After her wife’s funeral she stops cutting her hair.

It’s not a conscious decision. Not at first. Nothing she does in these early days is considered. Suddenly she’s faced with the task of deconstructing her old life and adjusting to this new one so grimly handed to her. The emptying of closets and hoarding of personal items, reshuffled from the open spaces of their home and tucked away lovingly, secretly. Her wife becomes the chipped paperweight, the collection of vintage keys, the cookbooks that were bought with enthusiasm but never used. Neither of them could cook, and that in itself becomes a story. Keepsakes are intertwined with memories, and her hair becomes a neglected thing she absently brushes away from her eyes.

She’s kept it short since she was ten, when her eldest brother came home on leave with military-short hair. She runs her hand over his bristly scalp on a summer afternoon, her own locks sticking to the back of her neck, and an hour later her mother finds her in the bathroom, gleefully running the clippers over her scalp, a newly shorn lamb. But now it’s tickling her face in an unpleasant way, and she pushes it back behind her ears in a movement that becomes, for a time, part of her.

When it grows past her ears she wonders if she should go back to work. When it reaches her jawline other people wonder if she should go back to work. She waits for the grief to ease as everyone tells her it will. As the movies tell her it will. As the novels tell her it will. As the self-help books her well-meaning friends and family pass onto her

‘. . . this helped me when . . .’

tell her it will. But the death is permanent, so the grief cannot be temporary.

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