Never have I ever met a man that was so compassionate, yet so cruel, a man so loveable and so evil. We met just after I started working in the city; he already was a renowned, passionate architect, at the beginning of a bright career. I think – amongst many- this was the thing that made me fall in love with him helplessly, his passion for what he loved. I’d be lying if I said that his looks, or financial well-being didn’t contribute to my choice of starting a relationship with this man, but I don’t consider myself shallow and I know his personality was the main reason to do so.
The first weeks, months were amazing. My family lived far-far away, and we weren’t so close either, therefore he was the only person in that big city whom I knew apart from a few acquaintances. He was aware of the fact and after a year of dating he offered me to move in together. That is when things changed. He never let me go anywhere without him saying it is way too dangerous for a lady like myself. At first it seemed reasonable, but after a while he wouldn’t even let me meet my own family with made up reasons, which I didn’t realize at the time. Of course we had arguments – a lot of arguments. Once I came home drunk after a girls-night-out with my colleagues, and I’ve never seen him so furious so far, and that was the first time he hit me. He hit me with strength of a wrath that I’ve never even seen before, and the worst part was that I had no one to go to. I can clearly remember that the day after our fight he was taking a day off from work, and woke me up with a breakfast, and offered me the sweetest, most remorseful apology stating that it won’t happen again. Then he took me out on an amazing date that made me forget the fear, the shame and all the pain that he’d caused me. I believed him as long as it happened again. And again. And again. A few years went by and unrecognized I became alienated from everyone and everything – apart from my boyfriend.
I felt I needed no one but him, and when he wasn’t angry cursing at me, or hitting me with his belt, he was an amazing man, caring, kind. I hoped that he would change; that he swore on countless times, even went to a therapist.
’And you, Joanne Morrison’ – asked the priest – ’Do you take Matthew Henry Connelly as your husband?’
’I do’ – and that I was sure.
Because I loved him. Maybe I still do.
’You look down.’
’Oh sorry, Russ. I was just pondering life… or whatever.’ – I laughed it off and went back to my magazine.
Russ was sitting on the sofa, his phone in his hands, but his eyes were investigating me. He had a worrying shine in his eyes.
’So pondering life it is, while reading that magazine. Never knew fashion and diet tips made you a philosopher’ – he said, it seemed like he would go back to his phone, but he looked at me again. – ’I know that frown, that peculiar face you make. You were thinking about him, weren’t you?’
It was shameful. It happened so many years ago, I should’ve let it go by now, but I was still going on and off about Matt in my head. Russ knew it well what happened to me, he knew about the physical and mental abuse my ex-husband had caused me. Russ accepted it, and helped me trough very very hard times with patience and an immeasurable amount love. For that I was grateful beyond words, but I couldn’t just erase Matt out of my past.
It was hard getting used to not going to work, but Matt was right my income made no difference, so why wouldn’t I just stay home and make sure that our apartment was clean and we had food? It was only reasonable for me; I wasn’t so fond of being a receptionist either. What I thought I will be missing is the rote. But Matthew made every morning a little ritual for both of us. Some people take their dog for a walk, or listen to the same song every day, but me and my husband made sure that I – the one who stays home- looked my best. He would choose my attire for the day, and he loved to flatten my hair with iron. I once went to the salon without him knowing, a colored my hair to surprise him. With a few menacing words and a forceful slap later he made clear he wasn’t a fan of unexpected changes. Note to self. Therefore every morning I spent sitting at my vanity table putting cream on my face while he religiously ironed my mid-back long brown hair, or rather our hair.
‘Yes… I was thinking about him. I do sometimes.’ – I said remorsefuly.
Russ sat closer to me, lift my legs into is lap. He let out a heavy sigh. ‘Do you have any idea why are you missing him lately?’
‘I’m not missing him, not at all. I don’t know what had gotten into me!’ – I didn’t believe these words either. A ran my fingers through my hair, smooth and straight as ever. I never stopped this little morning routine, even if my divorce was finalized eight years ago now. Still according to the magazine that I was just putting down, this kind of hairstyle never goes out of fashion….
‘Please, Jo!’ – Russ’ voice was sharp now. – ‘You know I love you, and I’d do anything for my wife, but for the love of everything that’s holy, don’t let your past take over. You… We must do something to let you close down the past.’
He was right, and his sorrow and worrying was true. I never closed down my former marriage, even after finding my true love. And it was taking its toll on our marriage and our family. I need to let go for my future, for my well-being and sanity, or Matt will take me down yet again even if he’s not here. Not for my kids or for my husband, not for anyone else, but myself.
‘It may sound a little crazy,’ – I started after a short pause- ‘but I think it is my hair that reminds me of him. You know of the little habit of mine.’
‘You mean ironing your hair, like the world depended on it?’
‘Exactly.’– I nodded – ‘It was our thing, with Matt. He wouldn’t let me wear my locks any different than it is right now’
‘Then get rid of it, I won’t mind’
I was speechless. Getting rid of it? Like not changing its color or shortening it a little, but getting rid of it.
‘But it is your choice; I don’t want to force anything on you.’
I smelled my hair. And then like lightning it hit me. I was a hostage of a bunch of hair that I’d shave off if it was on my leg. I didn’t like the touch or smell of my hair, because I really did, It was my ex-husband who loved it this way. So I had to love it also.
‘It is my choice. Not yours, not that a**hole’s, mine and only mine.’ – I closed my eyes, I didn’t want to look at Russ.- ‘I want to get rid of it… entirely.’
I won’t lie, I was crying while Russ prepared the bathroom. I was also crying when I looked at myself in the mirror. Thankfully it wasn’t a long time that I got myself together. Russ put the tools that he gathered on a stool, than encouragingly kissed my neck.
‘It is my choice.’ – I said, as he was looking at me in the mirror. – ‘Do it’
Russ was just as unsure as I was. He picked up a pair of scissors and hacked a lock off about 5 centimeters from the scalp. I was in a shock, but a kind of freeing, good shock. ‘It’s all coming off, dear’, and with that Russ grabbed more and more sections, and cut them with no apparent strategy. His growing bulge and a strange smirk on his face implied that he was enjoying the process. And after all, so was I. The cutting went on for a few minutes, until my mane was reduced to weird flops of hair sticking out of my head. Then Russ switched on his electric shaver without a guard, and handed them to me. It was the strangest feeling holding the machine to my forehead. My hair could have been cut into a short pixie under the hand of a skilled hairdresser. But I knew I needed to do it. I hesitantly run the machine into my hairline, unveiling a path of white scalp. And there was no stopping, the clippers cut more and more paths, hair was flying everywhere. The feeling was surprisingly good, liberating. I shaved the crown of my head, and then I gave the buzzing clippers to Russ who was watching in awe.
He pushed my head to the chin, and buzzed my neck, which sent shivers through my entire body. The noise came closer as he was pushing the thing around my ears. And with that I was ready. I shaved my head, I got rid of my bad habit, I felt free. I was aroused by the feeling of touching my bald head. I looked at my love:
‘Do you like it?’
‘You have never been more beautiful’ – he said, then he kissed me passionately, running his hands over the remains of my hair.