I Grew This Mustache (flash fiction)
I grew this mustache because I thought it would be cool. A groovy thing. You see so many mainstream goatees and hipster beards, that a wide mustache may stand out.
“There it is,” they’d say. “That groovy ‘stache. Quite the handlebar.”
“Yeah,” they’d say. “Total vintage coolness.”
“That’s the guy,” they’d say. “That’s the guy I want to have a caramel mocha macchiatto with. A large cup—I mean a venti—for a nice, long conversation. And it’s got to be at an outside table. So more people can see us.”
We’d take photos of each other with our smartphones and instantly update our Facebook pages, with my companion adding the message, “OMG! Chk out tha ‘stache!”
Soon, the mustache lit up the World Wide Web, with sparks launching from Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest to Tumblr to Dudepins to Manteresting to assorted ones that I kept trying to type but my eyes got crossed with the mash-up of three or four different words—and some of them in different languages. The one combining Basque and Urdu seemed clever at first, but I found myself saying the word over and over like a mantra and becoming quite calm, nearly hypnotized, and I forgot what I was doing and sat on the floor in the Lotus position to meditate whether the cosine curve of my mustache in any way reflected the shape of the universe, but that got my mind into a tailspin as I realized I was comparing the known universe, not the unknown one, and I only had my feeble imagination to populate a massive black fabric of space with a multitude of blinking pale blue (and red and yellow) dots and come up with some kind of shape for it. I chose a butterfly.
And so it went on, the photo of my mustache leaping from website to website like a frog on the lilly pads of those little pale dots of planets. Memes popped up, starting with the classic “I mustache you a question, but I’ll shave it for later” to my favorite: “You can’t handle the ‘stache, bro.”
Once, when I was fourth in line for the automatic bank machine (or, rather, automatic to the point of following my pressed instructions), the guy who had just gotten his money from the machine did a little head jump of startlement when he saw me.
“Hey, you’re the mustache guy,” he said.
“That’s me,” I said proudly.
“Hey, I’m having a party Saturday night,” he said. “You should come. It’s gonna be cool.”
The guy introduced himself as Dexter, and he gave me the address. I said I’d swing by. That Saturday, I decided not to wear my usual owl T-shirt for fear it was too casual and instead opted for a plaid shirt using the colors of the Union Jack, but more subdued. I brought my buddy Otis to the party, since he’s a cool guy too, and I thought it would feel really awkward not knowing anybody there. Otis wore the exact same plaid shirt, except for the colors, which were more of a Southwestern USA palette.
Dexter was mixing drinks in the kitchen, and I thanked him for inviting me to the party.
“No problem, bro diddly!” he said. “Jump on in!”
Otis and I jumped into the crowd of conversation circles in the living room.
“Hey!” people said as we walked around. “The mustache guy!”
“That’s me,” I said proudly.
We exchanged high fives or fist bumps or (in the case of the more intoxicated people) hugs that lasted a second, followed by a variety of confusing handshakes and handbumps that I couldn’t keep up with.
After an hour or so of sliding from one conversation circle to the next, I found myself in one containing a cute girl who said her name was Lola. She was talking about just coming back from Block Island, where she went sailing with friends and how it was so different from sailing in New York Harbor, a different perspective of nature and more spiritual—even though, admittedly, sailing in the harbor gives you a different perspective of the city, perhaps one of seeing how delicate a balance the city pulls off, all those skyscrapers of metal and glass resting on a thin shunt of land like towers of steak upon a plate of fine china, which she doesn’t miss at all since becoming vegan. I said that I kind of knew what she meant about seeing in a more spiritual way, that ever since growing this grand mustache, I had seen things I had never noticed before, and I’ve been meditating over the possibility of my mustache containing a universe of pale planets, not necessarily meaning drops of cereal milk and soup still stuck in the mustache hairs, but actually worlds where microscopic creatures lived and carried out their days just like we do, with sailing and partying and the like.
But Lola saw right through my mash-up of Horton Hears A Who and Animal House, in which the guy pondered if there’s a universe in his fingernail. “Yeah, okay,” she sighed. “Try being original next time.”
The others around the conversation circle picked up on my Horton and Animal House knockoff, and it was then that I realized that I was only there because of my mustache and not really for me, the real me behind the facial hair. All the people chatting and drinking were epically hip, and I didn’t quite fit in. If my mustache were a detachable one, I would’ve removed it with the teeth-gritting, shut-eyed face you make when a bandage is ripped off, and then you get to see how far along the injury has progressed in healing.
I turned to Otis and asked, “How ’bout a slice of pizza?”
“You got it, bro diddly.” His sarcastic smirk was tremendous to see.
As we leaned against the wall outside the small pizza parlor, eating our greasy slices folded in half and watching people walk by the sidewalk, I realized that Otis was as uncomfortable at the party as I was. He didn’t have the advantage of a groovy mustache. He was just himself. And we were just ourselves as we people-watched and talked and laughed and ate our pizza.
The next morning, I shaved off the mustache. The hair in my sink looked sad. And now, my upper lip is naked unto the world.
copyright Dave Williams