Tag Archives: men

Brandon’s Beard

Brandon’s Beard was born in the summer of 2003 when Brandon was twelve years old. At first it appeared like a thin layer of dirt, and its fuzzy wire limbs were not strong enough yet to grasp firmly onto his young face. “Son,” his father that Saturday morning, “it’s time to teach you to shave.” But Brandon was too young, too excited to listen to his father. He was too busy plopping piles of shaving cream onto his own face that he never heard his father say, “Son, it is our duty as men to control the beard. For if we do not the control the beard, the beard will control us instead. And son, we cannot have that. We absolutely cannot that.”

Brandon trapped the beard in the lathered cream and dragged the blade across his face, slicing off its tentacles. The beard’s dying limbs waggled in the air, vibrating fast enough to make a sound, but again, Brandon never heard it. Though the beard had died that day, its offspring were planted stealthily in his pores, awaiting the day when they themselves could grow strong and take control.

As the years went on, it gained control, one tiny layer of fuzz at a time. With each new shave, it returned thicker, stronger, more alive — but Brandon managed to circumcise it every time, slaying the monster and shattering its hold on him.

It was the crunch of Finals, the fall semester of his Senior year of college. Brandon hadn’t managed his time so well, and found himself suddenly faced with less time than he needed to accomplish the things he had to. Something to give. Some major timesuck had to be sacrificed in order for him to complete the semester.

On that fateful night, he heard the wiggling follicles whisper on the word. “Leave us, Brandon,” they said in unison. “Let us grow, while you take care of more important things. You can always cut us later.” And this time, Brandon listened.

Several passed passed without sleep, and the beard continued growing, each little symbiote limb sneaking out of Brandon’s skin and joining with its hirsute kin. On the third night, Brandon looked at his clock and saw it nearing 4am. He had only 4 hours until it was due. But he was too exhausted to complete it. Not even caffeine could save his weakened and exhausted mind.

Brandon felt a fire curtain drop across his eyes. The beard had its chance. As Brandon’s heavy head began to float down to the desk in search of its reprieve, the bristled whiskers reached out, each as far as they could go, and as they stretched further and further, their roots sunk deeper, deeper into their master’s flesh. The strands came together and tied a series of scratchy around Brandon’s abandoned pen. They lifted it from the desk in unison then brought the pen down to the paper and began to write in harmony.

Where once they were but individual fibers, now they were become Beard, and Brandon has not had a conscious thought in control of his body since that very day.

Something Spontaneous Sounding

He opened up his unnamed Evernote folder and flicked through the scraps he had collected. “One of these has to make a good tweet,” he said. Once he got to the end, he cycled back to the first one. During the fourth pass through the jotted ruins, he looked at the empty chair and sighed.

(riverrun)

(be)
gin makes a Man mean
that is what
He knows thats
what he has
been told before
this happens
for a Reason he
sees it float
A way
a lone a
last
a Love he knows
the fate of
such a Stone
A-gain

On An Attempt To Not Seem Rapey

Once we dispensed with the usual catch-up-on-bullshit pleasantries, we had spent the evening talking about her problems with a potential stalker. Ample warning signs and an unfortunate depth of first-hand experience had triggered Becky’s creep-dar when this coworker-of-a-friend had repeatedly contacted her. He even texted her while she told me about him (it could have been an innocent, mid-Thursday evening, “How’s ya week goin’?” but in context it only served as another stalker data point.) Discomfited, she wasn’t certain how best to proceed.

“Cut ties. Be cordial but firm. Don’t give him a reason to be upset but also don’t leave the door open for any further polite interaction.” It’s super awesome being a font of sage wisdom when you don’t have to actually be the one executing the plan.

Late that night, going back to my car after walking Becky to the front door (not in an attempt to act the role of the chivalrous friend; by that point, we shared the unspoken fear that this marketing department fuck was lurking in the apartment’s hedge), I walked past a woman hunched over a pile of cases. She was bundled up for the fall chill, her long knit scarf tumbling onto her attempts to lug the guitar, amp, suitcase and purse to her building’s garage.

I almost reached the corner before my conscience tugged too hard. “Need a hand with the door?”

“Uh, well — sure!” She half-giggled with a nervous edge. No one really likes realizing they look like they need help.

I met her at the door, which fell under the shadows caused by the over-hanging palms boxing out the brittle orange streetlight. She looked at me for a second, waiting.

“Do you have a key?” I asked.

“You don’t live here?” Nerves were strongly evident, though any trace of giggle had disappeared.

It should have been easy to say I had just dropped my friend off next door and was walking by. I didn’t want to consider the way Becky’s hands kept shaking without her realizing it, or the deep history of every asshole guy and fearful girl I’ve known, or the level of shittiness these thoughts cast on the gender dynamics of the situation. As she dug into her purse to find her keys, careful to never turn her back on me completely, I stepped away from the door, backing into the light to show that I wasn’t trying to hide. Of course I wanted to reassure her of my good-faith motives, but how could I stop her from being uncomfortable? How could I hold the door open in such a way as to let her know that I understood why she’s feeling uncomfortable? How could I will it so me handing her that guitar through the door as she inched away made up for terrible things done in these shadows?

