When I was a freshman in college, my family decided to move. We all liked the old house, but my little brother’s neighborhood friends had all begun to behave badly — lying, stealing, and brandishing knives. These boys were eight years old. So my parents bought a house across town, where the lawns were bigger and the neighbor children had babysitters.
The actual move occurred over the summer, while I was at home, and because I was helping with the packing up and shuttling over of a few boxes at a time, I was given a set of keys to the empty new house. Sometimes I would sneak over there to take a nap in the basement, away from the chaos at the old house. I only used the new house as a make-out hidey-hole two times. I was very responsible. One day, when I was investigating the bedroom that would be mine, I reached up to a high shelf in the closet and touched hair.
I wiped my hand furiously on my jeans and went to find something to stand on so I could see. I remember feeling kind of frightened — I was alone in an empty house with stranger hair! I got up on a box and looked. There were several piles of fine, dark hair trimmings along the shelf. Very short. Curled. Did I say dark?
I refused to acknowledge the obvious. Maybe it was beard trimmings! Or ... men’s chest hair? But this had been a girl’s room. There were frilly curtains and a pansy-printed wallpaper border. There was a dusty scrunchie on the floor in the closet.
It was unmistakably pubic hair. This girl had put piles of pubic hair trimmings on a shelf in her closet and not cleaned it up when they moved out. Maybe she didn’t want to move?
I did not tell my parents. My mother was an erratically superstitious person, and I thought she might freak out and suddenly refuse to move or something. But I remained so disgusted (pubic hair in my closet!), even after we’d lived there for months, that I secretly concocted an alternative story to tell myself about the hair.
The story was that the girl had fallen in love with someone forbidden to her (maybe by her family or religion), and it was a long-distance relationship, and he sent her love letters with his beard trimmings in them.
This is very creepy and bizarre, I know, but it seemed less gross. Also, there was a romance aspect. The point was to make the hair funny-strange instead of funny-barf. Sometimes, when I remembered the hair (that I had touched!), I would get queasy, and just think beard-beard-beard to myself to kind of reassign the weirdness to a safer place.
This was not the only time I found bits of hair on a shelf, however. When I was 22, I made the classic young-in-New-York mistake of subletting my room to a friend of a friend with only a verbal agreement. My subletter was a momma’s boy with a taste for cocaine and foreign film who practically jizzed his pants at the mention of Manhattan’s fancier restaurants. He skipped out early, and it took every cent I had to pay the $750 rent — all my waitressing savings (which was what, eighty bucks?) and each blessed check I’d received for graduation.
I still hate that guy.
But anyway, when I returned to the apartment to clean up and move out, I found the bookshelf above my dresser dusted with a fine coating of beard trimmings. Ugh! Disgusting, to clean up the beard trimmings of the asshole who practically stole $750 dollars from me. But then I remembered the hair trimmings from my closet. The hideous ambiguity of those hairs.
Beard beard beard ugh beard beard. Oh my God, beard, right? Beard. Beard.
Rebecca Scherm usually writes fiction, bless her heart.