The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Louise Krug’s “Tilted: The Post-Brain Surgery Journals”

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Excerpt from Short Hair

     Four or five months after she got her short haircut, Louise had a dream that she was smiling. It was a perfect, toothpaste- commercial smile, with both ends of the lips moving away from the teeth, her cheeks swelling into little apples. During the dream, Louise thought, “I knew it. I knew my facial movement would come back. It was only a matter of time. Thank God.” And that was it, the dream ended.
     It was the kind of dream that felt so real that it took a few minutes for Louise to realize it was only a dream when she woke up. It left her feeling depressed for the better part of the day. There was nothing to do except wait for the feeling to pass—which she knew from experience, would happen. It had caught her by surprise, that dream, because she had thought she was long past wishing for the impossible, for what had happened to her face, eyes, and body to reverse itself. After all, it had been almost nine years since her brain surgeries, It was the kind of dream that felt so real that it took a few minutes for Louise to realize it was only a dream when she woke up. It left her feeling depressed for the better part of the day. There was nothing to do except wait for the feeling to pass—which she knew from experience, would happen. It had caught her by surprise, that dream, because she had thought she was long past wishing for the impossible, for what had happened to her face, eyes, and body to reverse itself. After all, it had been almost nine years since her brain surgeries, Louise said to herself as she rubbed some hair paste between her palms and then through her hair. She was going for that not-thought-about look her hairstylist had taught her.
     This was the same hairstylist she’d had since she was 18 and had first moved to Lawrence, Kansas. Louise remembered the shock on the hairstylist’s face when she first returned to the salon, having moved back to Kansas after her brain surgeries, looking very different than when she had last been there a year ago. Recently, at an appointment, her hairstylist had admitted to feeling nervous around Louise at first when she had returned.
     “I wasn’t sure how you would be as a person, you know? You looked different, had been through so much, I just didn’t know,” she said, pausing. “But then we started talking again, just like old times, and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s still Louise.’”
     Louise thought she knew what her hairstylist was saying, that what was on her inside was still the same, even if her outside was different. She looked at her new, short hair, the dyed blond growing out and the brown coming in. Her real color, which she hadn’t seen since high school. She was going to leave it, going natural. Maybe she could be more authentic now if she stopped trying to be anything else. “Striking,” Janet had called it, this new, darker color. Louise liked that.


This selection comes from Louise Krug’s book Tilted: The Post-Brain Surgery Journals, coming soon from 99: The Press.

Louise Krug is also the author of Louise: Amended (2012), which was named one of the Top 20 Nonfiction Books of the Year by Publishers Weekly. She is an Assistant Professor of Nonfiction Writing at Washburn University, in Topeka, Kansas. Some of her recent work has appeared in River Teeth, Word Riot, Parcel and Huffington Post. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her husband and children.

Noh Anothai was a researcher with the Thailand-United States Education Foundation (Fulbright Thailand) between 2011-12, during which he hosted cultural events for Thailand’s Ministry of Culture and College of Dramatic Arts. Winner of Lunch Ticket‘s inaugural Gabo Prize for Translation and Multilingual Texts (2014) and OUTspoken’s poetry prize in 2015, Anothai’s original poems and translations of Thai poetry have appeared both online and in-print, most recently in Ecotone and The Berkeley Poetry Review. A reader for River Styx’s annual poetry contest, Anothai teaches for the online MFA program at Lindenwood University.

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