Journal Entry #1
There is more hair in the sink. There is always more hair in the sink. And in the shower. And in the drain. And in my hands. And everywhere. Tumbleweeds of hair across the tile. Webs of hair embedded in the carpet.
And I feel like I lose a piece of myself in every strand.
I’m not sure when it started. The doctor asked if I had had any severe stress in the past six months. I said no, of course, clamping that secret behind my lips. He didn’t need to know, but I think he knew I was lying. He tilted his head at me as if he could see through me. I felt so exposed with all my missing hair, like his gaze was sliding cold fingers along my scalp.
I just wilted under his attention, like I always do. I don’t want anyone to look at me lately, much less a medical examination mapping all I’ve lost. Questions that made it sound like it was my fault. But I pinned the meek smile on my cheeks to try to be convincing.
I could not get out of there fast enough. He didn’t have any answers for me anyway.
Perhaps it’s the secret itself. Festering deep inside me, writhing under my skin, like maggots wriggling on my decaying unspoken words.
When I stare at myself in the bathroom, there is enough hair in the sink to fur one of those naked cats, to make an army of hair dolls. But I don’t think I look guilty. Sickly maybe, but not guilty.
As bald as I am becoming, as pointless as it is to keep the remaining hair when I just tie it up or put it under a hat, I cannot bear to part with it. It feels too much like acceptance. It feels too much like losing.
Journal Entry #2
My sister says I should just shave my head. As if she would. As if she has any idea how it is to have yourself fall apart in your hands.
She just showed up, after the hair loss had gotten real bad, right in time to do what she does best. Make me feel awful. She wasn’t supposed to be here. How could she be here?
“Just shave it, Maisie.” Olivia said, popping a chip into her mouth. “It’s just hair, and you’re already always wearing a hat. You could get a bunch of wigs and have a different hairstyle every day.”
She didn’t glance from her phone as she spoke, the glow making her face out of shadows. I grimaced against her words, swallowing the anger that crawled up the back of my throat.
“What’s been up with you?” She flicked her eyes from the screen at me.
“Um, I’m going bald.” The irritation burned hotter in the pit of my stomach.
“Obviously.” She crunched on another chip, speaking as it smashed between her teeth. “But even before that. What happened to you? It’s probably what has your hair falling out.”
I froze. My eyes went wide. But she didn’t notice, transfixed by the scroll of her feed. I shot up from the cushion and stumbled toward the bathroom.
“I’m just saying, shave it.” Oliva said after me. “It’ll be liberating.” And then under her breath, “And it looks fucking terrible right now.”
Pacing over the tile, I reached up to put my hands in what was left of my hair, tug at in frustration. But I couldn’t. It would just pull more out. So I tossed my hands back down in defeat.
What happened to me?
Of course Olivia doesn’t know. She doesn’t know anything that happens outside her phone, in the world around her. Maybe I was just old enough to miss being a phone zombie. Maybe I want to keep hiding from everyone, especially the million eyes online.
I yanked the rubber band free, hairs tumbling all around, sticking and crawling down my neck. I wanted to rip it all out.
What has happened to me? I’m not even sure I know.
Journal Entry #3
I kicked Olivia out. Not that she even noticed. I could set myself ablaze beside her, and she would sweat from the heat before she lifted her eyes from that damn screen. I should have shoved her out the door myself, but—baby steps.
After going on and on about shaving my head the other night, she brought me a wig. She brought me a fucking wig. I haven’t even forsaken my hair yet. I haven’t even resigned myself to needing one.
And it was not a nice wig.
Perhaps I could have been gracious, donned a forced grateful smile, if it had been well intentioned. Maybe if she had found a quality wig that resembled my current style. No, it was no consolation wig; it was a mean-spirited joke, a way for her to poke my tender wound and smile at the blood it leaked.
She probably found the thing on TikTok or some other mindless feed. This ratty, blonde mess based on the spikes and mullets from the 80s. It was atrocious, and it made me feel atrocious.
“It’s a wig!” she exclaimed as I opened the poorly wrapped package. “Now, you can shave it.” Her smile curled viciously up her cheeks.
She watched me like she would a short and pointless video. Her eyes got that same entertained sparkle. My suffering was her serotonin, and she devoured it, like everyone else scrolling social media.
