A Short Story By Eryn Brothers
He is proud, you can see it in his nose. Some of us say you can see the soul through the eyes, but it is the nose, that genteel creature that anchors your face and yet is the most ignored judge of character. A large nose suggests a sensuous person, always smacking their lips wanting more. A small nose means some kind of diminutive personality, they might not be shy, but they may like to keep themselves secretive and small. I personally prefer people with large beaky noses like birds or foxes- they are smart, agile, witty, passionate, and wise.
Here, take the mirror to my own nose. It is long, my face is consumed by it. The nostrils spread and flap next to my cheeks, and the divot at the top of the organ adds a strange childishness to what should be a very dour nose. My mouth accents the bottom crest , and while it turns up, it suggests curiosity over superiority.
But-ha ha! Look at his nose. It is a full and beaky nose, and that not only means the burden of ingenuity, but the burden of pleasures. It is mildly turned up, and in this exact moment he knows his place, which is emblazoned on a high marquee that only a mountain could hold.
His eyes are squinting, and he looks like a mythical entity smugly gazing on his next victim. They twinkle with a mild sadistic amusement reminiscent of a man ogling a woman, but that act is too banal for this man. Yes, he’s sexual, and you can see it and feel it, but this is not the kind of person who would waste his time ogling. He observes. Like an owl. Like a wolf.
I squint my own eyes. They are not lucid, but they can look mean. They cannot force themselves to push their way into that sordid gaze, though haphazardly attempts are made. The small tilt and slits naturally want to close tight, but they do not retain the desired clarity. I remind myself that they are many ways to look cruel, but I also nastily remind myself that it is hard to look naturally stunning as well.
Look at his eyebrows, they give him away, but only slightly. They curl in a childish way. He is amused! The drollness of it all dribbles down his broad forehead into the tumult of hair that crowns his cruel eye. It makes him look even more intimidating-for who could be more frightening than someone who understands the humor of you versus their own self?
I feel as though he is laughing at me. No sound would come out of this man at all, he seems to be stuck in a world where he is conscious of everything, and yet, at the same time, very candidly caught off guard and in repose. He flourishes his lip, a sunrise on the horizon of his mouth. It is a shocking contrast and yet a perfect juxtaposition to the eyes, the nose, the brow, even the ear. Though the smirk he retains is like the moon rising over the ocean, it could easily fade behind a cloud.
My own lips pull themselves in different direction, I have no control over them, nor have I ever, really. They are always smiling at the wrong time or frowning when they are supposed to be friendly, grimacing when they should remain straight. But they are full and red, a flushing sword on an otherwise plain field. I mimic his curling floret, and let the shock of success wave over me like his oceans. Sometimes I can be aware, and I let my eyes wander back up his head.
The shock of his hair is gorgeous, and it adds a strange coquette and almost feminine charm to the person. At first it only looks like one concrete thing. You look at it and say to yourself, “That is his hair, look at the space it takes up.” Then you see the blue flames of fire sprouting up from his head, twisting and cavorting, and though he is painfully still, he is moving, and you can see every separate hair on his wild head moving with him. It is fire, he is a dragon, he is a beast, and to touch is to be slain. His hair is not hair anymore, but composed of little dancers and their gavotte on his crown.
My hair shines in the bathroom light above the mirror. It looks almost red, but not quite, like a halo, and a smile grows at the pleasures of my own fires. I quickly stop, because I am not ready to smile, I am ready for hair. It looks as though someone hair poured a large bucket of molasses over my head, my hair sticks and drips to my body like goo. It keeps dripping, multi-toned, brown, orange, red, yellow, black, a touch of green, a whisper of gray all cascading about my head. It is still, but in motion, just like his hair, and I am pleased.
But look! Certain tendrils of the crown stick up on his head in a peculiar way. It is not purposeful, but he is still aware of them, and he chooses his gaze to enhance their solitude, to make it is own. The way the top tendrils turn, they know the slavery of pomade, the destitute loneliness of serums , the societal norm of hair flattened, hair tamed. He allows these hairs to soar off of his head, and proudly. He is free.
I bloom under the realization. My hair is naturally flat, and I have always envied those with unruly hair. They look gorgeous all the time, freshly fucked and fun, adventurous and warm. My hair gives me a hermit-like air, the promise of a small conversation and a good book suggestion. But seeing him with his hair unfettered by the realm of the restraint, and looking proud of it, means so much more to me than pomade or genetics. It promises me that one day I too could experience what he does, if I choose to break my own shackles.
My eyes move to his hands.
Could anything be so perfect? They are mildly aged, but strong. The knuckles look like they are made out of a knotted pine, and the way the phalange dips and sways makes him look like he is made out of twigs and other wild things. In his hands he is Pan, he is the Sand Man, he is Loki, he is Odin. They clutch at his chest in a relaxed manner, one hand stretched over his body, the other supporting the stretch. They look like spider webs, they look like time. They are regal and purposeful, because nothing this man does at this particular moment is sporadic and spontaneous. It is calculated and precise, because he is wild and pregnant with knowledge. They look as though they are on fire, those hands, they look like clouds and trees and forests. The hands are everything.
My own hands? They are nimble yet fleshy, a strange dichotomy. They can do amazing things, they can play instruments, they can cast their spells and make meals, they can tie knots and they can weave their own knitted webs. But they have to have something in them to create these magics. They are scarred and calloused, and aged yet youthful in their elasticity.
His hands do not need anything. They hold himself together, they clutch at his fibers, his being, and pull everything that is him in the nebulous spiral that creates him. He needs no tools, for his hands do all the work.
I envy him, I revile him.
So the experiment begins. I contemplate, my eyes follow. I dip my head slightly back in the mirror, I pull my eyebrows up. I leave the rest of my face a clean palate, and only give room for my mouth to curl. My hair suddenly comes to life, I have moved my head in the right way, looking out toward the unknown.
My hands naturally come up to my chest, and I am a queen.
Here I am again, in the mirror. I am a self portrait, I am trying. I do not see an ugliness that I have imagined or inherently understand about myself. I see fire, I see mountains, I see the unshakeable movement that is being.
And I am perfectly still.