One morning Ryan Agius decided to shave off his facial hair. Feel the pain
Today I write in response to your being splattered along the rim of my bathroom sink.
I am responsible.
As death will do, it has taken away much resemblance to your mighty original form – yet I remember you fondly thick and bristly right there under my nose. Simply put, my lip never felt more befriended than with your hundreds of hairs, a little army of a stiff upper lip, there. There, but not territorial – giving room for a smile or scowl as it came. As a mustache, you wanted nothing other than to grow, to be – like some Zen cat that only comes to you when it wants. I know, mustache, you never had such thoughts. But this is your death and all, so I’m trying to make the whole business of being removed from my being – forever – as important as it should be.
As I trace the smoothness of my upper lip with the very hand that held the razor, I know you are gone, and yet I have hope that tomorrow, or perhaps later this evening, my touch will discover new earth – new roughness – stubble!
Will these be your sons and daughters, offspring finally making good on the promise of longevity, like aliens to our human race? Or do you even think in terms of parenting, producing – the future? After all, you are the produced. You simply sprout, no questions asked: a biochemical reaction whereby the pituitary gland regulates the pushing of black follicles through the pores of the skin. But who has ever pushed you, mustache, besides me – the man whose Mach 3 razor blade, the cruel guillotine of hygiene, cut your life short.
So now in my bathroom I look down to avoid my eyes in the toothpaste-smeared mirror and face the dead that lay unrecognizable, nameless, squiggly stunts that cling to the rim o f the sink. No longer is there the elegance that unified what unmistakably stood for a mustache. Is this why I cannot bear to turn the water on and release you from the limbo of your porcelain cross? Perhaps I am waiting for something more dramatic to qualify such a great loss: vultures and deserts and one-shoed men strumming mandolins to let the waters flow.
Perhaps there is something more.
At first you were a faint shadow on my upper lip and then darkened into a form which most people didn’t take seriously, even me. Some looked at me as if there was a mistake – some kind of mistake I was not aware of. It was too much of an impossibility, like UFOs in New York City. People may say they want to entertain the sheer awesomeness of other Life but in the end such thoughts are too vexing to their daily routine of iced mocha grandes and picking up their children from daycare.
The month I let you grow I learned the courage required for change – something so very rare in us humans. I wore you with a quiet confidence as though it were 1973. It was never easy. I had to endure stares of frenzied admiration and confusion. Mothers moved their children from the length of my touch. Twenty-something girls giggled as they passed. More than once, especially with my shades on, I heard “Unabomber” vocalized. Elderly women put down their groceries to acknowledge you and remember their once living husbands’ Clark Gable-inspired pencil mustaches. In the end I hadn’t the strength to surrender fully and be lost within you – to give and take so much from others who were caught unaware that it was I beneath you.
So I stand alone now – hairless.
I cannot say whether I am happy or sad. I just stand alone thinking about life and thinking about death and how mustaches, like true, good women, come along once, maybe twice in a man’s life.
Having to go to work, I finally turn the faucets on. I take care to watch you pass, some in a clumped crescendo, some more begrudgingly – one by one, it seems. As the water continues in clear helixes I imagine salmon fighting upstream to lay their eggs, and then all at once, perhaps because I fear I will miss my bus, I turn the faucets off and tell myself fish aren’t supposed to feel pain.
I remember hearing the same is true of hair. I leave with some of you still holding on.
For now and perhaps forever,
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