I did not even open the wig. I held the stiff plastic in my hands and stared down at the garish and obnoxious picture. The model wore bright spandex and a matching sweatband. Definitely the 80s.
“Try it on.” She tapped my hand, and the room felt a million miles away.
“Get out.” My voice was impossibly low, barely a whisper. I didn’t even look up at her, just at that terrible wig. “Get out.”
She must have heard the pain or the menace in my voice because she did get out. Without her usual arguments or mocking. Shrugging, she just picked up her phone and pranced out, like it was her idea.
Her departure didn’t make me feel better, not at first, but it did permit me the time to fall apart. I released the package to the floor. The wig fell flat, leaving the jazzercising model smiling up at me.
I held my head in my hands and watched my own strands rain down around the synthetic disaster, the barbed gift. Combing my fingers through my hair, I pulled the loss out in my hands. I regarded it, lamented it as I had every other day since this began, yet the pain carved so deep in its sadism.
She had said my hair looked terrible as it was, clinging to my scalp, losing the battle. Fucking terrible. This wig, this cruel joke at my feet was worse.
She could not possibly know I deserved it. I kept that secret from everyone, even myself. On a good day.
Journal Entry #4
I have lost. The battle, the war, everything. It just started coming out in clumps. Not strands woven between my fingers, not wispy litter in the sink. Whole handfuls thick enough to squeeze the hair and feel it flatten under my grip.
Where the hair has abandoned me, there are smooth spots, so smooth they almost feel numb under my fingertips. How can something feel blunted to the touch yet sensitive to water or a breeze? It is like my scalp is trying to keep me in denial.
No, it’s not gone.
No, you don’t need to linger here.
Nothing to see; carry on.
Only there is nothing to see. No hair. My scalp is excavating itself from years of careful cultivation. I loved my hair. It was my main indulgence. Regular salon visits, professional color, expensive rice shampoo bars ethically sourced from somewhere deep in China. I fixated on it the way Olivia fixates on virtual strangers.
Somewhere in that worship, it consumed my identity, wove like so many hairs through my sense of self. Who am I without that hair? I surely do not recognize that stranger in the mirror. I only know she cries when my eyes are burning, when my chest is heaving.
She weeps all the time.
I still have hair in my mind. When I picture myself, when I see myself moving through the world or in a fantasy, those maintained tresses sway around my shoulders. I catch myself reaching for my ponytail or sweeping at my bangs when my hand finds only flesh.
I hide under hats. Not wigs, as Olivia would have it. I don’t want a different style every day; I want my hair back. Every day. So instead, I tuck my bald head under knit beanies and tied bandanas and wraps that make me look like I’m undergoing chemo or appropriating a culture.
It would be easier if I had cancer. Well, not easier. It would be more understandable, easier to explain if I knew the exact cause. Yet my doctors have no answers. They throw around words.
Alopecia. Areata. Totalis. Universalis.
All possibilities just tell me that they don’t know. My hair is gone, and they don’t know why.
But I think I do.
Journal Entry #5
There is a patch in my eyebrow. No, rather, there is a patch not in my eyebrow, where the skin is peeking through, promising to claim the surrounding hair. The hair on my face is going to fall out like that on my head, leaving so much flesh. I will just be skin with two beady eyes buried within.
Are my eyelashes going to go too?
Will I even look human after this?
I’m sorry. I’M SORRY!
Have I not suffered enough yet? It was all an accident. I promise.
Please make it stop.
Journal Entry #6
It is gone.
All the hair is gone.
My head and eyebrows were just the start. Even my eyelashes are gone, leaving only fleshy slabs to hood my eyes.
So much flesh. I am rolling, unbroken skin in all directions. I am smooth anywhere I touch. Sickly smooth.
People can no longer look at me. Or they stare too long. Either way, they won’t meet my eyes, but I can feel theirs. I can hear their whispered questions. What happened to you? Are you sick? What’s wrong with you?
What’s wrong with me?Everything.
My hair is fleeing my body. The soil is rotten, and the crop has withered away.
I am rotten. I am spoiled.
Journal Entry #7
I am wearing wigs. When I go out at least. Just like Olivia wanted.
