Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1

La Moustache

He shaves it off and waits for Agnes to notice.
She hugs him because he’s just out of the bath
and smelling good. He waits. You screamed
the morning I shaved off my beard without telling
you—the day after my mother died. An act of
homage, I thought, giving up facial hair and all
the maturity thereof. But he’s just tinkering with
who he is. Or isn’t. Agnes is getting ready for
their visit to her Ex and his Russian wife, their
daughter, Agnes’s godchild, and even she doesn’t
notice he’s shaved it off, his naked upper lip,
its same good-natured curve and nearly plump

pucker making him such a good kisser. I used
to kiss my mother good-bye before running
downstairs to buy a newspaper or a quart of
milk or Wonder bread. I knew how to connect
myself. He’s asking the Ex about beards, while
the Ex is telling an old story about Agnes turning 
off other people’s radiators when they were
vacationing in some Chalet so she and the Ex (not
yet an Ex) could get heat in their room. He sighs,
rubs his lip, nods at the umpteenth version of the
one story from the time there was no Agnes (and
he wasn’t yet writing the postcard from Hong

Kong, sans toi je ne vois rien,which should really
say sans toi je ne suis rien—I am nothing, which
of course was what I said to you the day after
my mother died). He and Agnes have left her Ex’s
apartment, make love at home where he stares
at the ceiling and feels himself slipping away. He
finds photos from Bali, Agnes next to him, his moustache
as evident as the sea. The next morning they’re gone.
At work, he waits for colleagues to say how different
he looks. Are they too busy to see his crestfallen
shuffle from computer to toilet to the café where even
their usual server notices no change—his lips as naked

as a baby’s, though a bit shadowy—and later he’ll learn
his father is dead, so the dinner with his parents is off,
from the time he had a moustache, which was only
yesterday. And what had I changed without mine?
Really nothing? Though I didn’t go back and forth
with a blurry passport on a Hong Kong ferry,
never reaching a shore without leaving it, wondering
if I’d ever met you, if I’d ever sleep again, if I’d ever
see myself in a mirror that wasn’t the eyes of others,
where we dwell, where we watch the rise and fall
of breathing, of the past that never was, in the moment
when aloneness is and is and is and is and is and is?  end