Reposting some of my old stories from the old story sites.
Evelyn was dreaming, or so she supposed, for the people around her were people she knew, but all the people she knew. And they were laughing among themselves, not at her, but without her. She stood in their midst, topless, with only her hands and forearms to cover her naked breasts and, although she supposed she must be dreaming, Evelyn still hoped no one would notice as she tried to keep everything covered and balance the drink she now found in her hand. The wind was picking up, for they were all both indoors and out, and flying things with shearing, bright steel teeth and long, whipping black tails buzzed around her head. She tried to swat at them and hold her drink and cover her hardening nipples all at once while everyone she knew vaguely moved and chuckled about her. She wanted to run away but was rooted to the spot by her hair, which twined and corkscrewed, growing out and up into the ceiling fixtures and tree branches. But the wind was growing stronger, although no one else seemed to notice, and her hair began to blow loose from her head, like the first leaves of autumn, a few strands at a time. She wanted to grab hold of them and bring them back and stick them back on (there was some scotch tape in her desk, she remembered), but the flying hummers were now snatching off bits of it too, faster and faster. She couldn’t possibly fend them off and stop her hair from blowing away, as well as conceal her breasts or not spill her drink. So her wild, untamed glory of twisted spirals just kept coming loose and wafting away on the wind and she started to panic, growing more desperate to preserve it and her dignity, all at once.
Evelyn woke with a start, sat bolt upright in bed and her hands flew to her head. But, instead of finding the reassurance of the familiar, fat ponytail that should have been wadded carelessly in a scrunchie up there, her fingertips met only the feel of a shocking, short fuzz. She had been dreaming, but now she was wide awake and the dream’s unrelieved anxiety, along with the rush of remembered reality, overwhelmed her and she gripped the naked shell of her skull as if she would crush it between her palms and threw herself back down upon the pillow, sobbing softly.
But the taps of her tears were wrenched shut at the sound of someone moving about in the next room. She had been living alone long enough that such a noise was now startling. But this was the sound of last night’s other surprise and she jumped up and started for the bedroom door. But, for the first time living there, she felt naked, although it was her habit to spend most of her time at home unclothed. She searched out her only dressing gown, a tawdry thing that her ex had given her and she had always hated. Shaking the dust from it, Evelyn pulled it on and popped into the living room just in time to see Tom opening the front door to leave.
“Sneaking out?” she called after him, sounding nastier than the twinge of hurt she really felt. Or was that just her headache? He grinned sheepishly at her.
“Of course not. I was just going to go get us some breakfast.” She felt a rush of relief and affection for him and, regaining her composure a bit, gave him directions to a nearby bakery shop she favored. He said he would be right back, but stood looking at her with the door ajar.
“What is it? She queried to break the awkward silence. He roused himself from his reverie, patting his coat pockets for keys.
“Nothing. It’s just… You look really beautiful standing there in the light.” He indicated the beams streaming in through the patio doors. “That’s a really pretty robe on you.” His searching fingers rapped something hard in a side pocket and he extracted a jewel case. “Oh, here’s your DVD of the event, everyone who did it got one.” He tossed it on a side table and still lingered over a parting glance before he was gone. Evelyn was not used to such frank adoration and she blushed and made an unconscious gesture to smooth her hair. But when her nails scraped only her ear top and the shorn scalp, she flicked them several times, as if trying to shake off the disturbing sensation. She sighed heavily and this brought the aroma of brewing coffee to her nose. Wonderful boy, she thought. But before she poured a cup, she retreated to the bathroom for aspirin and all else necessary, careful to avoid looking directly into the mirrors.
Returning to the kitchen, she had the deliciously wicked idea to spike her coffee with the “hair of the dog” or whatever mangy mutt of a liqueur she could coax from the back of the pantry. As she poured the syrupy stuff in, she thought: Shave your head, sleep with a co-worker and start drinking in the morning-surely the three warning signs you’ve completely lost control.
