Curling by Matt Gillick

I need to get the hell out of here, they groan to themselves as the C Train rattles dishes in the cabinet. But no way were they going back to Missouri. Eventually, they’ll have to open it—hands ready to catch any errant plate or ceramic that tap danced to the edge. The train rumbles away (until next time), leaving a wake of potential shatter and crash.

They don’t answer the phone vibrating on the high-top kitchen table next to a sausage, egg, and cheese that’d grown cold. In the bathroom mirror, they look upon their matted, mangled, intersectional hair and Good God does it need work. Something needs to be done with that nested clump, resemblant of a lemony drifter who sleeps outside the bodega around the corner. Too long has bedhead run rampant across their scalp.

The phone buzzes again, probably another invite to meet up at Do or Dive. They’ll have to decline. Ever since that incident at the front gate of Yankee Stadium, they don’t feel like going much of anywhere anymore. The beer-crusted Sabathia jersey crumples drunkenly under the bed. Something must be done about that hair, but instead, they scrub at those sticky, tough-to-reach corners of the bathroom floor—especially behind the radiator. A few hours pass. Weren’t they supposed to eat something?

The notion to just do something already comes from this feverish mixture of hunger, chores, the lack of a functional window unit, and consecutive nights alone with bottles of cheap pinot when they finally say, Screw it! It’s high time I took care of this.

The curling rollers were found at the back of a drawer—their first New York Christmas gift since leaving Westphalia. Wait until they get a load of me, they say, untangling the hairdryer, moving away creams and pill bottles to plug it into the outlet. Failing to wait for the hairdryer to get hot, the first roller becomes its own hidden knot. Nothing a pair of scissors can’t handle. Three clips, four clips, too many clips. Years of progress wisp onto the bathroom tile. Are they pretty yet? The next clip’s too tight, but they’re making progress. They come to the realization that the art of curling is an art of process, not result, and requires training. A few internet tutorials later, half their head is curled in differing lengths and volumes.

But the momentum wanes, hunger settles deep in their stomach, and they stop. They haven’t eaten all day. They’re tired. It’s time to take a break, just a little break. But seeing those curlers in the mirror, staring back at them like one-eyed slugs lamenting to have been relegated to such a task, they know the day is lost. They can hear the phone buzzing again. They lie down on the bathroom tile because it’s cool down here. Take a rest. You’ll have to eat something soon. Fifteen minutes turn to twenty minutes. So hungry. Need to eat something. There’s the C Train, again, choreographing the dishes to the precipice of the kitchen floor. Later in the night, they wake up to a 3 am sweat, unsure of what they were so worried about. The curlers hold on tight.

Matt Gillick tries to be a writer. He received his MFA from Emerson College. Other published work can be found at He is currently working on a novel (but who isn’t?).