Monday, March 16, 2015

The Morning After: a Shaving Distraction

Stan took his second cup of coffee with him into the bathroom. He was tired. It had been a fitful night interrupted by the rarest of his rare dreams... of Joey. Those dreams were always simple and personal. He: desperate, passionate, aggressive; she: receptive, loving, warm but ever ambivalent, never committed.

He eyed himself in the mirror, eyes red, tired. Dreams remembered usually meant less rest.

In the darkness of the early morning, his wife and children still in their beds, he laid out his equipment and supplies with the obsessive precision of a surgeon. The dry washcloth at the far left for dis-assembly and drying of his razor. He set the three-piece razor, with the blade already mounted after yesterday's shave, on the washcloth. Then at the front of the sink, a hand towel folded in half on its short side, making a long, narrow band of terrycloth, which he then folded again with half a twist so that it could hug the front curve of the sink and yet lay straight along the counter edge to catch the drips of water from his shave.

Between the cloths he put the lathering bowl closest to the counter edge. Next in toward the mirror was the small cup with the shaving soap, and closest to the mirror was the small cup with water, in which he soaked his shaving brush while he lifted and rubbed water into his beard. He took a swallow of his coffee.

He tried to ignore the memory of her dredged up by the dream as he swirled his wet brush in the soap cup hearing the transformed slushing sound of the well-laden brush. The first time he had seen her she walked with those long, languid strides -- slender and sultry even on that cold winter day.

He transferred his brush, heavy with water and soap, to the lathering bowl. He swirled his brush and as the lather built, he felt her presence as though they were still together. The night's dreams left him with the lingering sense that they were always connected even since before time.

As he lathered and made his first pass, he focused his attention in the present. He rinsed with warm water, and took another long drink from his coffee, which was beginning to cool.

The second re-lather, shaving pass, and rinse done, he felt his face and studied it for moment in the mirror. So many years had gone by since he had pursued her, gotten to know her, forced himself into her world that should have never intersected with his. They should have passed uninterrupted, but now even 40 years later, it was bizarre that he was still rocking in her wake. He never could decide whether their ineluctable separation was miraculous serendipity gone awry, unfulfilled, or simply his meaningless obsession that -- even ignored and neglected -- would not wither and mercifully die.

He finished the cup of coffee, which was becoming too tepid to be enjoyable.

He lathered and completed his third pass. After the rinse he used his hand to enjoy the smoothness of his face. She had never stroked his cheek after a shave. She had never known the things that were truly his gifts. In their time, she had actually hardly known him as though he were a cardboard cutout of himself; and he wondered now, still under the influence of their meeting while he slept, if he ever really knew her beyond her magical essence that still teased and tempted him in a rare dream.

And yet though they had both moved on so long ago, there was some quiet, nagging, intangible link still apparently there -- even if only in his own troubled psyche. As he went through the rinse and the drying processes of his shaving instruments, he wondered if she too, against her conscious will, sees him on the occasional night.

He wondered if she too ever has to make sense out of the morning after.

Happy shaving!

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