Although in truth, Tom could hardly be called a co-worker. They just worked at opposite ends of the same huge plant and had been bumping into one another at company functions for several years now. And she seldom drank anymore, last night’s fundraiser had been a rare exception. Even then, she’d only had a couple of drinks in as many hours beforehand, so she couldn‘t blame being drunk. When, she pondered, had she lost control?
She wandered into the living room as she waited for her mug to cool, raising it to her lips to blow and enjoy it’s dark scent mixed with the alcohol sharpness. She picked up the DVD and looked from it to the player uncertainly. Did she really want to watch it? Still, it could be a major clue in her reconstruction of the crime. She popped it in and sat down, her thumb on the remote caressing the play button in little circles for a few seconds longer before shaking off her hesitancy and jabbing it.
She remembered the cameras that had been set up around the cavernous sports bar where the thing had been held. This seemed to have been hastily cut together from them as well as footage from handhelds. She watched as volunteers, some she knew and some she didn’t, set up and decorated, with occasional spontaneous interviews cut in. Evelyn fast-forwarded through most of this. And the speeches from the mucky-mucks, she heard plenty of those at her job. When she slowed it down again to normal speed, things were in full swing and the place was noisy and crowded with just about everyone from work. She turned down the volume and the muted sound of the music and hubbub cued a memory in her.
It had sounded like that in the women’s room, where she and Stacy, her best friend at work, had stood looking in the mirror. Evelyn was “fluffing her wool”, as her ex-husband used to say, and Stacy was running a comb through her thin, over-bleached locks while staring intently at herself. Then, without warning, she’d said it.
“I’m going to do it.” she’d stated with certainty. Evelyn couldn’t believe it. Their friendship was one of opposites, with the younger, free-spirited Stacy always leading the fun and Evelyn, ever the voice of prudence. They balanced one another and Evelyn liked to live vicariously by listening to her friend’s adventures and sometimes even cautiously tagged along. She’d been doing that a lot more since her divorce. Stacy had the hair that Evelyn had always wanted for herself, ever since she was a little girl. It was straight and flat and you could do anything with it and Stacy had. During the years they had known each other, Evelyn had been amazed by the variety of colors and styles, as well as by the frequency of the changes. Stacy’s hair was her favorite toy, she loved using it to get attention. All this made her pronouncement so much more surprising.
“Are you sure?” Evelyn had asked, with motherly gravity. “Why the fuck not?” Stacy had flipped back, “ It’s for a good cause. My hair’s looked like shit since that last platinum job and really, it’s the only thing I’ve never done to it.” She glared at her reflection and pulled a portable curling iron out of her huge purse. “ You just watch, this’ll drive ‘em wild.” She’d winked naughtily at Evelyn and started to put on more make-up as the iron heated up. Evelyn had just shaken her head and returned to looking at herself. She hadn’t changed her own hair for nearly twenty years, the road to reach this comfort point had been too long and fraught with disasters to even consider the slightest detour now. She had been born with the hair of her father’s grandmother, her own mother had scornfully reminded her every time they had conflicted over its care or style. She’d never know this great-grandmother, long dead, but the old photos had proven the claim true. She had been Jewish and the impossibly thick and curly mass of her hair could never be fully contained in the stiff styles of her day. Evelyn knew perfectly how she must have felt.
Growing up had been an endless, painful effort to tame her hair into something “respectable” (mother again) and there were no few memories of haircuts that could still make her shudder at the thought of them. She even took up the futile cause herself as a teenager, with no better results, despite experiments in colors or straightening. She made peace with the beast at last in college, found out how to spot a cutter who could tame it, and settled for a reliable, wash-and-wear layer cut that was never allowed below her shoulder blades. She’d settled on her husband around the same time and the fancy up-do she’d worn for her wedding, with baby’s breath, a gallon of hairspray, and six million bobby pins was the last thing she’d ever done differently with it.
