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WORDS FROM FRIENDS

THE SHEET

It was a narrow, mint green rectangle, about the size of a crib sheet with Auckland Hospital Delivery stenciled large and black in one corner. The midwife brought it with her to the house, and my baby slid out onto it like a little otter. The midwife forgot it, and I washed it with the first load of diapers and undershirts. Some of the blood stayed, making furry looking, irregular rings—wide, brown outlines of small continents. Now and then, I used it in my daughter’s crib—clean, just a bit stained. A male nurse lived in our house then. He liked rules and said he would take the sheet back to the hospital. It sounded like a threat, but we moved up to the tip of the North Island before he had the chance. I wanted the sheet; it belonged to us, to that night. Over time the brown faded with each washing, fainter and fainter and then gone.

I liked to cut my friends’ hair for friendship, never for money. I had a dress, brown with blue lines like on mattress ticking. It was of thin cotton, straight and loose. I wore it when I cut hair, and I used the mint green sheet for a barber’s cape, fastened with a big diaper pin, a blue plastic duck where the point locked in. I cut hair in my kitchen, after supper, when there was black night pressing against steamy windows. People want their hair cut when they are going through transition, and we talked about their changes as tufts of hair fell soft onto wooden floorboards. I became the basket for what they were leaving and where they were going. The first time I cut my daughter’s hair, she was two. She kept asking me, so I got out my brown dress and slipped it over my head. I pinned the mint green sheet around her shoulders and got out the shears engraved with the name of a German town. The next morning my girl saw her white-blonde hair standing straight up and out to the sides from her head. She cried, “I look like a star!” My heart flipped, and I laughed.

Then came a time when no one asked for haircuts anymore, and I folded the mint green sheet away in a drawer with other, bigger sheets. From time to time I saw an edge of it and remembered the night of my slippery otter, the nights of clipping friends’ hair and listening to their in-between times. Thirty-two years after the birth of my baby, I moved into the place where I live now. I left the kitchen window uncovered for a while, until the western sun got too hot. I didn’t have money for a curtain, but I remembered the sheet, folded it in half, clipped curtain rings to the fold, and hung it at the window. Sunlight pricks through tiny holes in places. Pin holes, story holes, holes for changing-times.

© Anna Redsand All Rights Reserved
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