His name is Trevor. Kind and gentle. He talks to me as he preps. I ask if I can raise my arm. He says I can’t. I tell him I just want to make the Sign of the Cross. I’ll be awake during the procedure. I want to pray my rosary. I make the Sign of my Faith on the roof of my mouth with my tongue. A technician above my head tells me he’ll say the prayer for me. “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen,” he recites. I listen for the pitch of ridicule. Absent. The technician is too young for the Latin to be loaded in readiness. “Were you in the seminary?” I ask. “No. Just a lot of years in Catholic schools.” Trevor raises his voice, “I know the Hail Mary in Spanish.” I turn my head to my right and look into his eyes. “8 years in a Catholic school in San Diego,” he offers. I listen to him pray and recognize the words from Spanish 3. “San Diego? Why are you here?” I ask because the day is cold; why would anyone be here without purpose? “The obvious reason,” he says. We laugh. “A woman,” I say. We laugh.
I watch Trevor as he negotiates the electric pink razor over my chest and abdomen. Prepped from thighs to collarbone. The tufts of hair wave and sway beneath the V of his scrub top. Trevor doesn't manscape. I don't either. This is only the second time. And neither time I hold the razor.
I think of her. I remember our game. A clawed bathtub sat on a cracked tiled floor haloed by a spackled baseboard. The ceiling dampened and stained by the absence of a fan. “Let me shave your legs!” she giggled. It was a new tease for her. We were young. Sex was as much about the new as it was the desired. Once she had painted my toes; shaved legs wasn't a leap. In the dead of winter – only the two of us would know of our game. I allowed two inches up my thigh. “Stop.” I didn't demand; she didn't insist. “How about this little part here?” She plucked the patch in the center of my chest. I had been bullied as a boy. Hair on my chest was an accomplishment. A proof of my masculinity. I spent my youth in the era of the hirsute hero. Tom Selleck didn’t shave; I didn't want to return to the prepubescent; I didn't want to return to the pursuit of a woman. I returned the razor. There wasn't much to shear. It was gone with a couple of whisks.
I stand in front of the bathroom sink and pull the tape from my arm. The bandaid is stained with a dot from my dried blood. I look into the mirror and see my smoothly patched chest. Clumps of hair line the surfaces outside my nipples. I don’t recognize myself. My body looks featureless and soft and absent of color. Like alabaster from some Sherwin-Williams collection. Freshly stirred. Smooth. I feel embarrassed. Feminine. Perverse. The opposite of clean. Not clean shaven. I don’t recognize myself. I have a habit. Since college. Or before. I habitually rub the space of skin that cocoons my heart when I think. I strum the space with a rhythm that echoes a flamenco beat. Rapid. Too rhythmic to be a tick. I lean into the mirror. My belly meets the porcelain. I look into my eyes and rub my heart. My palm grazes. Cold. Clammy. Like touching the unresponsive skin of a woman. I pull my hand away.
I step out of the shower and grab a towel. As I dry my body I see the stripes. Shaven from grin to groin. I look centered but I don’t feel centered. I don’t recognize myself. The ablations offer no solutions. My heart is broken. I feel vulnerable and weak and out of control.