THE SOUND OF THE DEATH METAL BIRDS
March 18, 2022
by Mugdhaa Ranade
My eyes flap open. You know, like an envelope flap. Shut. Open. Sounds weird, but if eyes can ‘fly open’, surely they can flap open? Birds have to flap their wings to fly, right? So ‘fly open’ indicates that flapping is happening.
Speaking of birds, there they are, hidden out of sight, chirping their little lungs out. I wonder what they are trying to say. Are they cursing their biological clocks for hardwiring them into waking up before sunrise, or are they rejoicing that they woke up to begin living through another day? Or do they, like me, wish they had stayed dead to the world? Or is their sweet song the harbinger of destruction? Are birds as hardcore as this one Instagram artist depicts them to be? I don't know.
What I do know is that I have to pee and there is a crime scene waiting for me in the bathroom, the proof of my nightly misdeed. I don't feel any regret, well, not yet at least. But delaying the inevitable never hurt anyone, right? So I lie still in bed, listening to the death metal chirping, letting my thoughts wander. Who am I kidding, I think about my hair—the nest of gentle, uneven curls atop my head, and what I liked imagining as Medusa's snakes, dead on the bathroom floor.
It feels strange when I touch my neck. Bare and empty, for one, but also, smooth? I press my palm between my nape and my pillow. I never thought my neck could feel this smooth in the morning. For once, I haven't sweated through the night. Or maybe I did, but there was no thicket of hair to trap the sweat. Nice. I could get used to this feeling. I stretch leisurely, doing my own version of the death metal screaming— but confined to my throat— and turn on my side.
My bladder is not happy. I press my thighs together tightly and wait for the wave to recede. I heave a sigh of relief once it does and then sit up, slowly, carefully, clenching my abdominal muscles. Then I rush to the bathroom.
I'm already missing the mind-numbing bliss I felt as I emptied my bladder, because I can feel my head filling up with a cacophony of thoughts. I focus on the most innocuous one— it was a super long pee. The kind where a few moments later, you begin to wonder if you're asleep and dreaming about peeing in the bathroom, but have actually wet the bed. Then, the thought I don’t want to think pops up in my head: what do I do about my hair?
Suddenly, I hear the song I use as my alarm tone blaring on my phone and rush out of the bathroom. I manage to hit ‘dismiss’ at the "let's burn" line and think: maybe I should burn my hair. I extinguish that line of thought immediately though; why put myself in a dangerous situation deliberately? Plus, the smell of burning is quite noxious. My first and last baking fail was a badly burnt cake, and the smell clung to the house for a good two days. My mother hated it then, and she certainly wouldn't appreciate it now. The dustbin it is, then. I don't think anyone who knows me might hate me enough to scavenge through our garbage to make a voodoo doll using my hair. Superstitions are so stupid.
I carry my phone inside the bathroom; I like listening to music. The marble countertop, after finding a patch on it that isn't wet, provides a nice base for the bass heavy song that I blast on full volume. When the beat drops, I drop to the floor and lovingly collect my dead children.
Well, not like they were alive to begin with. Hair is dead skin cells after all. Strange how dead things grow on and from our living bodies, and we often treasure them as if they were the essence of life. I can't condemn anyone for treasuring their hair, though. My hair were—are?— my one vanity. Any beauty blogger would be proud of my hair care routine.
I feel the hair in my palms. They are so soft, so lustrous, they'll grow back. Right? Fuck, my vision is blurrier than usual. Don't tell me I need an eye-ch—oh.
Why am I crying? I have no reason to cry. It's just hair. It'll grow back, it'll grow back. I try to think about people who have it so much harder than I do in this situation— like my batchmate and former acquaintance, who fought off fucking cancer and came back to school two years my junior, having lost her long braid to chemotherapy, but having found the meaning of life. That sounds like I'm romanticizing cancer, but there's fatter teardrops rolling down my cheeks now and I swipe at them with the heels of my palms, my mind blank.
I should donate my hair.
That's a thought. That's the nicest thought I've had since last night, maybe since last long-time-ago. Feeling instantly better, I stand up on my partly-numb feet, assume a solemn stance, and take small, definite steps out, holding the hair as gently as I would a princess, or a prince— whoever needs carrying, actually. I am lying— I don’t have the strength to carry anyone, or anything heavier than an adult cat, and that too just barely.
I pull out the Converse shoe box containing childhood memorabilia and letters from people I once called friends. It reeks of nostalgia, so I deem it an appropriate temporary grave for my hair. I gaze at the cemetery for a moment, then close the lid and gently put the box in its rightful place— buried deep in my closet. I grab a towel and walk back to the bathroom. Now that the sun has risen, I can see the birds out the window. My phone blasting music drowns out their death metal sounds.
Mugdhaa Ranade lives in Mumbai, India, and works at a production house as a writer. Her dream in no particular order is to publish a novel, get a screenplay commissioned, and adopt a cat.