On a hospital slab. Insides out, body parts in plastic bags, cotton wool taped over eyes. The anaesthetist reaches over and touches a braid of his dying patient’s hair.
Admiring the simple tapestry, he meditates on the day when devoted fingers (whose?) combed and collected each thread of fine hair. Each tightly woven braid the product of what? A mother’s love? Aunt’s persistence? Daughter’s reluctance? Hairdressers indifference?
He will never know though he likes to imagine she laughed at least once during the sitting. Laughter in between shrieks of hair wrenched at the root, laughter delirious on some stoep out in the August sunshine.
As he detaches his machine and watches her body wheeled unceremoniously from the theatre, he focuses again on this head of knitted hair. Zigzagging contours rising from the neckline.
Each braid: three rapids, tributaries tumbling and tied inseparably into one. Unity, he thinks, unity when everything else has unravelled. Unity in a body come so irrevocably undone.