I hate when she’s right.
Sick victory dripped from her lips when I opened the door. She even slipped her phone into her back pocket to fully appreciate it, bask in being right.
“It looks good,” she said as she pushed past me, the smirk twisting her lips. Even her tone betrayed her words.
I wasn’t wearing a trashy, gnarled nest of plastic, like the one she gave me. I spent days Googling and combing Amazon. The thought of pulling one onto my head bound my chest in anxiety. Anxiety so strong and tight it hurt. Like I couldn’t breathe. Like I didn’t want to.
So I poured myself a tall glass of whisky, so tall the large ice cubes floated, and pulled my computer into my lap. I did not turn on the lights. I did not want to see my reflection in the screen. I never want to see myself anymore. Instead, I dimmed the screen and shrouded myself in darkness.
As I draped a blanket across my chest, I wished it was the coroner’s sheet falling over my face. I imagined it flutter down, not a breath to disrupt it.
I clicked and scrolled until the reviews began to blur. So realistic. Not realistic enough. Able to style with heat. Combs in the cap. Wig caps. Wig tape. Human hair. Synthetic. I read the words so many times that they lost meaning.
I settled upon a moderately priced synthetic wig (that most of the users claimed felt so real and fooled their closest friends) that resembled my departed follicles. Dark and impossibly straight. The style choice might have been a mistake. Seeing a ghost of my former self left my heart shriveled with wanting, with lament for the past.
When it came in the mail, I extracted a flattened bundle of brown hair from maybe seven layers of plastic. It felt vile in my hands, like a dead animal. Foreign, offensive, the physical embodiment of every truth I was resisting.
I cried until I collapsed on the floor with the thing still tangled in my hands before I could compose myself enough to try it on.
“It’s almost like your real hair.” Olivia stopped walking down my hall, and I nearly collided with her. She snatched a tress from my wig.
There was no tug on my head. Not like when she pulled my hair when we were children. It was like I was numb.
Somehow, her tightly strung compliments made me feel worse. If the wig was so successful, what did it mean about how I looked without it? Not that I would want to hear her thoughts about that.
Narrowing her eyes at the hair, she rolled it between her fingertips. Then her gaze drifted to my eyebrows.
I have been drawing my eyebrows on for a few days. I started experimenting once there was clearly no hope to keep them. YouTube was not a kind teacher. No wonder I hate social media. No amount of bubbly influencers with glaring selfie lights could teach me how to draw matching eyebrows in the vague area of my former set.
She wasted no words as her eyes widened, but the expression she clapped behind the hand spoke loud enough.
I am hideous, and my attempts at masking my ugly appearance fool no one. As I have always thought when applying makeup: Lipstick on the pig.
Journal Entry #8
I did not know it could get worse. I cannot deserve this.
IT WAS AN ACCIDENT.
No matter how loud I scream at the sky. No matter how much I repeat it in my mind. This curse, this plague, this punishment is never satisfied.
With my full flesh on display, veins are appearing. Deep red lines branch and cross like spiderwebs on this terrible canvas. They swell, they throb in the darkest crimson. As if my body is showcasing its blood before sacrificing it for atonement.
I noticed them this morning when I went to the bathroom after breakfast. They were not there when I woke and greeted the bald gremlin in the mirror. I have abandoned wigs and art class eyebrows and crooked fake lashes. They all felt like a lie, and the contrast between the disguise and the reality underneath is too much heartbreak to sustain.
Yet when I returned to the bathroom moments ago, a ghastlier creature waited for me. My face, my body as I knew them are gone. What I see in the glass does not even resemble me. It does not even look human.
I think my skin has turned gray. It was hard to tell with the light. I was fixated on those terrifying lines dividing what is left of me into pieces.
My gasp could have rattled the apartment. My scream could have shattered the glass. My reflection’s face contorted, twisting into something more horrifying. The red veins scrunched and bulged until they looked ready to burst and splatter the room, add liquid parts of me to all the dry hairs still lingering in the corners and in the vents. My eyes went so wide I could nearly see myself again in them, like an infinite mirror.
I recoiled and leaped back, my head colliding with the wall. The last thing I heard was the smack of my skull on the molding edging the door.
