My new girlfriend has a big head.
I can put both of my hands on the top of her head, stretch out my fingers, and they’re still not anywhere near her ears. She’s so bright she can tell me what time it is anywhere in the world at the same time she is counting the number of seconds I can stand on my head.
I’ll scream, “Time!”
She’ll scream, “Country?”
I’ll scream “Taiwan!”
She’ll scream, “4:27 and 33 seconds PM!”
After we get through a few countries, she’ll scream, “Last country?”
And I’ll scream “Me!”
And she’ll scream out, “5020 seconds!”
And she has never owned a watch. It is really crazy.
Some people say that I have a big flat head. I do have a flat head; that’s why standing on my head is so easy for me. Sometimes when people say to me, “Jeez, you have a big flat head,” and my girlfriend happens to be in the house, I say, “No way, if you want to see a big head, you just wait here, I have one in the other room,” and I’ll go and get her and pull her in and people go, “Hey, look at that.”
I don’t want you to think that she has a flat head like me. Hers is as round as the moon and has little bumps and craters too. She has hair too, beautiful brown hair, and sometimes she lets me put my hands on her head and explore. One time I found a banned book in there and a boomerang and silly putty in a can and a love letter addressed to someone else, and when I opened it up, it was addressed to me, and she laughed and laughed and laughed.
When she was a kid, she had really bad lice that chewed up her scalp, and her parents tried everything but they wouldn’t go away. They tried shampoos and medicines, old-fashioned hair and skin tonics and even that garden pesticide cream that you spread on your tomatoes. But no matter what they tried, it kept getting worse. After a while her entire scalp was infected.
She told me that the lice would have gone away, but she didn’t want them to. She thought they would eat away at the top of her head and make it smaller. But all that happened was that her head got bigger. Little cuts in her head made by the bugs turned into scabs and she carefully removed each and every one of them with her fingernails. And each time the scabs grew bigger and bigger until they were like little mountains different colors and shapes.
“Letting the bugs eat my head was a bad idea,” she told me.
People started taking pictures then. First it was doctors, then it was strangers, and then it was me. If you look in medical books you can see pictures of her mountains. A lot of them look like satellite pictures of planets. Some of the little mountains have little faces.
“Faces with expression,” she told me.
Before they disappeared she became fond of them, and would spend hours with her little hand mirror backed up against the full-length mirror. She said she didn’t care what people thought. She said it never crossed her mind.
When I first met her I was parachuting in California and I got lost in the air, separated from everyone else in my jumping group. I looked down and saw her big head walking in a field. I landed in the sandy area about 50 feet from her. She ran up to me to see if I was hurt and I stayed down on the ground for a while, pretending to be more hurt than I was so she wouldn’t just leave me if I couldn’t impress her with my wit.
I started to cry like a baby and said it was because I think I broke my neck. But it was because I couldn’t believe how beautiful she was and couldn’t believe that a head could get to be that big. She looked at me gracefully titling her head. She looked at my long flat head covered with sand and my temples were pulsing with anticipation. She leaned down to kiss me, and I lunged up to kiss her.
When the parachute crew came to find me we were both unconscious. After some smelling salts and some water in our faces, we both woke up. I asked if she wanted to go to a water park or something and she said no, but she said she would make me some California cuisine. I said that kind of food sounded stupid, but I wouldn’t mind eating California rolls, and she thought that was a good idea but she was allergic to crab. I told her that they don’t use real crab in them anyway, and since that defining moment, when her whole head glowed with happiness, everything has been perfect.
After we finally kissed the first time she showed me one of her mountains in a medical book. She said it looked like me because its head is flat and long like a plateau.
“I’m not orange and green and black,” I told her. And she laughed and laughed and laughed.
When I first met her I couldn’t stop staring at her head and now that I am her boyfriend I still can’t stop. I don’t think I know what the rest of her body looks like. Of course there are times when I explore the rest of her and all of those times are fabulous. But whenever I am not looking at her head, I respect her privacy, and I always keep my eyes closed.
Chris Bower writes and teaches in Chicago. He is the host of the Ray’s Tap Reading Series and you can find him at holdmyhorses.com