Hat Head

May 14, 2008
By Harper Makowsky, New York, NY

He was wearing a hat. He never wore a hat. It was a ski cap, one of those warm ones that came down past the ears. The kind you see on every person as they walk down the street in the middle of January. But it wasn't January; it was April.
Elise watched as he turned and reached down for his backpack. His hair just peeked out the bottom of the hat. Its short straggly tips flailed in every direction. Although usually a chocolate brown, it had been dyed platinum blond. The bright white of his hair blended with his pale neck. Elise stared as the young boy turned to her and waved.
Elise waved back, grabbed her bag off the floor and walked over to him. She shook his cap while ruffling his hair. Tyler looked up at her and adjusted his hat as he pushed open the gym door. They took a few steps to the curb, and Tyler grabbed Elise's hand as they crossed the street.
“So what are you doing at a gym?” Elise asked.
“Sixth grade basketball practice.”
“I didn’t know you were into sports.”
“I’m not, really. My mom thought it would be a good way to get my extra energy out.”
“But the practices are really long.”
"Yeah, seven o’clock is pretty late,” Elise smirked. “Whatever happened to art classes?"
"I still do it at school. My teacher is such a good artist. I think I'm getting a lot better."
"That's great!" Elise replied, "Well, they both seem to calm you down." He nodded. "So, can I see any of your drawings when we get to your house?"
"Great." As they continued down the street, Tyler began to fondle the tips of his hair.
Elise swallowed, "So, anything new?"
"Um. Socially?" Elise forced a nod.
"Yeah. Actually, the other day, I was sitting at lunch alone, and all these kids came and sat down next to me."
"That's fantastic."
"Yeah, except today they all kind of ignored me."
"Don't worry, they'll come around. I went through the same sort of thing. Fifth grade can be tough."
"Sure." He stared at the ground.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah." He glanced around. "So, I haven't seen you in a while."
"I know. It’s high school. I have so many classes. I rarely have time to baby-sit."
"That sucks."
Elise nodded. She stole another peek at his hair and the words pushed their way out of her mouth, “So what's up with the new hair?"'
"Nothing." Tyler's face turned red as he released the strand of hair from his fingers.
"It's different."
"It's nothing." He pulled his cap further down.
As they entered his house, Tyler threw down his bag, sprinted over to the TV and turned it on. Elise walked over to the table in the hall and picked up a note.
We'll be home at 11:00; bedtime is 10:00. The emergency numbers are in the kitchen.
See you later, Carol and Dan
Elise placed down the note and yelled into the other room, "This says ten o’clock bed time, but I'll tell you what- Since I’ve been away for so long, I'll let you stay up tonight if you pretend to be asleep when your parents get back, promise?"

"Promise," Tyler said as he flipped the channel to Dancing with the Stars.

Elise rolled her eyes and grabbed a Diet Coke from the fridge. She strolled back into the TV room and sat down on the couch.

"Who do you think is going to get the axe?" Tyler said.

"Not sure." She yawned and bit her nails. Tyler looked over at her.

"Do you have to do that?"

"Sorry." she said, furrowing her forehead and placing her hands in her lap. "I didn't know it bothered you." Tyler bobbed his head and turned back to the screen. They watched as each celebrity has-been danced past the judges. Elise yawned. Her eyes began to wander. She scanned the room, her eyes finally falling on Tyler. He began to scratch at his head, running his hands through his hair. Elise’s fingers prickled as she pressed them into her lap

"Do you have to do that?" She snapped. Tyler stared up at her. "I mean, if you can scratch your head, then I can bite my nails." Tyler quickly put his hands down. He reached over and pulled two Band-Aids out of a drawer, wrapping each one around his thumbs. He pulled his hat farther down his head and stared at the TV. Elise’s fingers stopped tingling, but she continued to stare at him. Tyler’s eyes remained glued to the screen.
Elise broke her gaze away from Tyler, grabbed her empty can of soda and walked out of the room into the kitchen. She threw the can into the trash and noticed a clump of hair laying on top of the day's remains. Elise's breathing stopped short. She looked away. "That couldn't be it", she thought, he must have cleaned out his brush.

