COMPROMISE (OR, THINGS THAT GROW SMALL)
She had been an odd child. She had loved standing in the too-hot shower for fifteen, twenty minutes never touching the soap, peeling dried glue off her wrinkled palms, what else? Things that started off big but grew small, like helium balloons, bruises, and grandpas. Also, things that fit exactly where they were not meant to be. She was the one putting pencils in toothbrush cases, placing Lifesavers around the candles on the cake.
One day, decades back, she had thrown a tantrum about—what was it? Going to the grocery? She’d screamed “I don’t want to!” And her mother had said, “That’s what family means. It means you take turns doing what you don’t want to do.”
That had stuck with her.
Yet she’d grown into a different person entirely, hadn’t she? Here she is now, searching for a subtle way to ask her husband to stop using the dandruff shampoo. It is too harsh on his scalp. Wouldn’t it be better to have flakey hair than no hair at all?
And here—she’s just caught her husband putting on Rogaine. So, she thinks, she will not have to say it after all. She’s staring at him in the mirror, imagining the future of his baldness like a sunrise. She sees herself there also, her own hair, as it ages, becoming hopefully silver but probably gray.
Now, in bed alone, she is breathing into his cool pillow. The scent of his hair loss is foamy, chemical. She dreams up another of the strange former fascinations that she’d thought she’d forgotten. This one: seeing the space she occupied from the outside. Looping her belt around to the right notch with no waist in it, tracing her shadow in the driveway with sidewalk chalk, watching her snow angel fill slowly back in with snow.