It started with other things—snow globes smashed through windows, dead birds tucked behind the chocolate milk—but it was her hair the rest of the world noticed.
In a sixteen month span—the entire time our uncle lived with us—my sister’s mane went from cobalt to burgundy to inkblot-black, then bald.
Kids were ruthless, worse than before, but really, she was sort of asking for it.
By the end of school, her hair had grown out and still there were tufts missing in random places. Boys passing in the hall made electrical buzzing sounds, mimicking barber shearers. Girls shouted out, “Nice patches!” then giggled, thinking themselves clever.
On graduation day, we sat next to each other because the event was arranged alphabetically, by last name. While the principal spoke about our looming futures and the importance of finding something you loved, my sister yanked fistfuls of hair from her head.
Years later, I flew to out to see her because the disease was in a hurry.
The woman who answered the door forced a smile and let me in.
My sister wore a hanky around her head. She pointed, and said, “Nothing to pluck now.”
Her friend kept petting my sister’s arm, touching her sallow cheek, watching with such keen attention that my heart buckled.
Before getting on the plane, I called home. When my wife asked, “Well, is she still a freak?” I feigned a bad connection, clicked off, and grabbed a fistful.