Friday, August 27, 2010

Last Rite - Short Story

When the tests begin, I can ignore the persistent rashes and even the angry welts that appear in place of bruises.  I can say to myself, "its just a reaction to the antibiotics", until my rattling cough keeps me awake at night and makes me so weak, it gets hard to keep a glass of water from slipping through my hand.  At least I can still shave.
Shaving away my stubble always gives me a sense of masculine satisfaction; and I now understand the fascination that advertisers have with this, most male of rituals.  
A man's shaving technique is a rite of passage.  The handing down of the family stroke (from left to right, or right to left, whether to go with the grain or against) is a sacred trust between generations.  After all, man's status in this testosterone-laden culture may be determined by these subtleties.  I happen to know that Princeton graduates all shave from left to right across the face, working with the lay of hair!
It is true that women also have a most obsessive focus on facial hair, though I am certain it derives from an entirely different motivation, often involving a much-discussed masochism as the offending growth is uprooted from its follicle by diverse means.  For a girl arriving at the portal of puberty, for example, the appearance of facial hair is a disaster.  For a boy however, it means the awakening of the giant within.  
As I was growing up, every boy's dream was to be a muscular six feet and something inches tall, have an abundance of hair in all the right places and to be able to grow a full beard in under ten days…that and owning the latest motocross bike.  Now, triumphs include keeping the gaunt stranger in the mirror in focus, so that the razor does not bite too deep, and being able to keep the blotches on my face from showing through the expensive make up.  Do you see?  Even in preparing for the inevitable, we lie to ourselves.  I have never understood how to face the truth without fear.  To quote Oscar Wilde: "Truth is rarely pure and never simple."
It is the simple things, which I miss the most.  Waking up with the sun, instead of to another white coat framed face.  I miss the feel of the kitchen tiles on warm feet and your hands slipping round my waist as I make the coffee.  I miss the silken glide of the swivel head 'with moisture strip' as I shave the second time, the way my father taught me.  
The fact that you are watching this, is proof of the fallibility of modern science, and testimony that the brain does house the soul; at least until the kemo begins!
All my possessions I leave to my wife, with the exception of my collection of garden magazines, which go to my sister and her four children.  To her husband, I leave my potted raspberry bush, so he may have an eternal supply and those who loved me may save their breath.

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