I was laying with my head on Michael’s lap, enjoying the quiet calm surrounding me after yet another torrential bout of crying. His shirt was wet and crumpled from my tears, my nose was stuffed past the point of being able to breathe, and I was done for the moment.
I felt Michael’s hand on the back of my neck, right up where the shortest hairs grow. Most of my hair was piled up on top of my head in a ragged bun, held together with one ponytail holder. Those few shorter ones that always escape were curling against the nape of my neck and it was these that Michael was gently holding.
“What are you doing?” I asked. I could feel his fingers tugging very softly on those few curly strands, wrapping them around his finger and letting them slide against his skin.
He said something that I thought sounded like he was repeating my question. He continued to fondle the hair, pulling a curl and letting it spring back softly into the hollow below my skull.
“What?” I asked. I didn’t move, the feeling of him playing with my hair was too hypnotic and comforting.
“What I want,” he said again.
“Oh,” I replied. I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“I’ve been playing with my hair a lot lately for some reason,” I said after a few moments.
“I know. I’ve seen you. I’ve been envious. Now it’s my turn,” he said quietly. I breathed out quietly and closed my eyes again. His fingers delicately insinuated themselves into my hair and continued the sweet tugging and caressing.
I stroke and curl and knot my hair when I am anxious, distracted, tired, worried… sometimes more than others, sometimes not at all. This past month or so I’ve found my fingers in my hair much more often than any other time I can recently remember. At the nape of my neck, at my temples, catching errant lost pieces and twirling them mercilessly. For longer than I can remember I have soothed myself in this manner, drawing calm and comfort from the silkiness soft against my fingers and the rhythmic tugging against my scalp.
This time it was Michael’s turn. I can’t know if he got the same primal satisfaction from those little curls as I do, but I do know it helped me feel better. I felt little and loved and protected, gentled from a stress-addled grown-up into a precious child in his arms.