“Self Portrait as Woman with Scarf” by Paul Rabinowitz

I have no hair atop my head but if I did it would be like yours and I’d wash it 

brush it out and take care of it and on occasion part it to one side and work it into a low rolled bun or sleek ponytail or maybe even a twisted crown flower braid depending on how I feel in the morning and you’d glance at it and marvel at me and my creativity and when we would be waiting in line together during our brief encounters in the morning when our paths cross on our way to work ordering the usual cappuccinos I could say something coy to the barista and watch your lips stretch across white teeth and a tingle would dance up my spine and I would experience a moment of weightlessness

when your wide eyes would linger a top my head marveling at the loose bun I crafted this morning like the premier dancer at the Joffrey Ballet and you could gather ideas for your next poem and I would lean my head back and run my hands over the smooth part at the crown or slip my fingertips into the twisted mass and like a gentle wave touching the shoreline the strands would roll down past my shoulders and spread out over my bare arms until a picture is etched in your memory

Knowing this I would gather my hair and twist it then place it all to one side exposing my neck in such a way that you would want to press your face into the long curve inhale the sweet scent of conditioner and remain there for a moment and would not smell the cigarette smoke your husband blew into your face this morning because you were feeling inspired typing a new poem in a style that was different to anything you had tried before but he wanted breakfast before going to work

Your fingers moved quickly to finish and smiled occasionally at the screen ignoring his voice which you had learned to fear when he was tired of waiting and pleaded with him for just another minute to finish the last line so as not to forget the vision of what brought you there in the first place – the cover of a book I showed you last week at the cafe during our usual brief encounter – Frida Kahlo in a chair in her lover’s clothes tufts of black hair strewn over a dark wood floor

He wanted breakfast and you continued typing not so much in defiance but because at that moment you were closing in on some sort of truth that could bring you to the point where you could remove everything that is dear to you

And told me that morning you felt a tingling on your scalp and glanced at yourself in the mirror after finishing your new poem and reading through it again to be sure the line breaks made sense then he turned and heaved his coffee cup across the room glass shattered everywhere but you did not look up from your edits as he stepped over the shards and walked out and you closed the cover of your laptop grabbed scissors from the drawer and said to me that when it was all done you experienced a moment of

weightlessness

swept the remains into a pile and gathered it into a large box because that is how much you had and tied a ribbon around it left the keys next to the box and walked out to the usual cafe where we met for our brief encounters in the morning and you ordered not your usual cappuccino with cinnamon but a dark roast

And before going our separate ways to our jobs I did as I did so many times before and waited for you to let your hair down and twist it and you would say something that made me laugh and I would absorb your words that stay with me until the next time but today you wear a scarf and I offer to pay for your dark roast and notice your eyes welling up so I hand you a napkin and say something coy then watch as your lips stretch across your white teeth the color returns to your face and you extend your hands gently touching my bare head


Paul Rabinowitz is an author, photographer and founder of ARTS By The People, a nonprofit arts organization based in New Jersey. Paul’s photography and short fiction have appeared in many magazines and journals including Long Exposure Magazine, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Pif Magazine, and others. Paul is the author of Limited Light, a book of prose and portrait photography, and a novella, The Clay Urn, (Main Street Rag, 2020). Paul is currently at work on two novels Confluence and Grand Street, Revisited. Paul has produced many mixed media performances and poetry animation films that have appeared on stages and in theaters in New York City, New Jersey, Tel Aviv and Paris. Paul is a written word performer and the founder of “The Platform,” a monthly literary series in New Jersey, and Platform Review, a journal of voices and visual art from around the world. www.paulrabinowitz.com

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