Somewhere in the Middle
I told my hairstylist to cut all my hair off. I wasn’t brave enough to take scissors to my own hair. But I needed it off my shoulders. If the weight of my hair could be removed, maybe the weight of the world could be too. I know I am not the first to cut my hair in a moment of despair. It is a feminine display of grief. Grief at the world. Anger at the world. Confusion. I wish I was brave enough to really cut off all my hair. But I like it. It’s shorter than I’m used to. I can’t put it in a ponytail. I can’t hide it. Before I cut my hair, I felt disassociated from my body. My perception of myself was skewed in all different directions. I felt ugly and beautiful and boring and strong and frumpy and meek. I was bored with myself. Bored looking at myself. Bored perceiving myself. Anxious about others perceiving me.
I’ve been wearing overalls a lot recently. Now that my hair is cut into a bob, I feel like a little kid. I see pictures of myself at age five and it feels like looking in a mirror. I have been reading a lot of stuff about grief- scientific articles, personal essays, even wiki-how pages. My therapist told me to write a letter. I haven’t yet. I’m afraid. I don’t think I am ready for the finality.
I bought roller skates. I wanted to access innocent joy. It was working. But I didn’t buy knee pads and I was afraid to skate outside, so I skated around my living room listening to Thundercat. The rug in my living room acted as a track. I taught myself to turn and break. Roller skating felt like an act of defiance against adulthood. The joy I had finally captured was taken away by my middle-aged neighbor who texted my boyfriend Jake saying how sweet he thought it was when he could hear the whirring of the skates on his side of the duplex. Maybe he was being genuine, but it’s the second text this man has sent Jake about me. The first was about a social media post the café I work at made. I was making a drink in the photo. He texted my boyfriend “Saw a cool lady on the Bricks and Birch Instagram today,” with an ominous, loaded winking eye emoticon.
I read about cremation the other day. Apparently, ashes are calcified bones that are ground up in a blender. I was home alone, and it really freaked me out. Grief during a pandemic is weird. Every Western tradition has been taken away. All the ways in which we are taught to let go are gone. No hugging, no traveling, no gathering. Have you ever streamed a funeral? I have.
Jake visited his sister out of town for a night after our neighbor texted him. I didn’t sleep at all that night. It’s funny how quickly you get used to sleeping next to someone. The sunroom off the side of our bedroom didn’t have curtains. Curtains are expensive. That is something I learned when I moved into this apartment. As I lay rigidly awake in bed, with the AC on the highest setting so I wouldn’t be able to hear the creaks and bangs of the house settling, I ordered a hundred dollars’ worth of curtains. I probably wouldn’t have bought those curtains if I hadn’t been alone that night, as welcome as they might be.
I was looking at pictures of my sister Lauren. She was wearing overalls and her hair was cut into a bob. In the picture, she is holding baby me. She must have been twelve.
I think our landlord picked us after a slew of idiotic adults because he knew we wouldn’t bug him. We still don’t really know what we’re doing besides paying rent and bills and figuring out how to buy the right amount of groceries for two people each week. Our apartment is the left side of a Spanish-style house. Our neighbor, Steve, lives in the right half of the duplex. There’s a huge window in our living room that looks out onto a small porch. Steve has a wicker furniture set in front of that window. He sits out there daily and every time it feels like he’s in our living room with us. I am happy he got kicked out.
I don’t think Steve is a bad person. I’d say he’s in his early to mid-forties. He’s going through a divorce. Going through a divorce through a pandemic is probably really isolating. But honestly, he has overstepped his boundaries too many times. He’s also an idiot. Our landlord asked him to be out by the end of the month because he took it upon himself to add turf to the front lawn area of our duplex. When Jake and I ran into Steve outside one afternoon, he acted shocked by the landlord’s reaction. It’s not the first semi-permanent aesthetic change this man has taken on.
I think I am in denial. I feel okay and then I remember. It leads to these moments of acute anxiety. I go to work. I sit at home and Zoom for class. There’s a shell of normalcy over my very new life. I hustle. I hate hustle culture. I hate capitalism. But capitalism works great for the avoidant personality. Working too much and avoiding your feelings doesn’t really work though. Little things start to manifest. The weight of your hair becomes inexplicably linked to the weight of your emotions. The way you dress is a reflection of your age. You become desperate for a new distraction.
I read about death by heroin overdose. I wanted to know if it hurts or if there is a moment when you know you’re going to die. I guess you just kind of slip away. DrugAbuse.gov then lead me to a myriad of other websites describing disenfranchised grief. It was defined as the grief not acknowledged by society. The examples listed were estranged relatives, drug-related deaths, suicide, etc.
Really, I just wish I was a kid. I wish I was roller skating in my overalls on the sidewalk in front of my parent’s house or that I didn’t know about heroin. I wish I lived in a time before death meant anything. I wish my sister wasn’t dead. I miss my parents. They live close by, but I miss them. Childhood isn’t so far behind me. I feel as though I’m chasing it. Scrambling to grab the rope that would jolt me back into innocence.
And yet I’m sitting at my kitchen table in my dining room in my apartment. Jake bought it for me when we got the keys to the house. I have complete independence. I am a separate entity from my parents. I have freedom. I feel like I can sculpt my life into something meaningful. I feel hopeful. I can feel the pull of adulthood. It is electric and buzzing and terrifying.
One day I will decide which pull I will give in to. Until then I’ll be existing somewhere in the middle.