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Redhead - Dylan Churchill

So- the vacuum was laying on its side, like you know how sometimes you tip something over that isn’t supposed to be tipped over, like a couch, or a stool, or a child with too much water in its ear, and there’s that moment where you’re looking at the thing and the whole awkwardness of it before remembering the task at hand. And in this case the task was to figure out why on earth the vacuum had ceased to be a vacuum.

Sometimes it’s due to a paperclip, or an orphaned pebble, or a defiant thumbtack, but the most common cause is the gradual accumulation of wriggly, wiry, thready human hair. Which is why I’m surprised that I was surprised to see such a tangled bit of the stuff down at the south (now west) end of the vacuum. But the scene was startling, not because I’d never seen the vacuum succumb to hair before, but because of the color of it. People say red. But it isn’t red. It couldn’t be further from red. I never could understand why “red” seemed like an appropriate description for a color so captivating there really is not an appropriate word for it. It’s that golden-orange part of a tiger’s coat, or a field of wheat at sunset, or a bowl of creamy tomato bisque, or an Orangutan. But it is certainly not coca cola red.

You see, it had been several months and about 20 vacuumings or so since a creature with that kind of fur went lumbering and lounging and dancing and crying and singing and cooking and cleaning and sleeping and stretching around the apartment. I used to pet that hair. Bury my nose in it during countless moments of tangled limbs. I used to lay there and watch sunlight make amber sparkles on it. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and spend a minute or two shocked as to how so much of it had ended up in my mouth and around my ears and threaded through my eyebrows. I used to hang around in its splash zone while being brushed after a fresh shower, catching shampoo-scented water droplets that flung toward me from the hand doing the brushing with no regard. I knew that hair. I knew that hair for three years. And that head of hair went flashing and twirling and bouncing and swaying around the apartment, making a thin layer of itself on every piece of furniture, countertop, bedsheet and blanket. That hair was more present to me for those three years than my own, which is pale and orderly. A more vibrant part of my life than any favorite color I’d ever had (and there were many). I rotated around that orange head like planets orbiting a star. The sun of my life. And then, almost suddenly, unimaginably, that head of hair walked out the front door and down the stairs for the last time. Unknown at the time as to whether or not it would be walking back up.

The amount of times I had to cut her hair out of the bottom of the vacuum during our gig together, I don’t know. But what I can tell you is I really never thought twice about it. In fact, it was a subtle nuisance to me. She had a way of becoming lodged in the wheels of my natural turnings too, so I related to the poor vacuum and would promptly release it of its predicament with a pair of scissors. But now, as my gaze became lost in the spiral-shaped wheel dressed completely in red hair, I had no idea what to do. No color was lost at all, and it appeared as if it was braided around the wheel as beautifully as it was when it hung, braided from her head. The sight of it made real for me the amount of time that had passed since I had seen it in its physical form. Its presence suspended clearly in its absence. I cannot describe the whirlpools of emotion and energy within me as I walked, gripping her hair in my hand, from the vacuum to the trashcan. But I can say it was one of the longest and hardest walks of my life. I placed the bundle gently in the bin and stared for a moment one last time at it. A small, soft nest sitting on top of discarded eggshells and coffee grounds and crumpled paper towels. And then, after shutting the lid, I returned quietly to the vacuum to continue where I had left off.


Dylan Churchill uses his real life experience to honor and express the complexity of the human heart through simple and effective word choice. Dylan breaks the rules of writing at most opportunities and has been influenced by writers of all types, shapes, and sizes.

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