Edited by Alice Grundy
[…] I’m writing when he calls out: ‘¡Eli! ¡Necesito tu ayuda!’ The faint trickle and hiss of the shower stopped a few minutes ago. I pause, hands hovering over the keyboard, wondering whether his words are a kind of reflex, whether he’s lost something and, while searching, has called out for help as a matter of course. To go or to stay?
Then I hear my hairdryer start up. He has a cold; he’s going out for work drinks that he wishes he could avoid. When I bought the dryer a year ago, I had to learn to use it, to coordinate the brush in my left hand with the dryer in my right – who’d have thought it would be something you had to practise. So I slip from my chair, go to him.
‘You’ll have to crouch down,’ I tell him. He lowers himself onto his knees. I start pulling my round barrel brush through his hair, aiming the dryer onto it.
‘Tell me if it hurts.’
‘Why would it?’
‘The heat, or my aim. If it’s hot on your scalp, tell me.’
I do it piecework. First the back’s lower layers. Luxurious is the only way to describe his hair. If I were blessed with half of it, half as thick, I would be ecstatic. It’s raven, shot through with greys that make his sister sigh and say that somehow his greys are not like hers; in his hair they don’t look like something you want to hide, they look like rain.
His forehead presses against my stomach and I look down onto his crown. The heat from this hairdryer now, in early July, is enough to lull me into drawing out the task.
He grows impatient, but there is so much of it, so I start on the other side, pressing the side of his face against me. He’s still, again, and I keep drying.
Finally, his patience ends and he says, ‘Ya está ya,’ and stands.
He looks in the mirror. His response is immediate: he lets out a long, appalled gasp. ‘Pendeeeja.’ I look at the reflection of some hair-luscious heartthrob who has time-travelled from the seventies. He presses his coif down and I bend over, barely managing to gasp between my laughing. ‘¡Pendeja!’
I try to tell him that no, it wasn’t intentional, I didn’t realise, I was just drying…but each time I catch sight of his reflection I burst into renewed laughter, which is not helping my case. My stomach hurts. I try to smooth his hair; he wets a comb and pulls it through it, I tell him it looks fine, not to worry, it’s…laughter. ‘Pendeja.’
How do I recover from this? How do I go back to writing when I’m so full of this feeling, when I have to defeat the urge to bar his way when he’s about to leave, when I’m overcome with the need to keep him here with me. What’s a relationship but watching someone leave, again and again, encouraging that someone to go and then pining all the while?
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