He had loved the straight razor but the price of mastering it was embarrassment, random assignations of cuts like a child’s map drawn in red felt across his cheeks and chin. When he was depressed, he imagined one slip and the blood gushing out , a final grand guignol ending to the most mundane action a man could perform. He shaved because the beard is so commonplace now and being clean shaven set him apart. It’s meditative and afterwards it felt like a simple invisible victory.
Despite its dilapidation, the flat was a cocoon whilst grief did the work of transformation. He walks through in just a towel around his waist, skin tingling from the cold shower he took.
The carpet was the colour of dried oatmeal, thin and abrasive to bare feet. His bed was set into the left of the room, hiding in the corner like a child being punished. He wiped the gel from his cheeks with a towel and looks at his reflection, pleased with the face which looks back at him.
The shelves were the first sign of recovery. Before his books were lined against the skirting board like homeless people in a soup kitchen queue, now they were elevated like the gods, looking down on him. He had painted the walls and plastered over the pockmarks, made the room lighter and more hopeful. Whether he had ambitions of inviting women back, he could not say but the despair it engendered was an affectation and the bright green lampshade was the final touch, a shingle being hung out to say ‘I’m alive.’ There was space and light here, a woman’s touch without a woman being involved.There’s the sound of trainer-clad feet slapping against the pavement, the high, chest calls of young boys calling to one another, so fast the words collide into one another and become indistinct. They live at a faster pace in youth and you can hear it in the rapid patter of their lives.
He sits on a soft throw, an indirect comforting hug, draped over the bed to add colour to the room and it brushes against his bare thighs. He is in underwear and a t shirt, the lazy primacy of a single man at home, unwilling or unable to dress for himself in his leisure time. He smokes, enjoying the chemical tang of the smoke and the hum of nicotine infused synapses as he writes.
The things he feels but does not say.
His dreams, dormant and listless, but awake now, tender to a new world because they’ve never been exposed to the sunlight of reality.
The things he would say to her, if she were there to hear them.
Loneliness comes and goes, like a familiar melody floating through the air, but he keeps going. The page is blank but not for long.