ISSUE NO. 1 • To Have a heart
This piece is just a snippet of my evolving understanding of healthy love. I’m proud to be leaving college with a much better grasp of myself and my relationships than when I entered. This story highlights just one lesson of love.
I had known my boyfriend only in the context of New York—the city where we met, became buddies, where we dated for a year—so seeing him under the yellow light of his Illinois bedroom made him look new. Still lovely, a little softer. We laid down on his dimpled brown blanket. I felt so warm in that room.
I studied his eyes, his regal nose. I always thought he looked like a Roman statue, chiseled, angular, severe. (If you’re curious, I’ve found he looks quite like a second-century AD portrait bust of Emperor Antoninus Pius located at the Castle Howard.) He’s like a Roman statue, but it’s as if his curls rebelled against the sculptor. No, we will not frame the forehead! We will touch the sky! And his eyebrows fought their creator with a similar spirit. We will grow from his brow like weeds! They were horribly furry caterpillars. Maybe a singular caterpillar wearing a belt. It was as if his face had an extra mustache.
I got up from the bed and dug around in his bathroom for tweezers.
“Close your eyes,” I said, sauntering back into the bedroom.
They were closed. I climbed onto the bed, swung my leg over his torso, sunk into his grooves.
I studied his forehead, breathed on his face, poised my tweezers for plucking.
“What are you doing?” I bet he thought I was going to kiss him.
“Just keep your eyes closed.” And I selected the darkest, most obstinate hair, the one sitting squarely in the center of his face. The little hair dared me. How brave. A swift pull and he was dead. I put him on the nightstand.
My boyfriend opened his eyes and demanded answers.
We decided I would be conservative in my plucking and he would let me work uninterrupted. So I sat there, straddling his chest, pulling out tiny trolls, and he winced and ooed and ahed.
In thirty minutes, there were probably a hundred little grisly hairs mingling together on the nightstand. He looked cleaner. Very handsome, like I’d chiseled him myself.
I lay on his bed, drowsy with the satisfaction of a job completed. He was in the bathroom, studying himself in the mirror, hesitant to say anything at first, hesitant to misjudge himself. Then he peeked out, running his fingers over the naked area.
“It looks much cleaner.”
Over the next few days of my sojourn there in Illinois, he started falling in love with his eyebrows.
“My face just looks cleaner!” “You’ll have to do this every month!” “I can’t believe how much hair I had there!”
And I thought of the pile of little monsters on his bedside table that I’d swept into the trash. What right had I to end their lives prematurely? They had welcomed me with open arms (as best they could) when I was new to him, and I had fallen in love with his Roman face when they were there. He never tried to change me, and they—monsters though they were—never tried to change me. So why should I change them? Change him?
But then I saw him put his face to the mirror in the foyer downstairs, trace the pores where once were hairs, and look at his forehead in wonder. I supposed it alright to change someone if they themselves welcome the change, if they like who they become afterward.
But the next time I pluck his eyebrows, I’ll ask first.