Talking to the man who doesn’t need to shave fills in me a well of melancholy, sudden and post conversation. The conversation features the most delightful frog in short film history (yet to be made), among many other things that give me mirth and pleasure, not least looking into his silvery eyes. Unlike most other young men of an age at which they don’t have to shave, he holds my gaze, steady as a hypnotist. His eyes are memorably shaped, as if they were placed in his face upside down, just a little. Silvery grey.
The sadness sets in after I’ve left the party at which we spend a couple of hours or so talking as the sun goes down over the back garden. It’s more of a backyard than an actual garden, with wild grass growing all over and a neighbour’s dog actually digging up his there hidden bones. I’d never seen that before, other than in comics (and I’m not an avid fan or consumer of comics, haven’t been since I was about twelve). It’s not his youth that brings on my deep sorrow verging on despair, nor anything he said nor the fact that he is bright and well spoken, nor let alone that he doesn’t seem to need to shave. I reckon I must be close to twice his age but luckily not as old as his dad. His dad sounds ancient and excellent, formidable in one field or another. By age though, I could be his dad. This casts a pall of umbra over my otherwise sanguine disposition.
I know! I’m having my midlife crisis. It’s plain and perhaps just tadwise banal. I am projecting my discomfiture with the impending calamity of fifty onto the part of my mind that clings on to diversion for dear life. I make believe. The irksomeness of my situation begins to creep up on me, like a nebulous mist. (Tautology.) I have made it to midpoint completely unnoticed: I am invisible to the naked eye. And the next few days will have been cataclysmic, so small wonder I’m having an existential wobble. But the good thing is that this time I did not fall in love: not with my friend on the South Bank (though that would have been easy), not with the young man who doesn’t need to shave. (Easier still.) Most certainly not with Poshvoiced Hoodie and, no, not with the man in a blue shirt at Clapham Junction, should you wonder. (Have you ever noticed how many sprucely scrubbed men, tender in years and wearing ironed blue shirts, stand at any given station on any commutable morning… – It’s a rhetorical question?)
As well as being unfamous, I am also perennially poor. My chosen path of professional endeavour has so far yielded no hint of a fortune. This has the advantage that I remain unencumbered, I suppose, by wealth’s weight: what I don’t have I can’t lose, and I know more than I care to cerebrate that the things I own own me quite as much. Take my laptop for instance: without it I am nought. I have dislodged myself to the continent’s end, but my Mac is still here: I find that reassuring.
I will the straw in my drink to suck up one more residual sip of tomato juice laced with vodka, and it complies with a gurgling sound, which attracts the attention of a boy sitting two tables removed. He gives me a look of aloof disdain, and in his eyes, which are the colour of mine, I detect a familiar glint that I cannot put name nor nature to, no. He seems to consider disapproving of me but stops short of a sneer, and his very fine lips instead curl into almost a smile. I’m so surprised at this, I put down my glass and smile back at him, which changes his demeanour to a tinge of distaste.
He, much like the young man who does not need to shave and whom I am yet to meet, has no facial growth, and his lightly tan skin looks fluffdown soft. He appears as out of place here as I do, and quite as at home. Wherein lies a paradox that tickles me and I catch myself grinning just to myself.
The boy lets a few moments pass in contemplation of his plate on which there appears to have been a kebab or salad, as if to decide whether or not he should scrape the remnants of whatever it was with his fork or knife or even fingers (though he doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who, given the choice, would use his fingers to scrape up anything, let alone food); or maybe he’s versed in the mystical art of reading the scraps. As far as I can tell from where I’m sitting (and without ungainlily craning my neck) it looks unlikely that the plate is going to yield up much insight. He appears to come to that same conclusion himself and now looks up, but not at me or at anyone in particular, but into the generality of the world straight ahead, a little bemused and distracted.
I feel like I know him already but clearly I don’t. I have no idea. I have a looming sense of foreboding.