“Do you need a minute?”
Lara took a deep breath and consulted her inner voice. She needed a minute, but her decision was final. With her eyes closed and her head down, she pictured herself transforming. It was painful but necessary.
Evan, her stylist, was shocked to hear the news, but he had always been supportive of Lara, in all things, not just her hair choices. She was about to make an irreversible move, but he didn’t try to talk her out of it. He told her about his own experiences, personally and professionally, which put her at ease and surprised her. She didn’t think there were that many people running around with bald heads, but maybe you didn’t notice them until you sported your own. Perhaps you needed to experience this kind of heartache to see it reflected in the hair of others’, or the lack thereof.
“Do it,” she said confidently, maintaining eye contact with her reflection so she wouldn’t miss a thing. Evan turned the clippers on and brought them to Lara’s forehead. The gentle buzzing both terrified and soothed her. Her heart beat a mile a minute, but her faint smile was unflinching. The clippers ran from the middle of her forehead to the back of her head, dropping almost three feet of hair into Lara’s lap.
She reached the point of no return. Although she felt happy, tears forced their way out of her eyes. She broke eye contact with the mirror to examine her falling hair. She picked up the clump of strands, lifeless and dull, but only since recently. Moments before, they had been attached to her, a part of her, just like all the memories they held.
More hair steadily fell into her lap as she held the fine strands, no longer tickling her face when a gust of wind snuck up on her or dripping over her shoulder after exiting the pool. It was the same hair, but it was dead.
Three feet of luxurious hair, the kind that caught everyone’s attention when she walked into a room, floated away. She wouldn’t say her hair was a security blanket, but she took great care of it because she loved it. Of course, she loved Kelly more. If Lara had two heads, she’d still shave both for Kelly. There wasn’t enough hair in the world to equal the value of Kelly.
Lara let go of the hair, losing interest. It wasn’t her hair she would miss, it was Kelly. Every inch of that hair represented time she had spent with Kelly, but those memories weren’t gone just because her hair was. Or just because Kelly was.
As more and more hair snowed down into her lap, Lara wished she had done this when Kelly had been alive. When Kelly was going through chemotherapy and lost her hair, wasn’t that a good time to shave her head? Wasn’t that when Kelly needed the show of support? It’s not like Lara wasn’t around or showing support in other ways, but something about shaving her head once Kelly had already passed away and couldn’t see it seemed pointless to Lara. It stung. She so badly wished there was a picture somewhere of her with her sister, both rocking a bald head, but she was committed to her decision regardless.
Lara didn’t stop herself from openly sobbing, and Evan was kind enough to keep working and allow her the moment. She had told him everything, so he knew her tears were over more than simply losing her hair. Besides, many people cried when they shaved their heads, whether it was for a sick loved one or a spur of the moment decision after a particularly rough breakup.
The soft humming of Evan’s clippers zoomed in and out as they passed over her scalp. Lara could already feel the literal weight swishing away, relieving her neck of its tremendous burden. She closed her eyes to enjoy the pampering. The physical touch of Evan’s hands on her head relaxed her, allowing her to sink calmly into her chair and zone out. She stopped sniffling and wasn’t surprised when her mind wandered to a specific day over a decade ago.
For no reason, Kelly had asked Lara to come over on a Saturday night for drinks. When Lara got to Kelly’s house, there were two pizzas and four bottles of wine awaiting her, along with dozens of bottles of nail polish, and a stack of CDs to sing along with. It wasn’t unusual for Kelly to lure her over, then surprise her with a full evening of debauchery, and that night was no different. Even in adulthood, neither sister outgrew the childish flirtation with prank phone calls, and they went wild that night.
It wasn’t until they popped the last bottle of wine that Kelly suddenly needed full bangs. They couldn’t wait until she saw a stylist the next day, it had to be right now. Before Lara could say a word, Kelly had her kitchen scissors in hand and chomping through her hair in the bathroom. Lara rushed after Kelly, tripping over her own feet, but it was too late. She walked in on Kelly’s homemade bangs and gasped.
“What do you think?” Kelly asked with a giant, goofy smile. Lara had no words. She burst into laughter as uneven chunks of Kelly’s new bangs stuck straight out. Under the wine’s influence, Kelly insisted her new style was perfect for her, but Lara rolled on the floor for several minutes at Kelly’s dramatic mistake. The next day, Kelly woke Lara from the couch to scream about the horrendous bangs she had given herself. Kelly had no memory of doing it, which sent Lara into stitches a second time.
Sitting in Evan’s chair, feeling her hair disappear, watching it fall from her scalp, Lara chuckled. The memory was beautiful and painful, and she was just happy to call it her own.
“All done.” Evan rested one hand on Lara’s shoulder lightly, giving her time to inspect her new look in the mirror. Her reflection stared blankly back, waiting on a reaction. Instinctively, she ran both hands over the smooth surface, feeling the soft fuzz coating her head and smiling.
“Wow. That feels so nice!” Lara laughed, surprised.
She couldn’t stop running her hands through her phantom hair and loving it. She forgot about the piles of hair scattered around her chair, three feet of bittersweet memories, and saw a face without anything to hide behind. A face ready to move past the pain and start healing.