Dress Up


Dress Up
by Angela Brussel

Your hairs fell with great, thunderous thuds to the floor, the volume of their import far exceeding the barely audible sound they actually emitted, and you smiled. I watched the bunches gather, the heaviness of our history in them, by my feet like little carcasses, the linoleum a mottle of brown and regret, and I grew flush with despair. It took everything in me to not bend my knees and forage for every last wisp.

As they fell, I remembered when I fell in love with you. Those were the flyaway hairs that crept out from underneath your hat. The ones I would press against your temples and kiss, all parts of your being, holy. I would have collapsed at your feet if you let me. But you said you did not believe in idol worship. You said theology taught you how deeply we disfigure ourselves for God. For love. So I learned to love you from a distance, the objects you touched as much apart of you as your own flesh.

The hairs fell and I held your hat as though it were a relic, my body nearly buckling with mystic abandon, my mind packing weight onto objects where it seemed like none could be packed, meaning where it seemed like there was none to be had.

Maybe you didn’t know what you meant when you did it. Maybe you didn’t believe that loss has a way of begetting more loss. That when you cut those hairs, you may as well have razed our home. That with each snip, you cleaved us in two, in four, in eight, in numberless pieces. Me irrevocably sheared off from you. And I felt too foolish to say so because it was just hair. It was just hair and it was already dead. But I knew what it meant. And I knew the knowing was in you too.

More of you plummeted to the ground and I remembered that time I rouged my lips and you drank your wine and you didn’t notice the tendrils in my hair. I put them there for you and you looked dead straight past them. And when we slept you flattened them with your sleeping fist and I scolded myself for spending all those hours trying to get you to see me as I wanted to be seen. Maybe I was too concerned with how you saw me to see you.

And it wasn’t just the tendrils. It was so much more than that. There were coats and shoes and belts and purses, to name a few. There were portraits I drew of you and those chords I plucked and those plants I grew from seed, all of it suffused with see me. All of it a suffocating stockpile of stuff and more stuff leaving so little room for you, and even less for us.

After the deed was done, after the mane was clipped, and the past, quashed, we made our way to the bed, where you laughed at me as you held me close because I deliriously mistook Ghana for Ganesh. I hoped you would forget my blunder as I ran my fingers through your hair in the dark, the ridges of your skull stretching your skin so taut I did not understand who you were, who I was, anymore. And I wept. Without you knowing it, I wept.

Dawn arrived and you moved through it, a mysterious mass of atoms, my own shrouded in blankets, formless without another, stretching its limbs to reorient itself in space and then deep in the bruised glow of daybreak you kissed me. My mouth, a widening gyre, expelled all those months of knowing, but pretending not to.

You packed a trekking bag and were gone.Your mind a dizzying constellation of potential routes through rugged terrain and wild cityscape, India took you. But you were gone long before you left, weren’t you?

I stayed up with the dawn a while after you set off and I rummaged through clothing and records and books. I played dress-up alone. If you saw me, you’d laugh, but it meant so much more to me. And when I put you on, I wondered if you had ever really even been there. If I had ever really even known you at all.

I sat on your rug and wore your coats and your hats, my own hairs like your flyaways creeping out from underneath. Maybe that was the closest I got.


Angela Brussel is a writer based in Brooklyn, New York with non-fiction and fiction that have appeared in The Awl, Nylon Magazine, Electric Literature, The Wrong Quarterly, and Brooklyn Magazine. Her current interests range from nihilism and the neuroscience of addiction to the psychology behind conspiracy theories and persecution. You can find her most recent work at angelabrussel.com.

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