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Haptic Memory

They say April is the cruellest month, but it’s the years that are cruel, not the months. In my dreams I am young again, my slim fingers moving easily up and down polished piano keys, which are as cool and smooth as my own youthful skin. When I wake, usually just before dawn, in the darkest, coldest part of the night, I sense the talons that arthritis has made of my hands.

When you are alone, what you miss most is being touched. There are only three people who touch me now: my doctor, my optician and my hairdresser. The first two I rarely see, but my hairdresser I visit every week. First my hair is washed and wrapped in a thick navy towel. Then I’m escorted to my seat in front of the spot-lit mirror, where I’m placed in Pearl’s magical hands. She’s not a talker so I close my eyes and concentrate. Don’t misunderstand me: this isn’t about sex. It’s a basic human need to be touched, and I have nobody left to hold.

Pearl massages my scalp very gently and then brushes out what’s left of my hair with a fine-toothed comb. I think of it as ghost hair—grey and wispy, a shadow of its former self. It grows very little in a week and I wonder if she discreetly snips away at the air with her neat silver scissors.

I yearn for those evenings when my husband brushed my hair for hours. I had long black hair which he unpinned and let flow down my back like a dark river. Soon I will be slipped into the ground beside him. In the nourishing soil my finger bones will blacken into twigs and burst into blossom, or perhaps into song.

Flash Fiction by Victoria MacKenzie

Published in Summer 2017


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