I no longer shave in the shower. Shaving at a sink takes longer and usually requires more dreama, but since I have begun shaving in front of a mirror I have learned that it is possible to shave without leaving tiny furry patches on my otherwise clean-shaven facescape, especially the occasional inadvertent soul patch that makes me look much hipper than I appear in the mirror.
Another advantage to not shaving blind is that I take fewer divots. And I have learned that I love the smell of shaving cream.
“The Incident,” is when shaving in the shower stopped being a rote activity.
I still whimper at the recollection.
Warning: Squirmage ahead.
Remember the film “Psycho”? Remember the sight of the blood swirling down the drain? Any idea what it is like to see your own blood doing that?
I was doing my usual zip-zop shave, which takes about 30 seconds, when I saw the blood–my blood–swirling down the drain. At first, my main concern was whether the blood would stain, but when I tried to attend to it, I couldn’t help but notice that I was losing ground–well, blood, actually. It just kept coming.
By the time I got to the mirror, blood smeared my face and my upper lip sported a steady crimson ooze. It wasn’t gushing, but it was more than a drip. Quite a bit more, actually.
I tore off a piece of toilet paper (Pardon me: bathroom tissue) and pressed it to my lip, dismayed to see the blood immediately carry the bit of paper over the edge of my lip. I snatched a wad of toilet paper and pressed it to my lip.
The white quickly blossomed crimson before my very eyes—and under my very nose—and I thought that it was time to call Houston: I might have problem. Toilet paper yielded to damp paper towels, applied one strip after another like ruby-red papier mache, until the flow slowed to a dribble. It was time, I thought, to bring in a expert.
I had a good relationship with my doctor. He had a sense of humor and gave me extra prostate exams when he thought I needed to be reminded of the hierarchy of power. I also had an appointment with him for a nebulizer treatment for pneumonia. (Our compromise for my not being hospitalized was that I would go to his office for treatment every morning. )
I drove to his office and the receptionist, who seemed skeptical about how urgent a tiny puncture might be, (I sort of shaved off a tiny bump on the very edge of my lip. This is a pencil point nick we’re talking about. But it was a bleeder.) told him that I was there but bleeding.
His medical majesty came to the reception desk, looked at this tiny perforation and sort of shrugged it off. He told his nurse to get me a cold instrument. (She gave me a knife!) I pressed it against the bloody boo-boo and it didn’t so much as cause a stutter in the flow.
When she replaced the knife with ice, I was gratified to see that she was beginning to look concerned. The doctor told me to apply pressure. Nothing. But I saw that he was beginning to take the injury more seriously. As I bled out, I would at least feel smug about being right.
I went on the nebulizer, holding the mouthpiece with one hand and pressing a cold wet handcloth against the sucking lip womb. [When I was in basic training for the army, a drill sergeant asked what to do for a sucking chest womb. One of my fellow trainees immediately shouted, “Put a sucking bandage on it, drill sergeant.” Turned out to be the wrong answer, but it presented a rare opportunity for a glimpse of a bemused drill sergeant.)
As I sat there, a miserable wreck of the man I had been when I got into the shower that morning, I heard the doctor sing out that he was coming for me. (Really, he was the only fun doctor I have had.)
He appeared, pushing what looked remarkably like the drinks cart that airline hostesses use to smash my elbow on long flights. This one seemed to be carrying advanced technology, with dials and wires and all sorts of groovy things that scared the living bejeepers out of me.
Brandishing what looked liked a tiny welding iron, he griped about wasting valuable specialized training in “electrocuting a zit.” My first objection was to the word “zit.” It was more like a goosebump that got in the grim reaper’s way. It was a masculine grooming wound.
Then I heard the other word and stopped in mid-complaint.
He grinned and, without looking at his assistant, said, “Give me some power.”
He put a metal plate behind me and touched the welder to my lip.
Oh ye gods!
It was like static electricity on steroids. On my lip. My tender, tender lip.
