Let me quickly tell you about a shaving incident I witnessed many many years ago in a sleepy, dusty little town called Pushkar in the state of Rajasthan, India. My boyfriend at the time, Christopher, and I were wandering the street (there was only one street to wander) and were summoned by a blind man and his son to step inside their barber shop for a quick (vetty vetty cheap cheap) shave. It was incredibly toasty on the street and their modest, carved-out hole of a place had a fan spinning air to cool sweaty white bodies like ours. We had awfully sweaty bodies in those days, still white. Christopher lumbered into the chair. The son handed the father a straight edge razor blade and, using only his voice (a soft whisper of Hindu) guided the father's hand across the contours of Christopher's face.
He crouches beneath a bush, behind an Edsel on a desolate Phoenix, Arizona street I don’t know the name of. My father’s old Pentax Spotomatic hangs from my shoulder. He hides behind his hands, spotless in his plaid shirt, utilitarian pants and boots. He cuts his hair every week, allows a barber to shave the sides and the neck to look a little 50’s, a little navy. He irons his pants, his boxers, he instructs me with the tone of a dedicated gym teacher how to move a long-sleeved shirt with a collar and buttons around the ironing board. Left arm, left side of shirt, right arm, right side of short, back, collar, cuffs. He keeps a few business cards in the pocket of this shirt, his pilot shirt, the one he wears three to four times a week to fly small cargo planes up and down Arizona and New Mexico. His real name is on the cards, Doug Hendricks, but his pilot badge says “Jack.” I call him Juan and never TJ. TJ is reserved for his mom, the dad he never sees and his stepsisters he sometimes thinks about fucking over Sunday suppers.
I take a picture of Juan with his hands over his eyes, a little boy, maybe four, playing this very game with a neighbor girl. If I cover my eyes, I disappear, no one will see me here. And I don’t see him crouched there in the zealous sun, I see his proud Edsel and the English hedges squared off and false in their perfect lines, like the lines we just walked through in the museum, the lines Juan pointed to on the ceiling, the lines making up the walls and windows, the lines in our arms carrying blood to our hearts and brains.
When we drink mojitos, he admits I’m a special friend, a cool girl, more than a friend or a sister. I’ve known him for 7 years, a long time for someone to know someone else my age. Once he was in love with my stepsister. Once he was obsessed with a girl named Rosa, still is. Once he almost died in my lap. Once I had to pry his mouth open with a butter knife after he shot himself up with heroin (for breakfast). Once I stopped Brooklyn cops from kicking him on the floor as he lay there, almost dead. Get up junky. Once I talked him down from killing himself with pills. Another time I listened to him tell me about the spider hanging from a broken web, unsure of its next move in space, how that spider was part of him and how all he wanted to do was reach inside and pull it out.