[creative nonfiction]

My hair is falling out. 

The salon stylist says, “You lose a thousand a day.” I think she means a hundred. I scratch my head and three drift to the floor.

 A loner tickles my bare shoulder and I drag a finger-comb from my scalp to the shaggy split-ends. Six filaments from my clenched fist end up in the wastebasket. The tease and tug are pushing obsession buttons. I react to phantom touches, swipe, and come away with nothing. Repeat.

The ceiling fan’s draft dispatches a messenger. The solitary reminder sticks to my t-shirt. A platoon of paratroopers are on deck, ready to drop. Maybe I’m shedding. It’s July. Hotter than, well, too hot for overthinking. Michael and I consummated our relationship on the 4th of July. I wipe dead soldiers out of the bathroom sink. I’m done with fireworks.

Wisps snake across the sunlit pillowcase. These aren’t the cat’s; hers are short.

“I stick shampooed hairs that come out on the shower wall, to keep them from clogging the drain. Sometimes I swirl the soapy bunch into abstract compositions with my finger.” The stylist doubles over, laughing.

Wisps snake across the sunlit pillowcase. These aren’t the cat’s; hers are short. She can leave whole whiskers on the bed from licking herself clean. I rub my head, feel around for bald patches. 

The floors are less messy than before. Strands accumulating in corners and sticking to my bare feet gross me out. I coil the cord, shove the sweeper in the closet. The sloughing starts every June, like clockwork. Michael died in June.

I pluck an interloper buried in the fresh baked apricot crisp and carry it to the compost bucket on the kitchen counter. The light catches a dangler in my face and I yank at it. This molting has got to stop. It can’t last forever. 

By August I should be back to normal. 

There’s a brush across my neck, but I don’t see anything. Look closer. Refocus. A fine strand waves “I’m over here, in the breeze.” I tenderly separate the trespasser from around my neck and let it fly.

Photo Credit: Shoot for the Moon

When photography converted from film to digital, Karen Bowers retired as a commercial photographer and moved to the Florida Keys where she reinvented herself as a destination marketer. She promoted and directed a successful southernmost beach launch dragon boat race until relocating to Arizona. She currently writes from her 1914 tiny home hermitage and works as a pro tem librarian in rural Arizona, substituting whenever and wherever needed throughout Yavapai County. She has completed a memoir titled Pushed off the High Dive. “Shedding” is her first published essay.