Crow Jonah Norlander ~ Hairstyle Eras

Her hus­band nev­er dis­suad­ed her, though he didn’t love every look. Annually, there’d be a new ’do—different lengths, tex­tures, col­ors, and shapes. Twenty years in, she got dras­tic and asked, Should I cut it all off? Yes, he said with­out hes­i­ta­tion, glee­ful at the prospect of free-flow­ing drains. But even com­plete­ly shorn, the show­er kept clogging—graying feet-long strands stuck to tile walls, splashed off into lit­tle nests, gath­er­ing in the show­er pan’s cor­ners. Neither of them knew where the hair was com­ing from, but they sud­den­ly had some­thing much more press­ing on their minds.

The glis­ten­ing of her skull was out­ra­geous­ly erot­ic. As a younger woman, she’d been eas­i­ly aroused by hav­ing her locks stroked, but a post-menopausal bare-head rub was some­thing else entire­ly. In keep­ing with the theme of fol­lic­u­lar explo­ration, her hus­band dis­cov­ered he didn’t mind hav­ing his own close-cropped curls pulled dur­ing the act, reced­ing as they were.

There’d been a fal­low spell dur­ing which they dis­cussed a shared hope of a rekin­dling in lat­er years but made no delib­er­ate steps towards stok­ing it. They felt for­tu­nate to have stum­bled into the answer, and had no expec­ta­tions for how long it’d last, instead mak­ing the most of their inti­ma­cy while they still drove each oth­er mad with lust. Sometimes they’d go at it two, even three times a day. Like in their new­ly­wed youth, they had the idea to extend their close­ness by clean­ing up togeth­er, often find­ing reserves of ener­gy for more.

The phys­i­cal close­ness restored emo­tion­al vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty that’d been cal­loused over by years of util­i­tar­i­an necessity.

The enliven­ing extend­ed to oth­er areas of life. They broke from a week­ly meal plan cycle of the husband’s soul­less slow-cook­er bulk batch­es, life­less­ly tidy, though per­fect­ly ade­quate nutri­tion­al­ly speaking—early on they’d set­tled into the rhythm of him cook­ing and her clean­ing, activ­i­ties suit­ed to their dis­po­si­tions, with the reverse arrange­ment caus­ing strife and frus­tra­tion on both of their parts, him inevitably dous­ing what­ev­er she cooked with hot sauce or salt; her rear­rang­ing the dish­wash­er he loaded, return­ing every­thing on the dry­ing rack back to the sink for a sec­ond scrub. Inspired, he cracked open cook­books received as wed­ding gifts that auto­mat­i­cal­ly splayed open to the only pages he’d ever read over decades: a basic gravy or short­bread, spat­tered with toma­to sauce or grainy with crumbs.

The way he whipped a dishrag over his shoul­der exud­ed com­pe­tence. She’d found this behav­ior attrac­tive when they’d first moved in togeth­er, and couldn’t remem­ber when or even if he’d stopped doing it, or if she’d just stopped notic­ing. Whichever it was, she appre­ci­at­ed it all over again: func­tion­al, as much as an apron, but more ver­sa­tile, less fem­i­nine yet not with­out a sar­to­r­i­al flour­ish. Even stained, it was a dash­ing scarf, all the sex­i­er for the task—rather, the act of love—it accom­pa­nied: keep­ing her fed, some­thing she’d not done a great job at han­dling her­self before they’d met, some­thing she oth­er­wise felt indif­fer­ent to and neglect­ed on the rare occa­sions she’d been left to fend for her­self over the years, hap­py to microwave a bag of frozen broc­coli and call it a week­end. Now, in his renewed vig­or, he was mak­ing a mess again in pur­suit of taste, and she redis­cov­ered the ecsta­sy of flavor.

Over meals, rather than com­plain about cowork­ers, sib­lings, neigh­bors, they alter­nate­ly rem­i­nisced and dreamt of future adven­tures. Awakened from a fog of depres­sion, they were able to name their desires.

He rum­maged out a dusty food proces­sor from deep in the cup­board for sauces she’d sub­con­scious­ly craved for so long she’d for­got­ten their names. He hap­pi­ly replaced some of the eso­teric kitchen tools they’d ditched assum­ing they’d nev­er need them again: a spring­form pan for tarts, muf­fin tins, the sharpest man­do­line he could find, mix­er attach­ments for stuff­ing sausage and spi­ral­iz­ing veg­eta­bles. Even the prospect of zoo­dles seemed mag­nif­i­cent in his hands, at least until the dish came out knot­ted with wiry gray strands.

She picked out a clump and held it to her husband’s head for com­par­i­son. It was the only plau­si­ble expla­na­tion, but the hair didn’t match.

They split into gig­gles, glut­ted with a new kind of appetite.


Crow Jonah Norlander lives in Maine with his fam­i­ly of humans and hounds. His sto­ries and poems have recent­ly appeared in Hobart, Maudlin House, and Back Patio Press. He is the man­ag­ing edi­tor for X‑R-A‑Y and co-edi­tor of HAD.