At the corner between Merison Street and Golderg Avenue the man stands in his Adam’s clothes, barefoot on a towel and eyes lost into the pedestal mirror resting on a low table. He can’t be older than thirty-five. Bald. Caucasian with just a tip of something else slipped into his genes. He’s stoop-shouldered and narrow-bodied, taller than six-two. It’s clear that he works out, his muscles well defined, yet not bulging. “His glutes could get some improvement,” a girl comments. There’s a whole crowd observing him. Man-sized signs warn whoever’s about to enter either Merison Street or Golderg Avenue of what they’re about to witness. Kids are dissuaded from coming into the area. The man uses an electric shaver on his left cheek, sideburn to jaw line, ear to the corner of the mouth. He does the same on his right cheek, then goes on to trim chin hair and moustache. “That an off-brand?” a middle-aged man from the crowd asks to his wife. “Unbelievable. They couldn’t even get him the real deal.” In front of the pedestal mirror there’s a bowl; to the side of it rests a bottle of water and various grooming tools. The man is now massaging foam cream to his face with his bare hands. “Should’ve washed his skin first,” comes a whisper. In an elegant, curved motion a double-aged razor shaves off a quarter of beard off the man’s face. Then a second and a third quarter. When the razor approaches his Adam apple, a girl in the crowd visibly holds her breath. “Imagine the outrage had this been a naked woman,” someone says aloud. “Misogynistic pigs,” a second voice comes. “Fuck off elsewhere with your feminist bullshit,” a hoarse voice at last. Then a scuffle ensues and the police needs to intervene before two women gouge out the eye of someone who could’ve been their grandpa. We pay no attention to this. We keep watching the artistic demonstration. The man is now using clippers to trim off his chest hair. “Kinda looks like a bat.” “Is this considered product placement?” “I find his nipples disgusting. Did you see how small and pink they are?” Next is a pair of scissors threatening the man’s pubic area. “The way of love is what we call it,” a stranger comments. “The line of hair from bellybutton to the, you know, hind parts.” Nobody acknowledges it. The man is back to using the clippers on his scrotum. His legs are far apart, him bent forward, trying to see what he’s cutting down. “Dude, keep the bush,” a girl–is she even legal?–shouts from the back rows. “I like it more.” A gentleman turns her way and says, “A tree looks taller on a hill than in the middle of a forest.” Childish giggles spread like ripples in the water. Once the trimming is done, the man deposits the clippers on the table and stands still. He flexes, only barely. We can see satisfaction gleam for a second deep inside his expressionless eyes. We’re informed the experimental public interaction is over. We can now take selfies with the naked man, or ask for his autograph, or have a part of ourselves publicly shaved. “There is no shame anymore in this country,” an old woman with a wide hat says while shaking her head. A gay guy asks the man on a date. The man smiles, says nothing. The people who organized the event shoo the gay guy away. A college-aged girl grabs handfuls of the man’s shaved hair and sticks them under her armpits, all the while a friend of hers chanting, “Hedonism is dead! Hedonism is dead!” The crowd disperses slowly. We wait until the crew starts cleaning the sidewalk and the man dresses up, then approach him and ask for his name. You have a nice body, we say. Are we the body or the mind? we ask. Is all this hair going to victims of cancer? The man smiles and offers to shake our hand. We go back home wondering if the whole morning was a waste of time. That night we twist this way and that in our bathroom, letting the shadows created by the dying light bulb deconstruct our sagging body. Outside it’s pouring. We masturbate on the bathroom floor thinking we will never be cruel enough to subject someone else to the horrific sight of our meat shell. We eat our own cum. We wonder what’s real and what is fake. We go back to sleep.
Myra’s work has appeared in Litro, The Offing, Likely Red, and elsewhere. He lives in Italy with two cats and a stubborn case of rhinitis. More about him at willemmyra.wordpress.com