It brings back a memory. As a ten year old boy I used to stand right here, leaning against this very door, just as I am now. Wide-eyed I would stare in awe at my dad, watching him go through his morning ritual, which never varied. I can see him so vividly in my mind.
First, dad would soak a small towel in steaming hot water, and hold it firmly against his face, his eyes winking at me from the fogged up mirror. Then his eyes would turn serious, as he would go back to the business at hand.
He would lift the wet brush, using it to apply shaving cream to his chin, swirling the thing around and around, until the lather had formed into stiff peaks. At this point, he would put the brush down—but not before painting the tip of my nose with a dollop of white, fluffy cream.
Then he would stretch his skin between his fingers, until it was as tight as a drum, and angle the blade to it, and go through his first pass, traveling along the grain, shaving the hair with short, rhythmic strokes, and finishing it off with long ones. At this point he would bend down and let me help, let me lather his face for him, before straightening his back, and coming back up to the mirror, to study his jawline as if exploring some exotic, heavily wooded landscape. Then with a sure hand, dad would go through his final pass—the more dangerous one, when most accidents occur—this time, traveling against the grain.
It must be late afternoon, maybe five o’clock by now. My father, I figure, is about to come back. And here I am: his flesh, his blood. I am looking directly at the mirror, wondering, Where is that boy? Is he lost? Can I still find him, hiding here, inside these eyes? And who are you, I ask myself, a traitor?
In this spot, I am nowhere. And nowhere is a hard place to escape. So after a while I start wondering, What now? What shall I do? Now that I am home, where can I go?
I have no will. I have no curiosity. Of its own, my finger is passing with barely a touch along the blade until suddenly, catching on a spot, it halts. Rust, perhaps. I raise my hand over to the light, careful not to tighten my hold over the thing. A cold shine can be seen in intervals, shooting up and down between my fingers along the metallic handle. I can sense the edge.
I can see my wrist, a vein twisting through it with a hard pulse. I can see the delicate lines, guessing their way across the skin. How frail is life. Better close your eyes. Close your eyes, I say. Do it--
In writing this passage, I drew on two memories: first, the memory of seeing my daddy shave when I was a little girl, which was so fascinating to me back then. And second, the dark mood that gripped me when he passed away, which inspired me to paint heart-wrenching images, questioning the purpose of being here.
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