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.