When I found the online advertisement for my apartment it was being promoted as a newly remodeled studio with private bath, ocean views and laundry in the building. I took the place despite the fact that none of it was true. In his defense, the landlord had attempted a remodel, but somehow ran out of money upon completion of the bathroom. The rest of the unit remained untouched. The ocean views had existed at one time, but had been obstructed years before by a multimillion-dollar high rise building that housed multimillion-dollar condos. The condos did have ocean views.
There was something magical about the remodeled bathroom. If I closed the door and got into the large, stand up shower I could pretend that I was one of those multimillionaires across the way. The tile along the walls was a warm cream color with specs of browns, blacks and tans mixed in. The fixtures were all treated in a matching chrome finish and the stand up pedestal sink looked as if it had cost a fortune.
But nothing is ever as perfect as it seems. My biggest gripe with my new oasis was picking wads of hair out of the clogged drain. I was the kind of girl who couldn’t ask a boy to do anything for her. I’ve always said my father taught me to be too independent for my own good. Killing spiders, building furniture and unclogging drains were all things I felt I had to handle on my own and to ask anyone for help meant failure. As a result of this stubborn independence and utter disgust over wet chunks of discarded hair, I made it a point in my daily shower ritual not to allow my hair to get anywhere near the drain. As I wove my hands in and out of my long strands of hair, I pulled any stray pieces out and stuck them to the wall of the shower. The pieces collected, some days the wad was larger than others, and as soon as the shower was over, I rolled my finger along the wall, collecting the hair in one large ball before removing it entirely and tossing it in the trash.
The first time I lost a large chunk of my hair due to chemo treatments, I was completing this ritual in the shower. I had just finished the shampoo cycle. Lather, rinse and repeat. Lather, rinse, repeat. The repeat part was particularly important to me. I pulled my hands through my hair, expecting to come out with a couple small strands, but instead I was grasping a handful of hair, almost as if I had cut off a large section with a pair of scissors. My muscles tensed and I found myself frozen, completely unable to do anything but stare at it as the warm water streamed down my back and the hot steam filled the small, enclosed space. My vision began to blur and I began to feel lightheaded.
I pushed my hands out, fumbling for the wall, anything that I could grab onto. I slowly lowered myself to the floor, I thought I should crawl out of the water, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I placed the handful of hair down and watched as it circled and swirled with the running water, spreading out at first and then coming back together near the drain. Drain, lane, sane, train, chain, vein, brain, pain. I was surprised at how I had felt nothing. No pain, no tug as the hair released from my scalp. My hands were shaking as I reached up again to feel my head. I pulled again, another large clump. I released that into the water as I resisted the overwhelming urge to cry. It was only hair. It was only hair.
I reached up and maneuvered the shower handle in the opposite direction, hoping the cool water would help with the dizziness. It didn’t. In fact it was probably the nausea that kept the tears from streaming down my face. I placed my cheek against one tile wall while staring straight into the other. One of the black splotches in the tile formed what looked like a silhouette of Abraham Lincoln, top hat and all, against the creamy brown background. I moved my eyes for just a short moment and when I tried to refocus back on the same spot, it seemed to have disappeared. Things that appeared solid were always disappearing.
It took me fifteen minutes before I could tear myself, still shaking, from of the shower floor. I dragged myself into my bed, naked and soaking wet and cried myself to sleep that night. It was the first time I had cried since I received the news from my doctor. I never did clear the hair from the drain. Quentin must have found it and dismembered it himself without telling me. Three days later, my hair was gone entirely.