The other morning I was showering, trying to be quick but instead thinking about my hair pile.
I have long hair, and when I shower – especially when I wash and condition it – I end up with dozens and dozens of loose strands of it tangled in my fingers, set free from the agitation of scrubbing my scalp.
In an attempt to be helpful by not clogging the drain, I long ago developed the habit of collecting all of this hair and making a pile of it on a ledge in the shower. I do this automatically and only notice the oddity of it when the pile gets quite large. One day I trimmed my nails in the shower and added them to the clump of hair on the shelf next to my shaving cream, and I thought my god, that is horrifying! Before I threw it away, however, I took a picture of it and sent it to my good friend Mike, who promptly lost his appetite.
On my second date with the man who is now my boyfriend, I told him about sending Mike the above text. He laughed with me as I told the story – as opposed to standing up and walking out of the pub, never to be seen again. Shortly after that he invited me to Hawaii with him, so I don’t think he was put-off by my unladylike behavior. Still, when we were new, I was careful to throw away my hair pile. After my shower I’d dispose of whatever I’d collected. But then I would sit with him over toast and tea, absentmindedly finger-combing my wet hair and letting the strands that came out drift onto his hardwood floor while we talked. Or while driving together, I’d roll down the window and let the hair that pulled free fly away in the breeze, as an offering to the birds for their nests. He never really seemed to notice, even when I forgot to remove the actual pile from either of our showers.
Then there came a time in our relationship when we didn’t know if we would work anymore. It both was and wasn’t gradual, but the need for time apart came on very unexpectedly. There was a week during which we didn’t see each other, we communicated very minimally, and both of us, several times, felt that there was no coming back.
We did find our way back. We did most of the things that it took to get there, but were each still scared that we might not be the same. Then early one morning Paulie said “hey honey, wake up, I figured it all out in my sleep. I know what we have to do.” I blinked at him and mumbled my consent to listen. He said that we had to just decide, together, to grab hold of each other’s hands with our eyes wide open, and take a leap of faith. But we had to both be ready, despite our big, valid fears and our wondering and our recent history. We had to jump in, feet first, and whatever fears came along would be dealt with, as they came along.
It seemed so simple, and so frightening. And it made sense. We’d spent a lot of time together worrying about what may or may not work at some distant point in the future, and that was breaking us down. With eyes wide open, I said yes. I took a tremendously deep breath while he held me and I felt something huge click within me, and him. Something snapped together, finally. And with that, it wasn’t the same as before. It was much better.
We talked more, but eventually we had to get ready for work. I showered at his place for the first time since before our falling out. I began my routine of closing my eyes and wetting my shoulders and body, and then my hair. When I opened my eyes and reached for the shampoo, I saw a pile of my hair sitting there in its tidy collected mound, right where I’d left it almost two weeks ago. I smiled and shook my head as I washed my hair and added more to the pile.
When I got out of the shower Paulie was waiting with my towel, as he does. He watched me towel off for a few seconds. “You are so beautiful,” he said. “I’m so happy.” I stopped to step over to him, and kissed him slowly. When I went back to drying my hair he walked into his bedroom to finish getting ready.
I called to him, “I see you kept my hair pile!”
He stuck his head back into the bathroom, smiling sheepishly. “For a little bit I thought it might be the only thing I had left of you” he told me.
I laughed as he ducked back out of the room. “Oh man,” I said, “that was going to be your keepsake from our relationship? That’s sad!” I wondered aloud that if things hadn’t worked out, maybe he would have tried to clone me?
When I’d finished rubbing lotion into my face and arms, I shook out my hair and hung up my towel. Then I pulled back the shower curtain, plucked up my pile of hair, and threw it into the garbage.