27 June 2013


  He washed away the excess shaving cream, rubbing his fingers together under the weak stream of hot water. His father had tried to teach him, of course.

  "You only need a little bit," he'd said. "It goes a long way."

  It'd been foam back then; not the expensive, moisturizing, sensitive skin care, cocoa butter-infused gel he slathered on now.

  This stuff was supposed to help his complexion, or so the writing on the side of the can promised. In truth, it only served to remind him of what William Shakespeare writes in Henry V: "The elder I wax, the better I shall appear: my comfort is, that old age, that ill layer up of beauty, can do no more, spoil upon my face."

  At 44, he'd been shaving for 25 years.

  "More than that," he sighed. "Closer to 30."

  In all the days of his eclectic, though admittedly incomplete, education, he'd somehow missed learning about Newton's law regarding the dynamics of gel expansion, of that he was sure.

  He still used too much. Well, if he hadn't figured it out by now…

  He looked in the mirror as the remains of the glycerin goop slipped down the drain. The blue eyes looked the same – his vision the only part of him, it seemed, not yet compromised by age. The face itself had changed; the skin looser; he had a wrinkle or three, and a couple old scars.

  Raising his glance, he again read the two quotes he'd long ago taped at the top of the glass – one a Latin phrase, the other he'd read in a Tom Clancy book.

  "Memento mori;" Remember you will die. He'd intended it as a motivational tool; to make him write by reminding him his time on this planet is limited.

  Each morning, it made him feel guilty when he thought about how little he'd accomplished the day before. And, too frequently, it elicited an empty promise to do more today.

  He noticed the slowly increasing number of gray hairs on the sides of his head…and the quickly decreasing number of hairs on top of it.

  Shades of gray, he thought.

  "Today you can be a man of honor; or you can not," the second quote read.

  It wasn't that easy, he knew. When he was young, everything had been simple. To a kid it's all black and white; good and bad. You're either G.I. Joe or Cobra; cowboy or Indian.

  But, a man's world is full of grays – colors that had to be dealt with, and consequences to be endured. Decisions often had to be made without the luxury of experience or knowledge. Best possible choices made in a moment, and years of memories lived with.

  Is this what it means to be a man? he thought, making the first pass with his razor. To struggle forward, while always dwelling on the mistakes of the past; trying to accept things that can't be changed.

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