Take A Razor To Your Head
Jesus locks hide the mirror from the eyes, the hinged blade at hand. Wicked straight curve gleams on dead porcelain, waiting waiting. Patient and hungry. One final look, to put the past away again, to take on the paint and the mask. No other way. A drop of oil, then thumb the lever, hear the buzz. Feel them catch and tangle, pull away from the scalp. Watch the months and years fall into the sink again. Smooth stubble all around. Click off.
Razor time, sharp as anything, the first scraping pass done more by touch and feel. Finish up with the mirror, mind the scratches, it’s only pain. Warm trickles down the back, clean the bloody blade. Fold it up again. The air conditioner rumbles to life, cool air pushed against bare skin.
Who stares back from the mirror?
The Yellow Mass
Silent and uncomfortable during the liturgy, trapped in the middle of the pew, I considered my means of escape—in the event of an emergency, to flail at old women and children, stampede over the crippled and elderly in the mad rush past the baptismal font and escape into the relative safety of the vestibule, where warm mud-colored coffee and powdered donuts awaited, perhaps crumbcake.
She anchored me there with a light touch on the crook of my arm.
We had never discussed religion, and I had never wanted to. Hers was one of those obscure faiths, more bizarre and counter-intuitive than the Anglican Catholics or the Christian Atheists, and she had snookered me in by appealing to my vanity. “You haven’t even tried it.” The theme to three childhood tattoos, twice as many scars, and the occasional flashback from long-dormant experiments with drugs that buried themselves deep in the grey matter and lingered for years and decades. “This is very different.” She insisted.
The liturgy of the Eucharist was brief, and mostly hidden by the altar. The minister turned his back on us and fiddled with something, saying a few words, and when he returned there was a pale golden chalice full of pale golden wine.
I don’t know what I was expecting as we shuffled up for the communion. The church was done up in yellow cloths that hid the images of saints and crucifixion of the windows; great billowing clouds of amber that reached up to the arching roof and hung in banners and flags to frame the altar, which was also of bright yellow—silk, perhaps. I followed the crowd past the rail with its golden cushions to stand before the altar itself in a circle. The acolytes carried the chalice around, and everyone took a sip.
“Don’t worry” she whispered to me, too low for the others to hear. “it’s sterile.”
That set it off, of course. The rising panic. I saw the golden chalice go to each set of lips in turn, to drink the pale yellow liquid, the rim wiped clean by a square yellow handkerchief. There was a reek now of ammonia and I thought of sober men and women at urology conferences lining up for such communions, literally taking the piss into themselves with ritual satisfaction, the necessary preliminaries before an orgy of golden showers where pale, saggy flesh would be doused and renewed in yellow streams that exactly resembled the slightly off-color wine that supposedly filled that cup. The minister approached us, dressed informally in blue jeans and a long-sleeved yellow shirt. She took her sip without comment and apparent satisfaction, then turned to look at me. I noticed his zipper was undone.
The golden chalice was before me, only a few sips left, the smell tangy and familiar—but I had never tasted sacramental wine. All eyes upon me, I took my sip.
It was warm.