Entering The Club (an excerpt from “Chat”)

(The first of perhaps many excerpts from my novel-interminably-in-progress.)

The strip club parking lot had cars scattered throughout it, none parked in a space immediately adjacent to another. Everyone seemed to have followed the rules of men’s room urinals. Shutting his driver’s side door with a slam that echoed off the back of the one story bunker, Ethan flashed the car lock with one hand and slid his wallet into his front jeans pocket with the other. He didn’t know what to expect in an establishment like this in Fuckall, Texas — better to keep things safe.

Four thick lines of neon light ringed the roof of the stout structure. He figured the designers intended for this to give the building a seductive hue, an enticing red-and-purple beacon to lure eager patrons in. Instead, the light seemed harsh and insistent, like the first dull throbs of a looming migraine. The only sound he could hear besides its agitated hum was the crackle of his shoes on the dust-gravel of the parking lot. Realizing that his feet were moving way too quickly and that he had craned his body as if hearing a new secret, he forced himself to slow to an amble. He wanted to look purposeful but not fixated. He got himself to stop thinking about the possibility that Delia might be inside by focusing on how much he wasn’t thinking about it.

Rounding the corner to the front, he spotted a group of three guys huddled together by the door, muttering to each other. They stopped what conversation they were having to look at him. The short one ran his thumb around the top of a rusted Zippo. The tallest one hid his stockier bulk under a crinkled black leather jacket with torn epaulettes. The third guy had a bushy, steel-wool mustache and wore a gray suit jacket with black pants that were clearly from a different suit. They held their eyes on Ethan. He looked at them, then towards the closed doors of the club, and back at them. He nodded. He wanted the nod to say, “Hey, fellas. Just here to see tits, same as you. A bunch of cool guys, gathered together on a Saturday night. For tits.” He doubted all this came across.

After a few seconds, Steel Wool peeled off and walked towards the door. He pulled it open and, while propping it with his rattlesnake boot-ed foot, held a hand out towards Ethan. “Humph,” he grunted. Ethan complied, digging his license out to hand to him. The man eyed the foreign California license as if seeing an alpaca for the first time. His mouth opened as he examined the document, a prominent chipped tooth emerged from the underbrush of his upper lip. Apparently deciding that a man clearly in his late thirties with temples that were both graying and receding probably wasn’t carrying a fake ID, he gave another grunt. Ethan took his license back, nodded again, and walked into the club.

Mr. Eldman’s Hands

There were tables full of food at the wake for Jay’s dad, from the church, from his coworkers. Mrs. Eldman’s book club brought desserts and fresh fruit sliced to look like flowers and tiny animals. Mrs. Eldman stood at the open front door looking like she wanted to shut it or run through it. She greeted friends of her late husband. They used words like “condolences” while they carried trays of meats and casseroles, party food that insulted her lack of appetite.

Jay and Melissa ate pineapple because they’d heard that it helped you digest meat. It was something Jay’s dad had told them, after a barbecue, their diaphragms pinched from fullness. Melissa had watched his hands, always speckled with paint splatters, as they held firmly the knife that sliced downward toward the picnic table. The juice gathered in rivulets, escaping with ease through the gaps in the planks of the homemade picnic table. Mr. Eldman’s hands had made that table.

Containers

There is nothing left for people here. Our livers are no longer coddled, valued, saved. The lobby of the home is fresh and styled. There are no posters hung haphazardly, no empty bottles lining the tops of fridges or the perimeters of trash cans. When I get to the home, I drop off the fifth of gin in my pocket at the front desk. Emma wields a thick black marker, writing the names of the drunks on their bottles. We are contained in those glass enclosures on the table behind the welcome desk; we drop ourselves off and pick ourselves back up. We are not allowed to drink in the rooms, and so we do not linger there. Though there are televisions and beds more comfortable than I have known or afforded in my lifetime, I do not linger either.

The back porch is where the voices are, the warm bodies, made warmer by the booze. Faces flushed red navigate the cigarette smoke. Conversation is lively, there is usually laughter, though everyone knows how quickly laughter can turn into something else, something to defend against. Then there are the sirens and flashing lights. But those nights are fewer and farther between than before we lived here; our defenses have cooled a bit now that we are no longer in mixed company. Only three people have died since I have come here, though I know that my spot on the waiting list didn’t open because of a building expansion. There are men with yellow eyes and loose clothing. I stay away from them because there is nothing left to cultivate. Their laughter is frightening – it is weak and wheezy – and it kills my own.

I can say this much: I am calmer now. There is less that is riding on my success or my failure or any of my decisions. I watch the sunrise and the sunset from this patio, and I am no longer guilty.