Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nicaragua 8

A man rode his motorcycle down a dirt road into town. It was almost noon. This man was very shy. He never spoke to people he did not know, unless they spoke to him first. Even then, he would not look them in the eyes, and only mumble out a response to the ground. There were, in fact, only a select few with whom he felt comfortable: his wife, his daughter, his three good friends, and his barber. He went weekly to his barber for a shave. His barber was a shy man like himself. It was that time of the week, and he smiled as he imagined the cool lather spread across his cheeks and chin. He kept a moustache because his wife had told him that it made him look more respectable. The thin wheels of his motorcycle danced delicately between rocks and potholes. He privately thought that a motorcycle made him look dashing, and much bolder than he really was. The wind whipped through his hair and whispered softly in his ears. It spoke to him soothingly, like a lover in his bed. He entered the limits of the town where his barber stood expectantly, waiting for the man. As he slowed to a stop by the barber’s shop, the wind got quieter, and gradually faded altogether in a late aubade. The man walked into his friend’s shop and sat down in a comfy chair in front of a long mirror. He always sat in the same chair. Both men smiled in subdued adoration of the other, but said little to convey real emotion. They both greeted the other man warmly and made pleasant talk of their families, and the condition of the roads. The barber laid an apron over his friend.

The puffy white lather embodied perfection in the man’s mind. It was clean and wholesome, and reminded the man of his wife’s gentle touch. They loved each other dearly, but rarely found ways to express it. His barber cut a swath through the lather, shearing off the past week’s stubble. Surely the man loved his wife, but a strange thing had started to happen in recent days. Women would pass him in the street of the town, and he thought of what they would look like naked, or thought of them lying next to him, softly asleep in the late morning. He tried to dispel these thoughts harshly and with resolute goodness. He loved his wife. The barber’s razor slid through the lather again, slicing off the hair on the man’s chin. It stung momentarily. The barber’s blade spoke of friendly affection. Out of the corner of his eye, the man saw a woman walk into the barber’s shop. She was young, and her body was supple and shapely. Her face was beautiful, and she cast a look in the man’s direction. He immediately imagined her body held close to his, her eyes closed and her lips parted slightly. He thought of her leaning in to kiss him. His mind exploded in a fit of fire, as he scolded himself harshly for such thoughts. He looked in the mirror at the barber, his friend, whose eyes seemed to say that he was imagining the same thing. Was it perhaps true that the man was not a terrible person, and that such thoughts were normal? The barber’s razor licked off the last of the lather, leaving the man’s face clean and soft. The woman asked the barber whether or not he cut women’s hair as well. He said that he was sorry, but no, he did not. The woman looked disappointed for a minute, then flashed a gorgeous smile and thanked the barber just the same. Then she turned her gaze the other man. She was medusa; he was frozen by her gaze, locked tight by the power of her almond eyes. She left in flourish of sin and beauty, leaving the two men like statutes. The man gave his friend some money for the shave, and walked back out into the sun. The man gave his farewell, and departed off into his coy life of dreadful mediocrity and empty desire.

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