hair, but bald! Hair is the crowning glory of a woman!”

“Not Jiselle's hair.” said Marta, trying to be soothing.

“And her with those freaky eyes, too” said my Papi. “Ojos que tragan.” Swallowing eyes.

Well, it would have been enough to depress almost anyone. But truth be told, I was happy to be rid of that hair. It never really felt like me.

Not that I didn't try to grow it back, or grow something back. I used special shampoos and conditioners and creams that made me feel like the first human Chia Pet. But at stubbornly wild as it had once been, it stayed just as stubbornly gone.

Nothing to be done. So Marta and I go off to college—different ones, thank goodness. And I played with wigs and hair color—pink for the punks, blonde for the party people, brown for the studious intellectual types.

It was with that latter group that I met Victor Rana. “Like the frog,” He said cheerfully, holding out his hand. “Ha,” I said, weakly. “You know your Spanish.” But Victor Rana did not look like anything at all like a frog. Quite the opposite—straight black hair that fell over his green eyes (I always look at the hair first, of course), tall, handsome. It didn't matter if his nose was a little bulbous, or if his lips a little too frankly full and feminine. He was my ideal man, my Prince Charming.

Which, of course, meant that he didn't think of me as anything but a good buddy, someone who always took perfect notes in class and was willing to share.

“What can I say? Those eyes, those eyes of yours see everything, know everything. They can see what the professor is going to write before he does it." Then his voice would drop and get all serious. "What else do they see, Jiselle?” I would never know what to say to that. Hope had never worked out for me before. So I would say something smart-ass and after a weird moment, he'd always just shrug and laugh.

Right before Halloween, Marta calls me and says she wants to come to campus. “I heard you all have an awesome party every year!” Typical. I was going to that school and I had never heard that.

She shows up a few days later, and we spend the whole day before the party getting ready. She's going as Rapunzel, of course. She's even prettier than I remember.

I fuss and search all of my wigs, looking for inspiration. But I can't think of anything to wear. Finally, I tell Marta, “You go on ahead. Just let me finish getting dressed.” Of course, I had no intention of showing up. Why should I? I could see where this was going to end up—Rapunzel and my Prince Charming would meet, fall madly in love. It had happened before, you see.

At around 11pm, there is a knock on the door. Marta must have forgotten something.

“Forget to let down your hair?”

It was Victor, looking adorable and confused. “What?”

Now I'm the one who looked confused, and not even close to adorable. Plus, I hadn't even put on a wig. So I was standing there, in front of Victor, totally bald.

“What...what are you doing here?” It occurred to me that he was looking for Marta. “She's at the dance,” I said, trying to pre-empt his question, act like I was all cool with the fact that he was infatuated with my sister.

He stopped at that, took a deep breath. Like he needed to prepare for whatever he was going to say next. Finally, he said “No,” and took my hand. “She's not.”

Turns out he hadn't just liked me for my note taking ability. And the bald thing didn't phase him at all, once he confirmed that it wasn't because I was ill. “It's kind of sexy.” He said. “Brings out those amazing eyes.”

Marta came back to the room after the party, and found us there, talking furiously, holding hands. She was thrilled for me, and so was the guy dressed like Prince Charming that she brought back from the dance.

And happily ever after? There's no after yet—just a beautiful now.

But the day after Victor and I started going out, I looked in the mirror and saw a slight peach fuzz growing on my scalp. And I smiled.

“Welcome back.”
For more curly tales, go here.

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Blogger Rob Kistner said...

Fascinating story!

1:32 AM, July 15, 2007  
Anonymous leah said...

i totally loved this! great story!

3:22 AM, July 15, 2007  
Blogger Tammy said...

Wonderful story teller!

9:42 AM, July 15, 2007  
Blogger Herb Urban said...

What a great story! You are a terrific story teller. I nearly spit out my coffee at the first human chia pet line. Great story!

10:15 AM, July 15, 2007  
Blogger paris parfait said...

I love love love your stories! Such imagination you have and so skillfully do you spin a tale. (And the Chia pet line was hilarious). xo

3:28 PM, July 15, 2007  
Blogger DJPare said...

As always, you spin another fun yarn!

9:24 PM, July 15, 2007  
Blogger Patois said...

Very funny, wonderfully told. Chi-chi-chi-chia pet.

9:45 PM, July 15, 2007  
Anonymous gautami tripathy said...

Very enjoyable story...keep it up!

10:14 PM, July 15, 2007  
Blogger Earnest and Game: Heather said...

It's kind of fabulous to play with the parent stuff in fiction, n'est ce pas? This made me think of when I was editor (of the reissue) of Riquette Hofstein's "Grow Hair in 12 Weeks" remedies included rub an infusion of vodka and red pepper on your scalp....etc. Yes it was a best seller. And this also made me think of Regina Spektor's "Samson" - you can check it out on itunes. Thanks for sharing! Xooxoxox, Heather

6:46 PM, July 16, 2007  
Blogger Amber said...

Your stories are always good! I like the idea of this. A woman's hair is such a...thing! Great idea for a character.


8:30 PM, July 16, 2007  
Blogger deirdre said...

Not only a good story, but totally believable. Loved it.

1:02 AM, July 17, 2007  
Blogger bubandpie said...

At first I assumed this was a true story, but amazingly, once I figured out it wasn't (right around the time the scalp sucked up the last of her hair), I kept on reading. That is no mean feat!

6:38 AM, July 17, 2007  
Anonymous Frida said...

Yay for the return of your Sunday stories. This is fabulous.
I can't wait for your collection of short stories. Get thee to a publisher!

10:22 AM, July 18, 2007  
Blogger coarse gold girl said...

You had me completely hooked by the lines:
“Gemini twins!” shrieked my Tia, happy to flash her astrological know how. “And they're right on the cusp.” The cusp of what, she refused to say.

and you kept me there the whole read through!
I'm one picky short story reader and I love your style.

I'll be browsing back through your blog to find the other short stories you've written on here--I loved "Eccentric".

You are so talented! Seriously--your writing is so skillful that one doesn't notice the seamless craft behind your magic!

5:10 AM, July 19, 2007  

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