A small fan sits next to my lofted bed, blowing its breeze on the dust ruffle and across my ankles as I haul myself out of the over-soft bed. The white noise adds another layer of weight and difficulty to the ascent from sleep. Grey winter light does not help either, but there are things to do and the days seem to pass much more quickly now that I am freelancing and working from my office/studio.
My days start rhythmically, with the even tempo of a straight razor running back and forth across the strop, water running to heat up the brush in the bowl, and the scrub of a barely tolerable hot washcloth across my face – all of this in my daily confrontation of death.
My eyes stare back at me from the steaming mirror, deeply focused, the weighty gaze surveying the damage of the years on this face, scars from acne that still flares up after snack binges and bouts of rich foods, the tiny crack and deeper chasms, time-etched disappointments across my brow, next to my eyes, and those ever deepening smile lines.
And then there is the grey.
It started off as sharp punctuations in my mustache and sharper punctuations in my longish goatee. The year’s stresses have turned the punctuations into waved cloudy streams that once brushed, add gravitas to my oval face with its voluptuous features, everything too big for my head, but only emphasizing the senses the features are supposed to take in. Eyes too big, nostrils too full, lips too sensual and prone to pouting or frowning.
On a higher shelf in the bowl of shovels and trowels I use to keep the ruin at bay, there is the small death. Its a straight razor with a flinty gray handle. Full attention is required any time this chilling and weighty device sits in my palm. Straight razors are unforgiving. They do not countenance an unserious attitude, for failing to take them seriously will cost flesh. Blood. And Flesh.
I have a safety razor as well. The straight razor is saved for days when I have skipped too many days between shaves, using all of the justifications I have for not presenting a neat and tidy appearance to the world, and sometimes choosing not to go out into the world at all.
There is something very erotic indeed about the full awareness and danger holding an instrument that could easily kill you very close to the skin while naked. The smallest changes in sensation are sharpened and heightened. The sound of the razor making its way across the strop in preparation for its trips across skin is faintly arousing and without fail, does provide just enough of an erotic push to bring a fullness and a sensuality to the normally mundane exercise of shaving.
The first draw of the razor against skin is always the hardest one. Raspy coarse whiskers ticking metallically off the sharpness and suspending in the sandalwood foam – the wait for blood to appear that thankfully does not come – the angling of the blade to make smooth what is rough. One of the more difficult parts of shaving is learning how to be ambidextrous – that is necessary, as the planes of the face require maneuvers that cannot be executed with the dominant right hand. Some maneuvers require the subtle finesse of the left. After a time, focus narrows down to the razor’s edge and the distractions of sound fade out. The brush, warm from heated water and foamy with warm soap glides around the planes, under my chin, and against the edges of my goatee, and to all areas that need to be smooth. The razor glides across, shearing and lightly pulling the hairs, leaving behind smoothed sensitive skin. Scents from the shaving foam waft in the steam that fogs the mirrors and the window glass. Time drifts as multiple passes of the razor produce a shave that does not require a visit until a day or two down the road.
Then, the warmed wet washcloth captures the stray bits of foam left behind in the razor’s travels. Refreshed and fresh-faced, I take the hottest shower I can stand and scrub down to fresh skin, rinse off the lavender and mint and rosemary soaps and stand deeply and freshly cleansed. A plush and heavy spa robe waits on a hook as I exit the shower and head back to the cabinet for the bracing slap of bay rum aftershave and feel my pores slam shut.
Unfortunately I cannot start every day like this, and I look forward to the day when I can sit in a chair, relaxed and pampered and have a well trained and sure-handed lover take on the task of making all of the rough edges smooth.