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How I Got my Hair Back photo

Today I am leaving my husband. Last week when I told him, he took down my suitcase and ran over it with his ’73 Galaxie. Afterwards he got out his relic of an accordion and squawked on it for three hours. His 190 pounds makes a dent in the bed now, as he sits watching me empty my dresser. His face looks clownish, but like a sad clown’s with his sad sunken-down mouth and eyes, lids puffy as naked oysters. He says he loves me. Sure. Barry wouldn’t know love if it laid an egg on his head. I throw a cardboard box on the bed and toss in underwear, bell bottoms, sweaters, bras---padded, Barry's idea---nighties and two York Peppermint Patties I’d hidden from Barry under my clean panties.

Things have been getting worse between Barry and me since the incident last October that incited the house. For months now, twice a day the old house squeezes in its front wall, then pulls it back---in and out, in and out---like a giant accordion. Barry doesn’t get it, that the house mocks him. The wall, I remind him, only started acting up after his own bad behavior. Barry says it’s all in my head about the house, about the wall, but if that’s true, what made the groove across the floor? And how’d Barry’s big toe get broken if it wasn’t from trying to stop the wall with his foot? And why’s Barry afraid of it?

I’ve gotten used to the wall, to its rhythm. By counting I know when it will open and let me through. I’ve come to think of the house as a friend, but I don’t tell Barry that.

Barry claims he doesn’t remember what happened at the St. Jude's Halloween party. I will never forget. The trouble started when, all full of himself, Barry wearing blue scrubs and a borrowed stethoscope went from fake monitoring the women’s hearts to feeling up their breasts. That wasn't the worst. A few more drinks and Barry grabbed my toy witch’s broom and goosed the women with the handle.

Soon as we got home, Barry–acting as though nothing had happened–bounded across the bedroom, penis bobbing, boxer shorts dragging from one foot, and surprised me by putting on the Commodores instead of Lawrence Welk. When “Three times a lady” came on, Barry, penis still bobbing, raced back, threw off the bed covers and jumped in. He grabbed the toy broom from me and laid it in the middle of the bed. Giving me that look, he said, “Leave your witch’s costume on,” and patted the bed for me to get in. I didn’t say anything. Didn’t call him a pervert, just went into the bathroom and took off my pointy witch’s nose, hat, and shoes. I slipped my costume down my hips, pulled on my flannel nightie, and baby-stepped back to the bedroom. 

Though he knows I don’t like it, Barry lifted my nightgown over my breasts and bunched it up around my neck. When he reached for me between the legs, I just thought he wanted sex. But he grabbed me hard by my secret hair. “Didn’t I tell you to leave on your costume? “Now, are you going to be good?  Huh?”  The “huh” hurt. That’s when he pulled on my hair. I didn’t resist, but when he wouldn’t let go, I asked if he'd heard of John Rideout. When he didn't answer, I told him Rideout was the first husband to be charged under Oregon's marital rape law. He tugged again, and let go.

It isn’t two months before Barry pulls me again by my secret hair and asks if I’m going to be good. The next day the house does something strange. It stops squeezing its wall open all the way. Instead, on the count of ten it makes a small gap barely big enough to let me through. On the count of fifteen, it starts to close. It does this all day long. Weird. Maybe the house is trying to tell me something. Or maybe Barry’s right---I’m crazy. He always tells me this. Last week when he did, I got all fired up. While he watched Lawrence Welk reruns, I sneaked his accordion outside, lit two Presto Logs ™, and watched them flame. I understand pyromaniacs better now. Watching the blaze was quite satisfying, especially when it melted Barry’s accordion.  

I've finished packing and am leaving. Ten, nine, eight, seven . . . . I’m at the wall now, counting, waiting for it to open. Barry comes up behind me and lays his hands on my shoulders. I shake them off.  Six, five . . . . On the count of five the wall opens early to let me outside.  I breathe in and smile, catching my lip on a tooth, as I recall the satisfying smells of burning Presto Logs ™, of melting plastic.

Barry’s inside, yipping and yapping. Probably he just figured out what happened to his accordion. But he yells louder: The wall’s got him pinned by the butt with his head sticking out. I need to make it let go. He was just kidding when he said I was crazy. He wants me back. He loves me. He’ll be good now.

I picture his sad clown mouth, his puffy, naked-oyster eyes, and my gut churns out pity. I put my hand on my heart and tell myself to breathe. From its nest beneath the eves, a robin darts toward me, then flits over to Barry. When it lands on his head and lays an egg, I chuck my things in the Galaxie, climb in, slam the door, pop a peppermint patty in my mouth, chew, swallow, burst into song, and drive off singing.  “Zippity do dah, zippity a, my oh my, what a beautiful day.”