Now, I suspect that most guys–and more than a few women know the exquisite agony of plucking a hair from the upper lip: the tears, the searing pain that runs up one nostril and down the other. Now, imagine taking a powerful electric jolt to said lip.
How much worse can pain be?
He paused, tilted his head to study it…and hit it again. And again. And Again. I was trying not to scream, but I knew that my eyes were wide and rolling like Black Beauty when the stable caught on fire…and the smell of burnt flesh and fresh fear filled the air.
The doctor grumbled that my lip was not cooperating. I was amazed that it hadn’t crawled up my nostrils to hide in fear. I told myself that I would not cry; I would not let him see my fear.
He looked at me and said, “It shouldn’t take this long.”
Sweat dripped from my nose and I was afraid to nod, move or speak lest he give me another jolt. And if he did, what would happen when electrivcity hot the moisture pooling below my nose? I was ready to tell all the secrets of our government and any other I have heard of. I was quivering, but greatly relieved that, at last, it was over.
And then he said, “I need more power.”
What is he, Tim the Toolman Taylor?
He looked at his assistant and said it again, louder. “I need more power.”
I was practically levitating out of my chair. The terror, the anticipation, the echoes of burning nose hairs or flesh or whatever it was…I was almost overcome. I would have hyperventilated, but with pneumonia, that’s more work than it’s worth.
I was twitching, and salt was stinging at my hurt place.
As the doctor approached and my eyes crossed on the welding tool, I found myself pulling my head as far as possible into the back of my chair.
If ever I envied turtles, this was the time. I pictured myself as a panicked turtle withdrawing as far as possible, but I don’t think turtles sweat.
I could retreat no farther. The doctor looked grimmer than I have seen him and the tip kept getting closer until…CONTACT and a “pop.” It exploded? My lip exploded? Where is the governor? Why doesn’t he call?
The doctor looked startled. (I’d say shocked, but it is still too soon.) My lip bled. The doctor said “Did that hurt?”
Did that HURT?
DID THAT HURT? Would a hot crochet needle in your eye hurt?
The man was completely serious. He was stabbing at my lip with an instrument of torture, a high-power electrode, and turning it up to 11; the room was filled with the stench of burning flesh; blood was pouring from the growing wound; my lip had, apparently, exploded all over my face, and he asked whether it hurt?
I said, ?es.
Yes it hurts…a lot!
He had once told me I was stoic in the face of pain. Now he knew he could believe me when I said, “Yes, it hurt.” I believe that in my eyes he could read that I was actually saying, “Yes, !@#$% %^&*. Yes, it ^&*() @$%^& hurts like a ^&*( *!*&^%. Yes! yes! yes!” But I was too polite to think it out loud.
He nodded curtly and said that he would have to numb it.
Numb it? That was a choice and we didn’t make it?
Numb it! Yes, by all means, numb it. Give me general anesthetic and let’s start over.
And then the fog cleared.
“Wait, you’re going to stick a needle in it now?”
Panic wasn’t far. Even I heard it in the way my voice cracked. I heard the unshed tears threatening to spill.
“Just a small one,” he said.
Maybe it was. I had closed my eyes in the half-hope that death would take me first, so I didn’t see the needle. What I know is that–maybe because the flesh of my lip had already suffered so much abuse, the needle burned all the way in and all the way out. Twice.
I said a silent prayer for unconsciousness, but it was not answered. I briefly considered begging him to just let me bleed out, but then steeled myself to my fate.
I heard him tell his assistant to decrease power and went rigid when I heard the sizzle-pop of the cauterizing wand on my war-torn lip…but I didn’t feel anything. The relief was almost worth
the agony that preceded it, that allowed me to feel the tremendous joy of a numb lip. Who would have thought such a small thing could become so huge in one’s mind?
Zap away my good man, I thought, giddy with lack of pain. Zap away.
A few quick little zzts and it was over. He pronounced me cured and warned me not to pick at the scab.
And that ladies and gentlemen, is why I now have a mustache and beard.