June 1, 2014
I’ve been on a long blog hiatus after I finished my latest book, small, fierce things. Now I’m starting to make new stories and new drawings, and instead of saving them all up for a foggy day, I figured I’d post them as I write them for you here.
Of course, I’m not sure who “you” are. I’m never sure who I’m writing to, or who is listening (other than myself and the many creatures that tell me stories.) But that doesn’t mean I don’t dream of you, whoever you are.
And without further ado, I’d like to tell you this story:
the lost moustache
this is a story about a moustache. it was a very full moustache- some would say generous, even extravagant. it slung low along the sides of the smile and even ventured well below the mouth, growing so lush as to cover the chin and chest. at its upper limit it divided into twin luxuriant tufts that nested above the upper lip, and met in the hollow beneath the nose. some would say it was brash, perhaps overambitious as far as moustaches go… really more accurately described as a beard. but no, it was a moustache.
it was shorn off in the middle of a polar summer, and cast into a ritual fire on the longest day of a day that had already lasted four months. as it sizzled and twisted and gave off a pungent smoke, it began to materialize elsewhere, burning simultaneously out of one existence and into another, as things do.
it had been important, this moustache. it had had an important story that had grown, follicle by follicle, through itchy and awkward stages, carried by a man who had in turn carried its story into being. but that was all over now, and both the moustache in its new incarnation, and the memory of the moustache still carried by its former bearer, struggled not with the actual moment of parting, but with the process of letting go.
as the fire slowly burned down to embers, the man stirred the ashes that contained the moustache. little by little the light, whitish ash tumbled away in the wind, until deep into the early hours of the new polar day, there was nothing left but a few charred fragments of driftwood left where the moustache had been. the light had not changed. the sky had not changed. but things were very different.
the people who had known the man only as the man with the luxuriant and generous moustache did not recognize him when he returned. for them, he had become synonymous with the moustache, and it with him. he watched their faces as they realized. after the initial shock, it took them very little time to grow accustomed to his naked visage, so that very soon, sooner than he would have expected, they could not remember what he looked like with the moustache.
in the other world, where the moustache had burned into being, it had appeared simply as a pile of hair on a stretch of isolated forest floor. this was also a disconcerting experience for the moustache, which had become accustomed to a kind of symbiotic existence of both wearing and being worn. here was a kind of disparate desolation. for a few minutes, it had to sit with the experience of separateness: of being upon, rather than attached to. it thought it might be dreaming, or hallucinating.
it was not long before a raven, out looking for nesting materials, landed near the moustache, and after walking back and forth slowly with its wings folded behind its back and considering the possibilities, finally gathered it up with several swift stabs of its beak and flew over a lake and into a stand of trees, where its mate perched, shrewdly arranging an intricate tangle of sticks. together the birds poked and tucked tufts of the moustache carefully into the tangle, and soon all three nestled into a new identity.
for the man without the moustache, which is how he had begun to think of himself, the starkness of his action did not lessen with time but grew. the physical act that had taken him only the length of a few minutes to accomplish, had, for its immaterial backlash, left him with an unpleasant sensation of loss that seemed to endlessly unreel.
his mental image of himself, before it was reflected in a pane of glass or in a mirror, before he turned the light on, or when he encountered himself in dreams, was still moustachioed. he felt its phantom itch fade on waking. his lips were chapped from the unconscious action of trying to touch what was no longer there with his tongue.
he became angry when anyone inquired about the moustache. later, he became angry when people stopped inquiring. when he himself could no longer remember the sensation of it, he became forlorn.
in the other world, the moustache didn’t miss being part of the man because it no longer existed. through the thread of the fire and the needle of the wind it had been sewn into a new form. it was full of feathers and mites and leaves and mud and moss. it kept the ravens warm in the snow.