“Why bother if you’re going to do it?” Evelyn asked while she waited for Stacy to finish shaping her hair into a stack of alluring, blonde ringlets. “Might as well give it a good send-off,” Stacy replied and she hiked her skirt up to show more leg and unbuttoned a couple of buttons of her blouse. Bangles and big earrings were produced and donned. “Let’s go see a man about a new do.” She proclaimed and exited ahead of Evelyn with her best sexy slink. Every guy she passed noticed her, not an uncommon thing for Stacy. Evelyn followed after her as they made their way to the sign-up table next to the stage.
As they approached, Stacy began to giggle nervously and, seizing Evelyn’s hand, made her promise to stay by her side throughout. She promised, but upon reaching the sign-up table was dismayed to be told that she couldn’t go up on stage with Stacy unless she was also a participant.
“It’s just an insurance thing.” the man at the sign-up table said, “you just have to sign the release, but you don’t have to go through with it. A lot of women chicken out. They just don’t get the money if you do.” Seeing the pleading look in Stacy’s eyes, Evelyn sighed and signed. They were then directed to a corner where a camera stood. Stacy was asked a few interview questions, including why she’d volunteered. Vamping it up, she replied it would help her to feel completely naked, which brought the desired hoots from the crew. The whoops and whistles echoed and grew when this comment was played on all of the huge screens that dominated the bar’s interior. They froze frame on her teasing wink and the numbers beneath her picture started to roll up.
Back at the table, they had explained how it all worked. The participant’s picture was not only put up on the screens there but also went out over a live webcast. The enormous bar was already packed, for theirs was a big plant in a bigger company, but the head man wanted a record-breaking fundraiser for his pet charity. So, not only could anyone in the place use a cell phone to pledge money, anyone in the world could as well, via the internet. So they had to wait an hour for pledges to come in. As soon as “Racy Stacy” hit the screens, tiny beeps began to bubble beneath the crowd’s ocean-roar along with many low lights blinking on, like luminescent sea creatures.
“Could you shake your head a little please, honey?” the cameraman asked Evelyn when her turn came next. She hated it when men she didn’t know called her “honey” or anything like that. She shot a stern look at him and tossed her head about a few times. His eye glued to the eyepiece, he then asked her to bunch her hair up on the top of her head then let it fall. As she complied impatiently, he rapidly shot a couple of questions at her but had her move on when he saw he wouldn’t be getting much from her. Relieved, Evelyn went to join Stacy. But Stacy was already deep in her element: men. They swarmed and postured around her and she was eating it up. So Evelyn ordered and received her second drink of the evening and turned to be stunned by the sight of her own face blazing across the screens. They played nothing she had said, only repeated the shot of her lifting her hair and letting it fall, sometimes in slow motion. Evelyn was struck by these gigantic images of herself: unsmiling, a defiant look in her eye, her voluminous mane floating down and bouncing with equal defiance of it’s proposed fate. Then she was aghast to see her numbers were climbing as fast as Stacy’s.
Those who knew Evelyn would have recognized the familiar look her face took on as she watched the screen, slowly sipping her drink. It was the same studious and slightly peeved look she would get whenever something didn’t add up right in her work. What was the cause of this unexpected popularity? Sure, she had ruffled a few feathers over the years at her job in the accounting department, but nothing that would motivate a widespread need for some kind of petty vengeance from her co-workers. It wasn’t sex appeal, she was sure; she was almost forty and fairly plain, nowhere near as enticing as she knew Stacy to be. Was it her plainness, her staid sameness, day in and day out? Did the people around her feel the need to shake her up? But the amount being pledged was now far beyond the level where she could lay the blame for it entirely on folks who knew her. This was money pouring in from everywhere, based on a few seconds of video. Was it just the image of a stalwart woman that so many seemed to want to see degraded? Or, perhaps, it was nothing more than her hair itself. Was there something about its sheer volume and weight that inspired this reaction? Why ultimately she wondered, do people want to watch this sort of thing at all?
