I woke up early, sun pushed through cracks in the cheap clanking blinds.
My husband asked, “Will you take me to the bus stop today?” because it was a single-digit-degreed morning,
and I would usually put up a fight to leave warmth of a fire’s dance
but part of me knew I was going to the store after I dropped him off, right then.

I knew I was buying hair dye from the store, but wound up buying more (naturally)
thanks to the clearance tubs. My limit was “Things Which Cost $1” and I found
a hydrating face mask, nail polish colored “Brown Nose” (no wonder it was clearance…),
and a Milk & Oil hair treatment.

At home, I poured boiling water from a kettle onto coffee grounds, I half paid attention
to my wrist’s swirling motion–Social media should shut itself down,
straight “Sorry there’s a glitch” whatever bullshit tech excuses apps use,
when someone beloved dies.–Social media should shut itself down, should somehow
be banned on death days, Facebook is not the way to discover a young woman you adore has died.
I set the kettle down at 241 grams of water. I gave out twenty-nine kisses and took nineteen back.

Banned, or blinked back to life, I took to Facebook too: a repost of the most beautifully
ragged hands folded softly over each other, flower petals of pink and orange and white
all around those childish hands. I’ve watched those hands swirl a kettle around coffee grounds, her smile nervous, “It’s hard when everyone’s looking at me!”
I watched those hands play a blue bass guitar and swing into a microphone like nerves
never existed. I watched those hands push espresso-flecked hair from soft sky eyes,
sky above mountain glaciers on a cloudless afternoon eyes.

I understood why I needed to dye my hair darker that day; a natural instinct,
a sign to show on me, to display… So, I began the ritual:
It took me too long to figure out how to unfold the unnecessarily wet mask
with its too-wide eye holes and too-small oval mouth hole, but I eventually got it
to stick to my face. It didn’t take long to think about Julietta not twenty-eight like me,
not trying to figure out a damn face mask and placing as awkwardly as possible to her
face. At twenty-eight her face wouldn’t have needed one, anyway, so smooth like marble.

I removed chipped coral nail polish from my fingers, deep purple from toes.
I removed the face mask and wasn’t sure if I agreed with rubbing excess formula
into my skin instead of washing it off, but I let it be.
I painted my nails “Brown Nose”, which is a beige-milk chocolate color. I wondered
if Jules’ nails were painted, wrapped around thick green lily stems, if her hands
would stay tangled with white lilies until they both reconnected with soft earth.

I drank unsweetened coffee slowly, until it cooled completely.
In the bathroom, I wrapped a dark towel around my throat, I put on plastic
gloves and squeezed contents of bottle one into bottle two. I shook the bottle
like maracas in a Mariachi band. I drew the bottle across my head’s crown,
across the plane where Jules’ cancer lived. I pushed cream liquid around
the frame of my face and let it sit. New growth takes longer to soak in color.

I made sure nothing remained in the bottle and piled my coated hair into a bun.
I sat in the bathroom for ten minutes, maybe longer. I didn’t set a timer, this time.
The conditioner in dye sets is always a unique experience, thick and slicker
than ‘normal’ hair conditioner. It’s supposed to be used once a week, but my
hair is not chocolately-smooth like Jules’ long locks. I’d use it twice a week because
these curls are starved of hydration, needing more energy than capable,
which happens in bodies more than we think.

After what felt like long enough, I rinsed until water ran clear.
I lit a Nag Champa stick in the top of a red skull on an incense tray,
I didn’t talk and didn’t take breath for granted. I listened to a single bird chirp
loudly in the amphitheater yard outside my window.
I put on my torn Ouija board sweater and waited for Jules to speak using my hands.



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