When I awoke on the tile, everything hurt. The pain hammered the back of my head like a bass drum. My skin whined. It felt dry and tugged thin, as if the veins were stretching it too far. Scrambling, crawling, I fled the bathroom, returning only to tape a split trash bag over the mirror.
I never want to see the thing I’ve become again.
At this point, she has to look better than me. Are we not even enough yet?
Journal Entry #9
I haven’t left the house in weeks. Maybe it’s months now. I stopped counting because I am never leaving again. At this point, I am convinced being glimpsed by another person would physically hurt.
It has gotten worse. Yet again. And no matter what I’ve done, no one deserves this. This punishment exceeds any crime.
My skin pain increases steadily every day. I ignored it as another highlight of my decline until I started to feel wet as I tried to eat cold oatmeal. One of the remaining things I had left in the pantry. No work equals no money. I nearly forgot to eat it as it sat cooling on the table.
What’s the point in eating anymore?
But rolling the cold slop between my teeth, my cheeks split as if I was carving a joker’s smile across my face. I would have to cut a smile to put one on my face again. I ignored it, of course. What’s a little more pain? Then the liquid began to spill out, warm and slow.
When I brought trembling fingers to the wounds, a sting bit into my face. My fingertips returned smeared with blood. Red is the only color in my life these days.
I refused to see for myself. I would not remove the plastic taped over the mirror. I would not find another reflective surface. I have slicked them all with coconut oil, making my house look like the dripping edges of Hell.
Instead, I explored with my hands, mapping the damage with my touch. Ragged edges told me the skin had cracked messily. Blood on my hands told me it was deep.
When I moved to gather paper towels to press to my wounds, more ruptures drew across my knees, over my wrists, wherever I bent or pushed. This much pain forced a scream from my throat that dwindled into a pathetic whimper.
I don’t even sound like myself anymore.
No one will be able to read this entry. The blood trickling from my cracked fingers paints the pages too thick.
Journal Entry #10
I know what I need to do. I should have always known. Olivia knows. I should have told her the truth, revealed everything that was happening to my body.
As much as her ridicule would have stung, it would have been nothing compared to ripped skin at every hinge and joint of my body. I would have endured her condescending tone if it would have saved me this torture. If she forgave me, I could be spared.
But my mind found its way there. Baptized in its own suffering, it fires true again at last.
I know what I need to do.
Journal Entry #11
These pages are dirty. Maybe easier to read than the bloody ones, but it doesn’t matter. I had to get this down immediately. Not talking to anyone, even yourself, for however long will do things to you.
I had to do it at night, late at night. Anyone who saw me would be scarred for life and would likely also call the authorities. Or maybe animal control. So I crept out in the darkest hours, the quietest time in this city.
My door stuck to the jamb after so long unopened. The air on the other side was thin, cool, clean. It felt like a violation just to move myself through it, like I would contaminate it with only my presence.
The shoes on my feet filled with blood with every step, and my foot slid around inside, hydroplaning in my own fluid as the skin tore more with each movement. I feared the shoes would fill and leave bloody footprints, a map to find and expose me. Clinging to my body, my clothes flattened in the blood seeping from every rip. I knew it would not be long before it dripped from the flailing edges of the fabric.
I focused on my destination and the tool in my hand. A tool I would have never owned but for what I have done.
My scurry across the night is a blur. I had to walk, couldn’t risk the public transportation I used to frequent. Even the idea of one person trapped with me in a lighted box made me choose every rupturing step on my journey without hesitation or thought.
But it was not far. My sin has always been close enough to whisper to me. I wish I had heard it before it poisoned my flesh against me.
I returned to the scene of the crime. Well, where I tucked the crime after I committed it.
How did it take me this long to figure out that I needed to set her free? I needed to resurrect the truth and expose my trespass.
I thought I would have trouble locating the spot, but my body seemed to march there as if beckoned. I chose this spot on purpose, after all. I wanted to end things close to where they began.
The house was quiet as I crept past. I don’t even know if it has occupants anymore. With how rundown the farm looked, I doubt it. Yet, when I walked through, I saw tall wavering grass in the sunlight. I heard cows grumbling in the distant fields.
