In all our years together, she had never seen me without it. Even I wasn’t sure how I’d look once I’d shaved. Hands on the sink, I peered into the foggy mirror considering my face and saw her figure flash past. I’m thinking of shaving my mustache, I said. I’m thinking of going for groceries, she answered, as if she hadn’t heard me. That’s how it is with us: thrust and parry, rarely a palpable hit. I laughed and heard her start the car. I had time to reflect, make it a real decision. Things change, I thought, and we go on. I picked up the scissors. Bodies sag, I thought. Snip. Careers evolve; families focus or fade. Snip. Children are born, or not born. Parents are laid to rest. Snip, snip. We absorb the blows and cling to one another and grow or grow apart. I shaved the rest clean. I didn’t show her right away. Barefoot, shirtless, I hauled the groceries in a shaving cream mustache, as if I were still deciding. She laughed, and told me to get ready to go out. At her makeup mirror, I kissed her neck. I showed my face. She didn’t say a word, or blink, not a flicker. She smiled. The whole night out there was something unspoken between us. I cut my steak to shreds and let it sit. I slammed car doors. She talked of other things, irrelevant things, endless, maddening irrelevancies. I stopped the car and slammed the gearshift into park. That’s enough, I said. You can stop pretending you don’t notice. If you don’t like it, say so. She looked confused. She shrank toward the door. Notice what? she pleaded, You’re frightening me. With all my heart, I could not bring myself to say the word.

Copyright © June 20 David Hodges