A man with the right scruffed-up beard and breadth of chest swaggered into the S and M dungeon that was my place of business, and twenty minutes and one grand later had my chin — still soft with the downy fluff of teen-girl skin — held steady in one paw while the other one flew at my face so hard and fast that I ceased to exist as the same collection of matter I had been the previous instant.
When Sarah’s mother, Penny, got sick four years into our marriage, we decided to move back to Mississippi, considering it penance for the sins of our youth. We signed a lease on a house, a white one-story on the historical register with a wraparound porch and angels, stars, and the moon painted on the transom above the front door.
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Here we are each morning:
my husband on our old kitchen chair, its upholstery
mended with duct tape, his head bent forward
while I comb out his long
wheat-colored hair. Not what I thought
we’d be doing in our sixties,
me dividing the wet silk of it, still stubbornly
reddish-gold, only a little
white at the sideburns. Three thick hanks
in hand, I begin to plait: over, under, over, under.
I don’t remember when he stopped
cutting his hair and decided
to let it grow long as a girl’s —
and he was mistaken for a girl once,
a tall, stoop-shouldered man-girl,
when he stood on the sidewalk, back turned,
and a car drove by, honking and catcalling.
At him, not me. We laughed,
but I had to wonder: When did his tresses, now
halfway to his waist, first spill
over his shoulders? It must have happened while we slept,
as most things do. And how did he come to sit
before me so patiently now, head bowed while I braid,
as if he were the daughter I never had
and this my one chance
to weave my care into each over, under,