On the counter in the bathroom there is a ceramic mug with a plug of soap sitting at the bottom. A brush is attached to it with a metal hook. Beside that is a leather strap that has been pulled taut around metal rod. Next to the strap is a narrow, six-inch long, one-inch wide, brown and beige carving. I pick it up. It’s surprisingly heavy.
Upon inspection I see it’s made of bone. A tiny battle scene, complete with three horses and seven men, is etched into the small space. Turning it over, I see a sliver of metal. I pull out a blade and realize it’s a straight-edged razor.
After closing it, I bounce it in my hands a few times, feeling the weight before gathering the bowl, the brush, and the leather contraption. When I get back to the kitchen I hold the razor out and say, “Tell me this isn’t what you shave with.”
To my delight Raymond chuckles.
“I can’t shave you with this,” I protest.
“Nobody asked you to.”
“I’ll go home and get my razor,” I say.
“Don’t be thick. It ain’t hard.”
“I’m not thick. Jeez, Raymond.”
He gets up from his chair and walks toward me. He’s at least a foot taller, his arms are the size of my daughter’s torso, and I notice an eagle tattooed on the left side of his chest along with an American flag. Military? He’s standing close, but I refuse to take a step back.
“Add a little water to the mug, then whip up some lather.”
I turn on the faucet and let water trickle into the mug. When Raymond reaches around me to flick on a light over the sink, I stop breathing. I feel the heat of his body, his breath on my neck, and it’s all I can do not to sink back into him. To pretend we’re lovers and that I’m entitled. He steps back.
I whip the soap and water into a thick creamy lather.
“If you can keep pressure on the cut, I can shave around it,” he says.
I shake my head. “You may be good with the razor, but this is the top of your head. It’ll be hard for you to see. I’ll do it. How hard can it be? Men have been doing it for hundreds of years.” I give him my best women-are-better-than-men smile and notice he doesn’t look convinced.
“If you do it, I want you to practice first.”
“I can shave your whole head starting at the back,” I offer.
“I’ll show you what to do. Hop up on the counter,” Raymond says.
I laugh. “What?”
“There’s a method to using this, and I don’t need no more gashes in my head. Now get on up there.”
“What are you planning to shave?” I back away.
“Your legs woman.”
The idea of Raymond hovering over my legs with a razor makes my pulse race. I can’t remember the last time I’d shaved my legs. “I don’t want you shaving them.”
He gazes into my eyes, and I feel like he’s reading my thoughts. “It look like we at an impasse then. Why don’t you go on home.”
I sigh, wondering if Raymond and I will ever talk again. Not wanting this to be the end of our single meeting, I awkwardly climb on the counter. I slip off the Tweety-Bird slippers I’d been wearing to reveal a pale, pinkish-white foot with sprigs of hair sprinkled across the tops of my toes. I pull the pink leg of my silky pajamas up and lay a single calf over the top of the sink. The hair on my leg is light brown and creates a fuzzy sheen, reminding me of a caterpillar.
“How’s this?” I ask.
Still holding the towel to his head, he says, “It’ll do.”
He’s looking at my calf, so I let my eyes travel down his body. In better light, I can see there isn’t an ounce of fat on him—he’s a thick, solid, and powerful.