As soon as we got home, I said, “I’m going into my room.” Then I went to take a shower instead.
“Yeah, welcome home,” Mom said. At that point, I knew exactly how it was going to be.
I took a three hour long shower, put on a t-shirt, some pajama pants and my favorite brown robe, all left in exactly the same places. My parents had never really liked to change things (except for their cars, apparently). I went into my room and slept through the next day. When I finally woke up, I went into the bathroom and urinated for several minutes. Then I went back into my room and lay on my bed. I ran my hand over my face and contemplated the nature of beards. I was, I guessed, already about three days into what I had assumed as my new purpose in life.
A beard, I figured, was power. Grown properly, a beard was like a mask. The man beneath the beard looked out at a world with clarity but that same world could not necessarily see into him. The beard rendered a plain man into a mystery, at least from the eyes down, and I never really believed all that stuff about the eyes being mirrors to the soul anyway. A beard left so much of the bearded’s face unexplained. How big was his mouth? Did he have a weak chin? Perhaps he had a cleft in his chin or a harelip. Was his jaw line rounded or chiseled? Did he have a double chin? All of these questions would go unanswered until the beard was removed.
And what about the nature of a person who grows a beard. Was it vanity? Did he think he looked better with the beard? Was the beard there to hide some sort of physical flaw? Was the beard meant to convey a folksy sensibility? Was it there to make him seem more at one with nature, more comforting? Perhaps the person who grows a beard was simply too lazy to shave. Or maybe it hurt to shave. Maybe shaving was more excruciating than the bearded could take. In that case, he definitely would not be a masochist. Or maybe he had better things to do. Maybe he just didn’t want to take the time to shave because there were so many other things he could do. This, ultimately, was the reaction I strove for. I wanted the beard to be a sign to the world. I was too preoccupied with finding my purpose in life to shave. I spent too much time wrapped in deep thought and, besides, what was the point in shaving anyway? Furthermore, what was the point in cutting one’s hair? It was just vanity. Why not enjoy all this hair while I had it?
Maybe I was just depressed but I stayed there for three months, rubbing my hand across my cheeks and chin, feeling my beard grow thick and full. I hardly ever left my room. I had a stereo and a lot of records. I tried to find the most depressing stuff imaginable. I didn’t like it when the singer or even the music sounded remotely happy. When that happened, I would pull the record from the player and break it in half. It made me angry to hear happiness. I couldn’t run the risk of listening to that same one again. It gradually occurred to me that I might not have been so much depressed as working on my sense of anger. I went through all the album covers and liner notes and drew big frowny faces on all the band members. I didn’t want them sounding happy and I most definitely didn’t want them looking happy. Which wasn’t a big problem. Most of them looked pretty pouty and brooding anyway but I couldn’t get it out of my head that all the pictures were still taken at some photo shoot somewhere and that photo shoot wouldn’t have existed if they hadn’t just recorded an album that was going to prove at least moderately successful. Therefore, even though they were pouting and broody they were still happy. Even worse, they were very happy people pretending to be very sad people. The world was just full of poseurs. After I got bored with the frowning faces I decided to draw beards on all of them. Big black beards made with a thick black marker. I covered their mouths and everything. Even the girls. All those bearded ladies made me happy. My being happy made me mad. I shouldn’t be happy because I had failed in my life pursuit.
I had to comfort myself by stroking my beard. That made things all right, at least for a little while.
My father worked at the factory all day and slept all night. My mother ran errands all day and slept all night. My sister was modeling in California. I only left my room at night so I didn’t have to talk to my parents. It wasn’t that I hated them or anything. We just didn’t have a lot to talk about so we just said the same things we’d said a hundred times before and all of that made me pretty bored. I also had the feeling they were hiding something from me. I had never really had that feeling until I watched my grandfather disappear in the front yard but, after that, the feeling became a little more palpable. Like there was some big family curse they weren’t telling me about. Like they knew, no matter how hard I tried at whatever endeavor, I was going to fail. My sister, Cassie, didn’t have this problem, but I had come to suspect that she was adopted and, therefore, exempt from the curse.
Action came over a few times and asked if I wanted to play but I told him to go away. Actually, I never really told him to go away. I just locked my door and pretended I wasn’t there.
One morning, shortly after masturbating, I heard a knock on my door. Thinking it might be Action, I silently slid my pajama pants up over myself and tried to remain as quiet as I could. Again, there was a knock on the door.
It was Dad.
I didn’t really want to talk to him either. Of course, he knew I was in my room but maybe if I didn’t say anything he would think I was asleep.
He knocked louder this time.
“What!” I shouted. “What the hell do you want!”
“It’s your mother...”
“What about her!”
“She’s dead. She died this morning.”
“She wasn’t even sick!” I yelled, not really believing him.
“I’m sorry, Son. Sometimes these things happen. Are you going to come out of your room?”
I knew I should have left the room, to comfort my father if nothing else, but I didn’t want to. The inertia was too strong. It had welled up so deeply inside of me I didn’t really know if I could feel anything except anger.
“Later!” I shouted before going about trashing everything in my room. I smashed the stereo, broke all the albums, ripped all the books and anything else made of paper. And then I collapsed in the rubble in my sweaty bearded stink.