by Gibson Culbreth
London stood in the bathroom, a lit cigarette in one hand and a pair of hair clippers buzzing away in the other. Atticus almost hadn’t noticed the low humming begin from behind him. He was staring at his reflection in the mirror, looking at himself in depth for what seemed like the first time in almost two years.
“Come on Atticus, it’ll make you look Irish.”
“I am Irish.” She ran a pointer finger lightly from the base of his skull along his neck to the knot of his collarbones.
“It’ll be damn sexy,” her lush pink lips moved closer to his ear smelling of cigarette ash and decay. He turned his face away, briefly remembering London in a red sundress, running through the streets of Chicago, a cigarette in one hand and a tulip in the other screaming “love me” as loud as her lungs would allow. She had been so bright then, her hair a yellow waterfall down her back, her legs un-bruised and pounding on the sidewalk, begging to be followed. He snapped out of it as the first few curls drifted to the bathroom tile. He looked up.
London stood behind him, her palm gripping his forehead; her lit cigarette perched between her yellowed pointer and middle finger, dangling above his eyebrows. He was not in tune with the complexities of his reflection but even with the first stripe of hair gone he could tell he would look different. His hair was a part of him, a part of his heritage and hard earned and thick and, he thought, one of his better features. Although he wasn’t too familiar with the inner workings of his face he knew what he looked like. He had seen himself in passing, shop windows and security camera footage. Losing his hair was like losing a part of his shadow.
Even in the bright bathroom lights London was grey, a small faded portrait of what she used to be. It seemed as though even her ivy eyes had mellowed out, giving way to saucer pupils and a grey ring around the outside, like Jupiter. He felt his insides twinge, his organs slamming into each other like bumper cars. As his scalp moved against the clippers his fingers twitched, aching to remove them from London’s hands and slam them to the ground to dance around among the remains of his hair. She had moved onto the other side now, leaving a thick stripe of hair in the middle. He stood suddenly as she went to tackle the last piece of armor.
“Atticus sit, I’m almost done.”
“But you still have…”
“I said you’re done.” His voice became raised hackles, harsh and pure steel against her misunderstanding whimpering. Her eyes closed slowly, the purple veins from her eyelids still delicate like holding a birds’ egg up to the light. He couldn’t bear to look at her any longer. His boots were heavy and unforgiving against the floor as he left the bathroom.