Those vivid memories brought me to the tree. The long braids of leaves reached out to welcome me back. A calm rose within me, a settling I have not known in so long, that I may have never known.
I clutched my shovel and sank the spade into the dirt. Despite the sprouted grass, it parted easier than I would have expected after so much time. I plunged the shovel down over and over, planting my foot on the edge. My foot squished into the wet shoe sole before I turned the shovel up and dumped. Again and again.
Green leaves fluttered down. They abandoned the tree and littered around me, framing my trespass. I buried them in the dirt I dug up and discarded.
My skin sloughed off on the handle, and the blood poured down like water, making the shovel slick. I had to cling to it with all my strength, as if I was digging in loose gloves. But I had not buried deep, so it did not take long.
Now, my crime is out there for the world to find and to see. I have confessed to the night. I have cleansed myself of the poisonous guilt on my soul.
I just have to wait for it to stop, wait for it to finally stop and get better.
Journal Entry #12
Olivia came home to me. The locked door did not stop her. She left muddy footprints as she staggered to me from the hallway. I didn’t mind. If I wasn’t cleaning my apartment to meet her scrutiny, what would I clean for?
She did not have a phone clutched in her hand, though her faded bones did peek through the wrinkled skin on her fingers. They cracked as she walked as if searching for the device, unsure what to do with nothing in their grip.
One glittering eye fixed on me from under the crushed imprint on her skull. Ragged edges of bone lined the dark hole exposing where her brain once was.
I had not expected her to come. I did not think she needed to bestow forgiveness on me directly. I had been sitting on the couch, perched on the red-smeared cushion in anticipation of the cure washing over me. I don’t know how long I waited, but I would have waited until I collapsed.
When I saw her, I knew it was time. This is all over.
She sits beside me now, mixing her mud with my blood on the couch. She mirrors how she found me, rigid on the edge of the cushion, hands wrapped over knees.
We are back together, so it is all over.
I just had to get this down before she forgives me.
Police Report Case #48632698-06381-2
911 Dispatch received call at 0537 hours. Self-identified Miranda Gerald requested wellness check on neighbor, Margaret “Maisie” Walker. Reported erratic behavior by Walker followed by observed self-isolation in apartment. Reported “strange noises at odd hours” coming from shared wall. Said called 911 due to “screams and struggle” coming from Walker apartment.
Dispatch issued at 0544 hours. FD and EMT arrived on-scene first at 0607 hours. Door was locked and deadbolted and required breach. FD found Walker on floor of main room. EMT began resuscitation efforts at 0609 hours.
PD Unit 712 arrived on-scene at 0611 hours. Cleared apartment. No other residents or intruders identified. No signs of forced entry or other breach. Windows locked, no other door in residence.
EMT cease efforts 0617 hours. Victim declared dead. CSI dispatched.
Victim found on the floor in the main room beside coffee table. Victim found on back. Significant wound on left forehead. Blood pool under victim. Blood also found on corner of coffee table. Splatter on table and floor.
Coroner arrived 0723 hours.
Final report pending CSI findings and autopsy report from Coroner. Current working assumption wound self-inflicted. No identified evidence suggesting other parties or means of exiting apartment.
Coroner’s Report Case #48632698-06381-2
Deceased intake at 0801 hours. Received by Liam McMann.
Partial autopsy requested by PD to confirm cause of death. Police report attached.
Autopsy initiated at 1016 hours by Dr. Andrea Washington.
Deceased arrived fully clothed. Clothes were extremely soiled. No shoes on body. Clothes submitted into evidence.
Deceased measured at average height of 5’6” and weighed 122.4 pounds. Deceased was underweight with signs of malnutrition and dehydration.
Deceased presented with severe skull fracture on forehead, above left eye. Partial collapse of skull into the wound. Bruising and fracture patterns indicate multiple impacts at high force. Police report identified corner of coffee table as likely weapon.
No defensive wounds or other injuries were discovered on the body, consistent with police report suggesting no assailant.
No drugs, chemicals, or high levels of foreign substances found in blood. Deceased presented with Alopecia consistent with diagnosis in medical file. No other visible physical deficiencies or health problems.
Cause of Death: Blunt force trauma to the head
Manner of Death: Suicide