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.