Some time ago, I began a project called “Dramas and Fables.” It was going to be a collection of short pieces. I left it off, with the demands of work and graduate school. I still have the pieces I wrote, and among my other projects, am turning back to them. Here’s one of them
One morning—a Tuesday morning, in fact—Allison woke up to find that all her hair had fallen out. It lay spread out about her in a red halo on her pillows. At first, dazed as she was from pulling out of a strange dream, she wasn’t quite sure what was happening. She noticed the room’s cool air brushing over her bare scalp, and thought it odd, somehow out of place. She almost put her hand to her head, but held it back; whether she did so out of fear or just a change of mind she was never sure. She sat up in the bed, and felt lighter, her head not weighed down by the falling locks of red curls that used to grace her. She looked down on her pillow, and saw her hair there, strands and strands of it, almost fully covering her pillow, red hair on a sparkling white pillowcase. She looked at her hair for a long time, the gross reality of the situation barely registering on her mind. “That’s my hair,” she said, in a tiny, almost meek voice—which fit, because she usually had a tiny, meek voice, except now it was tinier, even more timid as the terrible nature of what had occurred to her began to imprint itself. “That’s my hair,” she repeated, as if saying the words, giving speech to the event could make it more comprehensible. She finally brought her hand to her head, running it over her bare scalp; her brow rose in consternation as she brushed her scalp again and again, caressing it the way, well, the way a bald man would, the way she’d seen her father do in times of stress and frustration, from the hairline at almost the base of the skull forward, slowly, over the forehead and down over the eyes, trying to expel whatever disturbing thoughts had collected during the day. Her fingers danced over the supple, soft skin, her palm pressed on the smooth surface. It was as if, of a sudden, the individual strands of her hair had decided collectively to evacuate her scalp, follicles and all, detaching themselves like the stages of a rocket, leaving her head completely, without a trace. It was quite odd, and she had no means by which to process the significance of the incident. What would she do? Was there some remedy to be had? Should she collect her stranded hair, perhaps to make a wig out of it—it would still be her hair, after all, just translated to another form of existence. She brought her hand to her chest and clutched at her pajama top, the experience suddenly becoming too much for her, the enormity of it finally dawning on her. “That’s my hair,” she let out in a raspy scream.
She called in sick that day. And the day after. In fact, she took the rest of the week off, pleading a sudden flu, a very bad, intense illness that left her barely able to phone her office, much less actually shower and dress and go into work. Since the office had recently been ravaged by a virus, her supervisors accepted her excuse without question, and wished her a speedy recovery. She would lay in bed, day after day, the shades drawn, her knees drawn up under her chin, slightly rocking. She had collected her hair and put it into an empty shoe box, not really being sure what was appropriate for such circumstances. Surely she wasn’t the only person to whom this had happened? There must be others! When energy permitted she would scour the Internet, searching for anything that could hint at a sudden, catastrophic hair loss. Her efforts yielded no results. She couldn’t find her case in any medical literature. She was truly alone.
She kept putting off her boyfriend, Frank. “I don’t understand why I can’t come by and take care of you.” “I’m contagious, that’s why, and I don’t want you getting sick.” “But I’m willing to take the risk.” “I just don’t want you here!” Continue reading