“After Eight” (7)
By Paul Larkin
The Shining Light
He couldn’t face going bald. Blind was fine. Well, blind when he was older. Deaf, whatever, but not bald. He had always been a bit of a looker and had prided himself on his sartorial je ne sais quoi. That was French for his mysterious attractiveness which drove women wild. A woman had said it to him once when they were in a clinch in a takeaway and he had learned it off by heart. Now, all that was slowly being destroyed. Eroded. Diminished by the day, by the hour, by every minute as he obsessively watched the progress of his alopecia by buying a small shaving mirror so that he could run into a bathroom and, yes, check once again. The startling presence of a crown of light reflecting from the back of his skull.
He wanted to vomit when he thought of the moment when he discovered that he was losing it. He’d asked his then girlfriend to video a soccer match in which he was playing, with the clear instructions that she stay focused on him and given that he clinched the game with a diving header, achieved through a forest of flailing feet and an onrushing monster of a goalie, you had to take your hat off to him. He had been so convinced that he would score on that fateful day that he had arranged for the video to be shown in the clubhouse after the match. There they all were. The team. Plus entourage – WAGs (Wives and Girlfriends). Even before his complete dénouement he had started to feel uncomfortable and hissed at his girl that she could at least have swung the camera round to something else when he was scratching his balls or picking his nose. So he took the remote and fast forwarded to more entertaining moments.
Then it came! The ball comes across from the corner. He shows utter determination to get to that ball as it comes in low and hard. The full back tries to hold him off but he is not to be denied. He uses his neck muscles, his torque, to bend his head around the hairy thigh of the defender and ping the ball in the net. The bar erupts in cheers, whistles and feet stamping. But when that died down, the joker in the pack. The team comedian. He jumps up and asks for the remote so he can wind the film back because he has just SPOTTED something.
That was the start of it and his girlfriend roared with laughter at his “birds nest” along with the rest of them. He just wanted to die and, when they got back home and she was still laughing, he asked her to leave and then when she refused to leave and started to cry a little he relented. They opened a bottle of wine and by the second bottle he decided that things weren’t that bad really. He went into the bathroom again and he actually liked what he saw. He stripped off and looked at his muscular physique and he felt brave and reckless. Fuck them he said. But then SHE walked in, just as he was mouthing je ne sais quoi at the mirror and she got the fits of laughing and she couldn’t stop this time and he hated her for it. She gave up on him and went to bed. Everything would be all right in the morning she said.
He poured a straight double whisky and tried to listen to some music but all the rock stars he liked were extremely hirsute and he found that he now hated them as well. He fixed another drink and tried to wake her but it was no good. She just lay there with that smirk on her face. That was it. He rushed out of the bedroom, knocking things over as he did so and returned with two things in his hands. He then waited until she had settled into a deep sleep again. When he lifted her lustrous locks, the shears in his hand glinted in the stream of moonlight coming in from the window. He was amazed to find how easily the rest of her shorn hair dropped off as he then applied the triple strength hair remover to her scalp.