Well, she thought, they’re just going to have to get used to disappointment like the rest of us. Still, it was a shame that the money promised would be lost. And it was for a cause she strongly supported… Evelyn snipped this dangerous thought off cleanly and threw it away, not believing she could even begin to consider doing such a thing. The numbers slowed and the time to go up on stage approached. Stacy had a couple of more drinks to steady her nerve and started repeating “ohmygodicantbelieveimreallygoingtodoit” until it started to get annoying. By this time Evelyn just wanted to get her up there and done so she could stick by her friend as she had promised before bailing out herself with as much grace as possible.
The stage itself was a pandemonium of noise and glaring lights. Headset wearing stagehands directed them about with hand gestures, like traffic cops. The two women stood off to the side for a while, joining in whenever the emcee demanded applause for those who proceeded them. Then their videos were again played as an impressive, final tally of pledges flashed garishly over their faces. Stacy held onto Evelyn’s hand the whole time, letting go only briefly to applaud, then vise on again. Bouncing up and down and grimacing nervously, she let out a shriek when their turn was called.
Bounding awkwardly forward, she had almost jerked Evelyn, who had been lost in thoughts of the best way to ease out of this, off her feet. Together they were led to centerstage but had were forced to separate due to the distance the two folding chairs placed there had been set apart. So Evelyn sat down on the other unyielding seat to show Stacy she was still beside her. The pretty blonde’s jittery excitement proved quite a show and the crowd roared as the emcee played it up. As Evelyn was watching, there appeared at her side a young woman wearing the uniform apron of a national, chop-in-the-box, hairdressing chain, who seemed to be asking her something. Evelyn cupped her hand to her ear and shook her head. The woman held up two fingers, then dropped one, looking at her with a questioning look. Evelyn responded by holding up one finger and nodding her head, to indicate that only one of them would be taking part. She heard another playground scream and saw that they had begun on Stacy, who sat with eyes popping and her mouth open so wide in shock that her chin nearly touched her chest. Then something black was falling in front of Evelyn’s eyes.
The images froze. Evelyn sat staring and still puzzled. There she was on TV, composed and in control, while behind her stood the girl in the apron with a cheap nylon hair cape in her hands that hung, suspended by the pause button, above Evelyn’s head like a dark bird of prey about to swoop down. This was the critical moment. The video had cut away from Stacy standing with her elbows jutting out at ear level and her hands on either side of her head, a comical look of utter disbelief on her face. Evelyn set the DVD to advance at slow speed so she might catch every detail, to find the point where the balance of her intent had tipped so suddenly and unexpectedly the other way. But there was nothing she could see.
The emcee walked over to her side, announcing her name and drumming up encouraging applause for her. The cape came down and encircled her neck. She saw the surprise on her face and her mouth start to form an objection. She saw the stylist click a short, comb-like attachment on to her instrument. The emcee was at her side and even asked her over the PA if she was ready, it was impossible for her not to have heard him. But she didn’t say no- no she was most certainly not ready. She hadn’t sprung up at the last second, torn off the strangling cape, and run from the stage. Instead, she had given a single short nod and the hairdresser had moved instantly forward and, giving the electrical cord a sharp pull to clear its way, touched the guarded hair clippers to Evelyn’s forehead.
In the moment, in her memory and on screen; it all moved at the same slow speed. As she watched, her scalp replayed everything. At first, it had felt like nothing more than someone sliding her vibrator through her hair over the top of her head. A curious feeling not without a hint of sensual pleasure. But a feeling of cool exposure let her know that much more had happened. On the video, the clippers strolled over her crown like an electric Moses causally parting the dark brown sea. It was a reluctant parting, the severed hairs clinging to their still affixed companions. But this was catastrophe none would survive and the clippers were lifted from where they had stopped just below her crown and again brought to the front and driven back. It looked like the hair on each side was growing while the middle was mowed down, tightly intertwined curls still hanging on, refusing to fall. Evelyn grinned widely at the way she looked with this bozo-the-clown hairdo. On screen, enduring the haircut, she was decidedly less amused.
