Published by PMS PoemMemoirStory
A few days before my 40th birthday I felt in my fingers what I feared was an early sign of arthritis. No, I told my work friend Angela, who is only a few years short of retirement and knows the symptoms of arthritis too well, nothing felt stiff. Nothing ached. I flexed my fingers, then typed on an imaginary keyboard. “They feel… urgent?” Like they couldn’t stand to be still. By the next day both hands buzzed with vibration, though Angela swore she couldn’t hear the low hum, and neither of us could see the tremble I felt. The vibration was contained in my veins, then, or deep in my bones. I laced and unlaced my boots, rubbed my cuticles with lotion, and invented reasons to type. If I kept the hands moving, the buzzing was quieter, the urge to pound the nearest hard surface with my fists suppressed.
The night before my birthday, instead of crawling into bed after brushing my teeth, I sat at the dressing table in my mother’s old room to brush my hair with her gilt and rhinestone brush. It was an early gift from my father and the only thing I saved. The hands loved the cool metal and the heavy sweep through my thick, hip-length hair. The right hand would do ten strokes on its side of my centered part, then transfer the brush to the left hand for the other side. Ten, then another hand-off. The buzzing hushed to a sweet whisper. The glass gems flashed in the lamplight like fireflies.
When my scalp was so tender I winced with each descent of the brush, I stopped. The hundreds of strokes had brought so much oil, that from my part to my jaw my flattened hair clung to my skull and shone like glossy black paint. I smiled at my Mona Lisa face, ignored the answering roar in my ears and the frantic pulse from wrists to fingertips, and climbed into my mother’s bed.