Elise walked back into the room as the credits rolled. The show over, Tyler was still transfixed, forcing his hands into his lap. Turning off the TV, Elise asked, "So, do you want some hot chocolate?" Tyler looked down at his feet,
"Why not? You love hot chocolate."
He pulled at his hair and continued to stare at the ground. "My mom's trying to cut down on my sugars. You know, 'cause it gets me worked up and stressed."
"You take pills for that though."
"But when they wear off, I tend to--" fear slashed across his face. He dropped the strand and placed his hand over his mouth. Elise stared at the ground where the hair had fallen. "It's just a diet, to calm me down. Just a diet."
"I thought you were pretty calm today."
"Never mind. I just don't want any." He slid past her and into his room.
Elise followed him and stood in the doorway. “So,” she said, “what do you want to do?”
Tyler fiddled with his hands and began to pick at the Band-Aids on his fingertips. “Maybe I should just go to bed.”
“It’s better if I’m asleep and don’t have too much extra time on my hands. “
“Tyler, anxiety won’t hurt you. Trust me, I know.”
Tyler stared up at her, then walked over to his drawers and pulled out pajamas. Elise sighed and stepped out.
She sat on the couch and stared at the blank TV screen. After a few seconds she grabbed the box of Band-Aids. Elise looked inside, then turned it over, spilling out all the bandages. They lay sprawled across the couch. She inspected each one, but they were only Band-Aids. Shaking her head, Elise scooped them all back into the container.
"Are you ready yet?" She yelled.
"Already in bed!" He yelped from his room. Elise made her way to Tyler's room, where she pulled his covers over his shoulders.
"Good night Tyler," she said. Tyler curled up in his bed.
After shutting his door, Elise grabbed a magazine off of the bookshelf. The large book next to it slammed on the floor. Her heart jumped. The slam echoed through the hall. she heard the sounds of Tyler rolling over. Elise picked up the book and flipped it open. Too tired to read, she glanced at the random pictures of men and women with bald spots on their heads. Elise sighed as she placed the book down. She stood up and stared at Tyler's shut bedroom door. She glanced from the book to his door and made her way towards it.
The floor creaked. Elise took a gulp of air as she turned the doorknob. She stared at Tyler as he rolled towards the wall. A wave of shivers ran up her spine. Elise looked at him for a few seconds. Her hands shook as she reached out and touched his hair. As she ran her fingers through it, she touched upon a bald spot. Elise took a deep breath, and still quivering, she lifted up his hair. Underneath the ice-blond layers was a thick ring of skin. It stretched around the entire bottom half of his scalp, each hair pulled from its roots. She took a step back. As she pulled her hand away, it grazed his scalp and the blood rushed from her head. Her breathing was heavy. She took a final look, then walked out.
Elise entered the hallway. She stood and stared at the TV room. She could see Tyler sitting there pulling at his hair. Her throat began to close. Her heart pumped rapidly. A surge ran through Elise’s body. Her scalp tingled. Her fingers trembled. It was coming back.
Elaine bristled. She shoved her twitching hands deep into her pockets. It couldn't possibly be. She couldn't stand it any longer. She thrust her fingers into her hair. She grabbed a strand and pulled. A wave of comfort fell upon her body. Elise played with the hair in her hands--examined both ends with her eyes. But as she rubbed it, the relief began to drift away. She dropped the hair and pulled another strand. The sensation returned. She needed more. Elise grabbed another hair and pulled. The rush pulsed through her. The adrenaline gripped her muscles.

As her hands filled with freshly plucked hair, Elise could feel tears begin to brim. The thrill subsided and new feelings invaded her veins. Elise closed her eyes. She touched her head and felt the bald spot of skin on her crown. The spot that had vacated her lunch table of friends. The circle that constantly reminded her of what she had done to herself.
Elise willed herself to look at Tyler's room. There was no more denying it. Elise's stomach sank. Why did he have to start? Elaine clenched her fists. What did he do? Elaine released her fingers and stared at the hair on the floor. This was her fault. She had infected him. She had stained the apartment. For months past, every time he went to bed, she did it. She was responsible- she had started it, and it was spreading.
Elise began to pace. Her skin felt hot. She tugged at a single strand with each step. As she reached up for another, she felt only skin. She walked to the bathroom and stared in the mirror. She turned her head to the side and glared at the bald spot on her head. She slapped her hand over it and peaked through the hallway. She looked to the side and saw the hat that Tyler had thrown to the side; a few stray hairs lay within it.
Elise grabbed the hat and pulled it on. As she shoved on her shoes, she grabbed her bag and stole a final glance at Tyler’s room.
Elise made her way to the front door fondling hair in her fingers. It rattled and the churning of a key echoed in Elise's ears. The door creaked open and Tyler's parents walked in. They began to make their way towards her, but stopped short. They looked from her head to the floor. Elise whipped around and saw the trail of her own hair scattered across the hallway. Turning back towards the door she met the faces of Tyler's parents. Elise's heart raced faster. She brought her hand up to her head. She grabbed a strand, and pulled.

Similar Articles


This article has 2 comments.

Stuyfan said...
on Aug. 28 2008 at 6:24 pm
that was a mistake. i was trying to decide which name best fit the character and forgot to go back and change it. I ultimately decided Elaine. Sorry for the confusion and thanks for the comment :)

horsesZrule said...
on Aug. 24 2008 at 2:07 am
You switch from Elaine to Elise - are they different people or just a mistake? Thought I should bring your attention to it : )

MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!