In August my hair starts to grow back.
I notice one morning after blow-drying it. My forehead is fringed with a thin layer of new, wispy bangs. There are one-inch strands of hair that start at my temples and curl upward over my cheekbones.
I go and get a haircut.
This is good, my hairdresser says. This means whatever you lost is growing back.
I didn’t know I lost anything, I say.
Isn’t that how it always is, she says, and laughs.
I finish my work for grad school. I write the final lines of a personal development plan I’ll never use; I tack on a concluding paragraph to the end of the last reflective essay I’ll ever write.
I open an editorial letter from my agent. The list of things I have to do is never ending:
Write this. Find an apartment. Buy a car. Figure out why everything seems so monumental.
A year ago today, I was packing for Scotland. I was living in Connecticut. I was getting ready to leave.
Now I’m here in California. I’m sitting in a chair while my hairdresser brushes color on my roots. She fingers the short bursts of hair around my hairline.
It’s not breakage, she says. This is good. This is healthy.
It looks terrible, I say.
It will look terrible for a while, she says. But then it will be good.
I just noticed it the other day.
Have you been under a lot of stress? she asks. Because that will do it. The stress. It makes your hair fall out.
A memory of me, hands and knees on a bathroom floor, snaking long, thick clumps of hair out of my clogged shower drain. A memory of me, no vacuum, running a comb over my bedroom floor and pulling up the tumbleweeds of hair that lodged themselves there. A memory of someone else—some friend, some stranger—reaching over to pluck an errant strand from the sleeve of my sweater.
Yeah, I say after a minute. Yeah, stress. I guess I have been. I think it’s almost over.
photography taken in San Francisco at and around the Japanese Tea Garden.