My brother looks at his scalp and worries. His hair, he believes, is thinning. I cannot notice it. He has only recently started talking about it.
The degree of focus we place on our looks staggers me. We have gone from hazy, red-eyed blurs to images of such high resolution and quality that they look clearer than from any human eye. It’s dazzling.
With this we have become hyper-conscious. It’s in our irony and our ways of identifying ourselves. It’s our age, I suppose. But it has spread to our very external selves. Each mind can be a photoshop brush. We have the power to change.
Completely immune and immured in my own picture-perfection perception of myself, what had I to really worry? It seems I have crossed myself with lines where moments ago there was a smile. They hide in light, under balms, under hours of my visage lying perfectly still. Then laughter hits: emotion jumps into my face and ripples outward from my mouth, and I am left staring at a mirror’s form that is no longer liquid.
The computer now becomes a lifeline. I research everything I have been using on my face and possible side effects. Four years of benzoyl peroxide for an article on premature aging. Three weeks pass until the next available dermatologist appointment. Biding my time I tally everything: glasses of water, days I run, teaspoons of cider vinegar. I smile hard before the dermatologist. Ruing my decisions, I interrupt myself: “But I know it’s not that big of a deal.” I say it as if I’m before a confessional. He is not sympathetic and shouldn’t be.
Reflecting, I sip on coffee, now an age potion. Should I be doing this? Suddenly my face, the cup, and the entire room has become an Egon Sciele portrait. As quickly as I can scribble something I snap out of it.
I met up with a few friends I have not seen in a while. As they drank I studied their faces and wondered if they have changed. Are they getting older? Something told me yes, although the feeling was as slight as a scent.
But what have they to worry? They are hedged in by beautiful relationships with women who love them far more for their selves than for their appearance. I am still circulating on the market. My face flies out to tens, hundreds, even, of computer screens in the private of homes, beds. The meretrices in ancient Rome wore robes of bright yellow. I wear cream made of aloe and plankton. My wage has been reduced to instant messages, sparse one-line greetings.
But that is the name of the game, I think to myself, reading the back of a prescription medicine. My brother still photographs himself in the bathroom, heedless of the spiders that hide in cornered darkness.