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Volume 3, Issue 1
Spring 2007:

Simpler Now

Pat Connolly

Cell 2 Soul. 2007 Spring; 3(1):a5

I asked for this, so I have to sit down, be still, let it happen. I want to holler "No, some other day!" but I say nothing, so uncharacteristic of me.

The stool settles unevenly on the grass, tilting me a little left. I put my feet on the top rung, cupping my bare arches nervously around the wood. I scrunch my body, shoulders clenched, head bent down against my chest, both hands clutching the ends of the towel he's draped around my shoulders. What a slapdash version of a salon cape, I think. What a goofy send-up of the beauty parlor and its lustrous pseudo-glamour. Then he clicks on the clippers and steps behind me.

"Ready?" he asks gently. I feel tears sting my eyes. I nod and tuck my head a little lower on my chest. The vibration- solid, metallic, grim- moves closer, louder, til it touches me. The teeth of the clippers crawl up the back of my neck, inch into a mass of hair. No pain, I realize, no resistance. The hair is about to fall out anyway. Up the back of my head, cresting at the crown, the clippers growl along to the hairline at my forehead.

My husband stops, moves around me, beside me, then in front. I search his face for a cue. Unreadable. He breathes deeply, backs away a step, considers his handiwork. He doesn't smile. He makes no comment, which prompts neither comfort nor alarm. He moves behind me, the clippers humming in his hand. I feel the teeth against my neck again. Another row, and wads of hair dribble onto the towel, my legs, the grass. I stare, my heart jerking. So many shades, like those multi-colored guinea pigs — dark roots, natural red highlights, light brown dye job and blond ends bleached to straw by the summer sun. Harlequin hair.

Another row, and still he says nothing. I hold myself still, grip the towel tight, bite my lower lip. The cutting goes on; the clippers' groan fills the air. No early evening sounds. No dog barking. No music from a neighbor's house. Only this constant buzz surrounding us. Only us, him wordlessly harvesting this useless crop, and me, breathless, afraid to imagine what he's done.

He backs away again, his concentration melting into a smile, a big one. He cups my chin in his hand and raises my face. He looks from face to head, from head to face. Right now he could tell me lies, tell me nothing, tell me only what I want to hear. But the words he speaks right now are precious. They come from deep inside him, ringing with honesty. They feel like balm, like sweet, sweet honey. "I love it," he says, "Don't ever grow your hair again!"

I am simpler now. More bare. And I am loved. I still have two thirds of my left breast, I've hardly started chemo, no radiation yet. But I'm already a survivor. I cry and do not wipe the tears away. A breeze tickles my head, in a place I've never felt it before.

This piece appeared in All that Matters edited by Peggy Rambach, published by The Paper Journey Press (2006) and is reprinted with their permission.

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