Thursday, 1 December 2011

Rebarbative Me - Friday Flash

I have spent a tender lifetime trying to efface myself. To purge the bovine features of my father that have conferred their genetic tyranny upon me. I may bear his loathsome visage, but none of the violence that leaches from his pores and creases every time the skin blazons his disgust.

Yet that same genetic despotism ensured I could no longer continue to shrink my presence from him, once I no longer folded into the nooks and niches under tables and in cupboards. The serpentine lash of his strop unerringly bit the small of my back and rump. Places where I could never apprise myself of the lacerating damage wrought there. Physical pain wasn't visual. Psychic pain was ineffably so. Triggered at the mere sight of him. At the vision of a slightly grizzled version of myself.

To compensate, as soon as I was able, I started to grow a beard. Praying that the bristles would be tensile enough to bury my flesh from sight (having had no modelling from my father who religiously shaved everyday, whetting his razors on the dread strop. And for those hairs adhering to me after a beating, like tiny porcupine quills to prolong the scourging).

My solitary daily ritual, far removed from any ablutions, was to raise my hand to my fluff and gauge its overnight growth. For I could not bring myself to consult a mirror. Partly for fear of the hair betraying me with its feebleness, but also because I might have to engage with my eyes. And see the defeat indelibly etched there. The melding of his sadism with my masochism, I must be heaping it all upon myself right?

But the follicles proved fecund and strong. In time they occluded both me and presumably my father from my features. He of course fulminated against the beard, but he had grown sick and weak, while my transformation only seemed to embolden me. I left home for a place without mirrors. Mirrors mirror only isolation. That and duality.

I was out of his immediate clutches, but I could build no kind of life for myself. I could never look people in the face. I could scarce lift my chin from my sternum. As if the skin there was made of velcro.

However today I have made the decision for the beard to come off. To celebrate news of my father's death and my possible rebirth. I went out and purchased a small round mirror that pivoted on a stand. It resembled a squashed globe.

I laboriously cut the hair with scissors until it lent itself to razor shearing. I was thrown when my face was completely eclipsed beneath a snowdrift of shaving foam. I stared at such wonderful inchoateness for ages, until the chemicals in the cream started stinging my flesh beneath.

I started ploughing, barely able to fix my face in the tilted concavity of the mirror. The white layer stained red in places. Yet more effacement.

But gradually, the alluvium bristles were swept away and the contours of my cheeks emerged. I peered hard at the tiny mirror, barely able to frame me as I leaned right into its purlieu. With difficulty, I looked into the doppelganger's sightless eyes. It wasn't my father, but then nor was it anyone I knew either.

Does the butterfly that metamorphoses from the imago of the grub have any connection to it other than what lies within its genes?


Linda said...

You take self-effacement to a new level. Rather gruesome, and so glad I don't have the same relationship with my mother -- imagine my poor legs! Peace...

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ganymeder said...

Wonderfully written, and now I need to find my dictionary! :D

Sonia Lal said...

Good job! I always enjoy the way you turn a phrase. LOL

FARfetched said...

Wow… the abuse itself may stop, but the echoes can carry on for a lifetime. I hope he can lift his denuded face and make a better life for himself!

Deanna Schrayer said...

Oh the poor man! I don't believe I've felt so much empathy, or sympathy, for a character in quite some time as I do here Marc. You describe the abuse, and the lingering effects, so very well! Just love this one!

Tom Gillespie : @tom_gillespie said...

The horror of genetic metamorphosis! I'm slowly turning into my Father, but all that involves (mainly) is the acquisition of a dark, absurdist humour that no one but me understands...the story reminds me of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Anonymous said...

I'm with ganymeder in dictionary corner at the moment.
When I grew my beard I instantly became my father. This made some people uncomfortable. I decided to keep it.
Wonderful, literary, poetic flash.

Steve Green said...

This story goes deep into the psyche, a life like his would be truly saddening, and the psychological demons resulting from the abuse would be difficult or even impossible to purge.

Very nice writing.

Adam B said...

Another idea brilliantly executed.
Adam B @revhappiness

Li said...

Very raw and emotional, some real pain on display here. :-))

Good question, about the connection and whether it is more than DNA. There are so many other factors involved; environment, cultural influence, education, outside emotional support systems. They all play a part in molding us as we mature.

I'm also a firm believer in change coming from within, and I strongly believe that we each have the power to recreate ourselves.

Helen said...

I had to look up what the title meant - shows how thick I am ^__^

This was a deep piece that focuses of how we believe ourselves to be based on the reactions/interactions of our parents. How much they do or do not support us and what belief systems they instil into us about ourselves.

This really resonated for me, having always been told that whatever I did was never good enough, which resulted in self esteem issue that still haunt me today - even as old as I am.

A well written piece Marc that touched home with this lady.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I hope he grows to like what he can now stand to see in the mirror.

Beautifully written, as always.