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Ponytail

Story by Christopher Santantasio (Read author interview) September 18, 2023

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You remember when Dad shaved his mustache. How thin his lips were. In art class, every paper plate waited for a face, for markers, for yarn, for pipe cleaner eyebrows. How your teacher wouldn’t let you pick someone else’s face for the project because it was supposed to be for Father’s Day, and how you refused to put anything on your father plate but two Xs where the eyes should go. And how about a few years later, when Dad came home with reddened eyes and a choke in his voice saying I think I have cancer. How he showed you the small bulges on the inside of his arms. How you cried too and said you didn’t want him to die, not when he was being so sweet, not when he was putting his full, soft weight on your shoulders and letting you skip karate that day. How the doctor took one look at his elbows and said it was nothing. Tumors don’t grow symmetrically like that, the doctor said. And how Dad never mentioned it again. Never thanked you for holding him, for not teasing him for his tears, for being the only one he could cry to.

Or maybe you remember when he grew a ponytail then cut it off and put it in a freezer bag. How you knew right then that he’d never throw it out. How it would go in the closet with the baseball bat you could never hold right, and the dried out corsage he got you for the girl you didn’t actually take to prom, and the ring he bought for the woman he was engaged to when he met your mom and got her pregnant with you. Remember how he’d break out the ponytail on Christmas every few years and show it off like it was really something. Like it was really something he was proud of. A thing made of his own flesh and blood. How each year it seemed to grow longer and darker and shinier as his own hair thinned and grayed. How it was held together by a red rubber band. How he’d take it out of the bag and cradle it, almost cradle it like a living thing, against his chest, neck bent, his bare lips parting.

About the Author

Christopher Santantasio is a gay writer based in the Bay Area. His work appears in One Story, Epiphany, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from The Ohio State Univerity and is a fiction editor at The Rumpus. He is at work on a novel and a short story collection. Yes, he can still be found on the website formerly known as Twitter: @CRSantantasio.

This story appeared in Issue Eighty-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eighty-One
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