Before my first chemo treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, when I knew my hair would start falling out, I went to my hairstylist. I wanted to feel in charge of what I had little control over—cancer. She gave me a short cut and for a couple of weeks, it was the new me. Completely buzzed on the side with a shaped and cool bit up top. But once I started treatments, my hair changed. It was almost imperceptible because it was still there but it didn’t stand up the same way, springing up and out from the rooted follicles below. It drooped. I pulled and it gave way. I started to think that my hair follicles had gone dormant. Like seeds, they were waiting for more favorable times.
My wife, Susan, got out a buzzer and we went onto our shaded back deck. We found a slant of sun and I grabbed a chair. Susan draped a cloth around my shoulders. She turned on the buzzer and gently began trimming off the hair on the sides and top. I closed my eyes, feeling the tickle of the buzzer against my skin. When she was finished, I reached my hand to my head and felt what I had never felt before: the tenderest of skin, a hidden part of myself. My fingertips moved across rises and dips. The skin bunched slightly in some places and pulled smoothly in others. It was an unchartered wonder.
I love exploring the top of my head now. My hand moves up, taking in the bony contours of my skull. I fan out my fingers, the whole half of my head cradled in my open palm, and feel my underneath self, soft and vulnerable. The deep me.