For Neil

I woke up this morning and this was stuck in my head, a birthday gift for a friend who inspires me with the depths of his imagination. Happy Birthday, Neil Gaiman.

For Neil

There was once a man who caught stories in his hair.

As a boy, he took his favorite book, the one with shadows and heroes, and he climbed up to the roof of his parent’s home. He opened the book and waited for the stories to escape the prison of their pages. They did, because stories want to be shared, and the boy was happy.

While he was sitting there, listening to the words whisper their farewell as they set upon the clouds, he felt something land atop his head. It dripped down over his eyebrows and inside his ears like a cracked egg. Suddenly he had to tell someone, so he slid down the drainpipe and shared the story.

The boy began to experiment, climbing trees and mountains, sitting very still on the tallest perches until one story would catch and then another and another. When it worked, and it usually did, he was delighted. Catching stories in his hair was as much fun as setting them free. The boy found that the stories were better companions than many of the people in his world. The boy also learned that by sharing them, he found a way to feel less lonely.

Soon the boy grew into a man, and though he still enjoyed rooftop adventures, he no longer had to scale mountains. The stories would find him when he was walking in the park or eating his breakfast. In fact, so many stories settled in his hair that his hair grew longer and more wild to hold them. He had to work quickly to free them and make room for the others.

Sometimes the man needed a break, and he would cut his hair and walk among people with only a stray haiku caught behind his ear or or a tiny folktale wrapped in a curl at the base of his neck. He enjoyed it for a while, but the man missed them and his hair eventually grew.

So the man lived his life and made a living with the stories in his hair, and he often wondered about the other people he passed on the street. What did they catch in their locks?

Sitting in his favorite cafe, he watched people under the weight of his crazy hair. He drank of a pot of tea and kept pushing the novel that hung from the fringe on his forehead out of his eyes.

Until he heard music. He turned his head to see the source and discovered the music was coming from a table behind him; and not just from the table behind him, but from the hair of the woman seated at the table behind him. Her hair was moving like waves to the melody ensnared inside, and she bounced along in her seat. Their eyes met, and she stood up and walked over to join him, stopping to pat the top of his head.

They sat listening to the murmuring and the humming, and they were happy. Then the man with the hairful of stories and the woman with her dancing curls stood up and walked away to find other people who caught things in their hair.

Many people didn’t realize that they had things stuck in their braids or caught in their crewcuts. The man and the woman would gently shake them free and teach them how to pay attention. Together they wandered and watched and listened, and they discovered a world full of people with paintings, poems, and poppets in their hair.

One morning, the man woke up to find a song in his hair, and he grinned.

~Valya Dudycz Lupescu (November 10, 2012)