The Beard

By: Rachel Stander

You walked into class two minutes late.
I noticed immediately; you were freshly shaved.
From the top of your sideburns all the way down. You had a baby face.
You looked the same as the day we met, back in the sixth grade, when we were full of optimism.
When you sit down, I open my mouth to ask why you did it, but you already knew what I was thinking so you tell me you did it because it started to feel heavy, like it was holding the weight of all the problems you realized were selfish.
It made you feel dirty.
It made you feel like you were hiding, like you were lying to yourself about who you were.
Every inch of your beard was another personality trait you pretended to have to please the people around you.
It made you feel old.
You started from the sides and worked to the bottom of your chin. You cut yourself twice, but the blood made you feel new, like the narcissism was leaving through the skin on your cheeks and benevolence rebirthed in your pores.
You looked in the mirror. You had a slight fu manchu.
You were then someone else, but you still were not you.
Then your sister walked into the bathroom. She was aware of your presence but walked over to the toilet and unzipped her jeans anyway. When she went to wash her hands, all of the beard hairs started to rinse down the drain. They looked like little bits of someone else, finally packing up and moving out after staying for too long. Your sister did not look you in the eye before she left, but she did call you ugly.
Staring at yourself, only you really knew how much more attractive you were.
You then shaved the mustache. You cut yourself one more time. You let this one bleed.
The rest of your mustache hairs in the sink look like little bugs, like at any moment they could crawl back onto your skin and suffocate you.
But I know you’d refuse to let them.
The kids in class all make jokes about you getting lost on your way to the junior high. The boys have always been jealous of the way you’ve been able to grow a full beard while they look like the middle school students who’ve been waiting for you to come back. The girls giggle at the little brown mole that’s always been under your chin but is only visible now that your facial hair is gone. You used to hate that mole. Now, it reminds you of the boy you let go of, how you’re free now.
The teacher finally walks in. He is nine minutes late. He makes a comment about how he didn’t know they switched him to freshman English over the weekend. These baby face jokes could bother you.
But I know you do not let them.