As another swath was cut, gravity won out, as it must, and an enormous chunk of brunette fluff separated from the rest like a landslide and tumbled down one shoulder and to the stage floor with soundless finality. Evelyn’s eyes widened when she saw it hit and then she shut them tight and her lips began to move slightly like she was saying something under her breath, which had become rapid and deep.
She caught herself following the clipper’s path with her fingertips across her head as she watched. The riot of sensations- the buzzing machine- the lights, music, and crowd- the intensity of what she was being done to her- had made her dizzy. It wasn’t just her head, but her whole body that buzzed or perhaps just trembled. And mixing in along with all the harsh confusion was subtler stuff- the silent and cloud-soft rain of her hair onto the rubber mat, the touch of air across her fontanel, something she had not felt since she had been a baby.
Stacy’s haircut had taken only seconds; the downy, pale locks whisked off in a flash. But, to hack a path through Evelyn’s dense thicket, the hairdresser had to move at a deliberate pace, her brow furrowed. Without such caution, the cutting teeth would have caught and pulled. She felt the finish of the top and, when the clippers were moved to the nape of her neck, her head had fallen forward without prompting.
This was yet another surprising feeling and the cut hairs still stubbornly clung to the uncut ones and, as the back of her neck was peeled and split, from a distance the hair that remained only on the sides looked twice as long. A broad road, a white highway, was being bulldozed through Evelyn’s dark, chestnut jungle.
Then the humming motor was behind her ear, sneaking up swiftly like a predator. It rounded the corner of her head closely and spun back to leave nothing in its path. Then leaped to the left and to the last and there was; nothing left to anchor to and all was in her lap or on the floor as Evelyn lifted her head up straight and gave an obligatory smile, however weak, as her courage was touted by the frantic emcee to the cheering crowd.
Evelyn paused suddenly at this stark image of herself, bald, or all but, the look of a survivor on her face. A shudder went through her; unthinking, she had walked upon a grave. It hit her that the great-grandmother she had never known and from whom she had inherited her outrage of hair, had died in a concentration camp. Doubtless, a far more terrible shearing had been forced upon her too. Evelyn felt shame, not for her baldness now, but that she had been so childishly upset by it. At least she’d had a choice, at least that choice had been for the good, even if the reason for making it was still unclear to her.
Then, she saw it and remembered. Or rather, realized she could not see it, not on the screen. I came to her now. It had been the camera itself. Its round, dark eye, ruthless and blank as a shark’s, focusing on her, examining and judging her. She had been mesmerized by its unflinching gaze when her turn had come and it had swung in her direction. It would suck her in, she had known, suck her in and spray her all over the world. And every stranger who watched would know her and demand the truth, the proof of her integrity. She could have easily denied the present crowd what she had promised, they knew her, they would forgive, everyone would laugh. But now that she was, in that moment, called upon to prove her word, she could not bring herself to disappoint the world itself. So she had nodded, to her surprise, when the amplified question came. Yes. She was ready.
The rest of the time afterward was numb shock medicated with alcohol. Everyone wanted to buy her a drink and express their surprise or how brave she was or ask it how it felt or some other nonsense when all she wanted was to be left alone right then. And everyone kept trying to touch her head! The emcee was the first to attempt it and she’d gotten quite a belly laugh from the crowd when she’d slapped his hand away. She hadn’t even tried touching it herself yet and avoided looking at all reflective surfaces, even tops of her drinks. She’d brushed aside a couple more hands that had swung toward her scalp good-naturedly, but then it got to be a kind of joke with the men that got annoying. She felt incredibly vulnerable, like a hedgehog with no hedge to hide in. She almost lost her temper when one particularly loathsome salesman she had never liked made some crack about “copping a bald feel”. But, good old Stacy, who was half crocked by that point, diffused the situation by grabbing one of the charity’s donation jars that were all over the place, climbing up onto the bar and announcing she was selling head rubs for five bucks a pop.
