8 [photocopy of a snapshot]
I cut Lillian’s hair every twelfth week, dry it every sixth. It grows. I cut it. I dry it. It has become grey by increments; city pigeon to autumn noon, fading print to cigarette ash. Each accretion of tone slowly highlighting further her pink brittle cheeks, the pools of her eyes. She wears it to her shoulder blades, without layers. She drops a parting in on the left. She favours the front edge, from collarbone to breastbone, softened. In summer she arrives like the girl she still fancies herself sometimes to be, with it gathered in a bun and stuck with a pencil. In winter she leaves with it beneath a tweed scarf like the Queen. She likes it smoothed out with a large round bristle brush. It takes time, but a soothing rhythm can be found within the arid blast of air and the long drawn downstrokes of the brush, the finger twirls of hair in to and out of loose knots and, of course, within the trill of her birdlike voice.
She told me more than once that I reminded her of her first lover, a youth named Stewart who, shortly after they had met, plummeted from a 1940s sky in a burning fighter plane somewhere off the coast of Dover in a dogfight. One day she brought in a photocopy of a snapshot of a young and pale airman, his RAF cap sat at a jaunty angle. I felt the heat and the sickening sensation of falling.
I have lost count of the times that confused eyes have been drawn toward this photocopy of a snapshot in the mirror, and the question asked, is that you?