Evelyn was grateful for the distraction and faded away from the rest. She wanted to get out of there. Then she spotted Tom. She had always liked Tom and had often hung out with him at past work functions. She walked unsteadily to where he was sitting and he smiled and shook his head back and forth in sympathetic disbelief. Evelyn smiled back and he shrugged his shoulders and said: “You look great”. “Oh shut up.”, she had replied, and then asked,” Will you please drive me home? I’m feeling a bit light-headed”. He had laughed and said he‘d be glad to. They agreed to meet in the parking lot after he’d said goodnight to some people.
Inside the car, she was surrounded by ghostly wraiths of hideous, hairless old women in the dark windows, so Evelyn kept her hand shaded over her eyes so as not to look at them, all the while stealing sidelong glances at Tom. She felt drained and his broad shoulder seemed so inviting. She wondered what he would think if she were to rest her head on it. But, she found she couldn’t, didn’t know how to anymore. Her thick head of hair had always served as an added pillow of comfort before. Evelyn began to make small, tight distressed sounds from between her clamped lips and turned away; she didn’t want Tom to see her crying. He noticed anyway and asked if she was alright, and she’d nodded yes and he’d politely accepted the lie and left her alone but kept looking over at her from time to time with concern until they’d reached her home.
She had stumbled a little as she got out, but there was Tom at her elbow to catch her. He stayed beside her all the way up, to make sure she got safely inside. She was glad of this, not wanting to face the empty apartment alone. He had stepped inside after she got the door opened and they stood facing each other awkwardly for a moment. He was taking in the look of her new haircut in the light, his eyes running all over her cranium. She looked up at him, trying to remember if he had always been so tall and his if eyes had always been so blue. She felt she owed him something for rescuing her, so she lowered her head and leaned slightly forward. “OK, go ahead and touch it, if you want,” she said. He gingerly reached up and brushed his fingertips, lightly at first, over her crown. Then again, but with his whole hand and less timidly.
Of all the strange and new things she had experienced that evening, this was the most astonishing. Evelyn found herself pushing back against his palm as he continued to stroke her, like a cat demanding to be petted. She truly had never felt anything like it before. Before, the fingers every man she had been intimate with had ever only probed around edges of her hair’s dense snarl, fearful they might become entangled therein. She had imagined that what she‘d been left would be like bristles to the touch, like an unshaven face. But, instead, it was like fur, as soft as any animal’s. This was a part of her that had not been touched by anyone since her forgotten infancy. His whole, strong hand just glided all over her wonderfully naked head, as electric as the first time a boy had stroked the downy curls of her mons. She had pressed in closer to him, drinking in the odor of his maleness. And when his hand strayed away from her nape, as she found herself kissing him with an urgent hunger, she had thrown her own over it to guide it back.
Evelyn had just returned the DVD to the start of her haircut when she heard her man (how she loved that phrase) come back in with their breakfast. The paper bag he carried crinkled as he walked up behind her and bent down to touch his lips to her clipped dome. She smiled to herself as a whispered “wow” slipped from him when he looked up at the screen. He started to caress her scalp as they watched her shearing together. Again, Evelyn saw her lips moving, ever so slightly. She recalled what she had kept repeating, had chanted to herself like a mantra as the bewildering feelings rained down upon her head and her hair rained down upon the floor. She had clung to it desperately in her crisis as a scientific certainty and an unshakable tenet of faith:
“It will grow back, it will grow back, it will grow back,…”
But now, as she eagerly rubbed the new discovery of her velvet pelt beneath her lover’s touch, she began, for the first time, to wonder if it would.