Friday, May 04, 2007

GBA(s)FC (Growth) Entry #4

Paolo and the snakes
by Seamus Kearney

He remembers the day he finally surrendered, lying down on the back lawn, realising with relief that he could do nothing but allow the thousands of little snakes find their way to the surface. They had won! Plasters covered what the doctors called 'crisis points', where his skin was purple and smarting, in some places crusting over in an unpleasant way. His beautiful, smooth vessel, which his aunties had described as being like soft porcelain, had been betrayed from beneath, by the cruelness of his own inner world.

It started when Paolo was 14, with a shadow across his upper lip, as though it were the work of a pencil - if it had first appeared somewhere else, such as down below, he says he would’ve remembered. He reckons he was the only one in his year who sprouted such a huge amount of curly body hair, his system functioning with cheerful abandon. If only the parents had been more alert to the goings-on of their only child: his need to spend long periods locked up in the bathroom, the pinching of his father’s razor blades, the bizarre desire to place his flighty hands over exposed skin. The cuts, the rashes, the slicing open of under age flesh? No one got the chance to forcefully point out the madness of it.

The unwitting comments of some of Paolo’s friends had driven him to start the shaving, a painful and daily chore which involved sweeps up both legs and arms, his stomach and chest. He hates to bring back the memory of those unkind words: monkey man, tarantula, the fuzz. They seem so harmless now, yet back then, for a boy who wasn’t able to appreciate the miracle of a body’s transformation, it was a terrifying and lonely struggle. Paolo’s body hair, the eternal growth he hadn’t chosen, had to be eradicated, like a noxious weed that crowds out everything else. It became medicinal to hack away the feeling of intrusion, the feeling of having something unseemly on his skin. Of course, people started to notice the plasters. The razor blades, often at the end of their lives from trying to keep the years off his father’s face, had to be pushed harder against the skin, scraped along as though soil were being ploughed. Teenage spots on his face were always sliced open, never given the chance to heal over, denying him a handsome launch into the future.

Paolo was still a child. The hair hadn’t understood the innocence of its target and had no right to take up residence in what was still such a juvenile sanctuary. The new man was still among the boys, still in a land of milky complexions and angelic pureness. Today the hair has begun to change colour but it continues to rise up from beneath. Paolo and the snakes have never totally reconciled their differences – and sometimes he fantasizes about uncovering once again his smooth, pearl-coloured skin.


Unknown said...

I liked this very much.

Joni said...

I really feel for this guy. Nice work here.

Stray said...

This is so dark. I felt for Paolo - understood his turmoil, and also the relief of removing the hair, despite the pain and discomfort.

I loved the line about pressing his hand on to the exposed skin.

I felt like the ending let go of something though - that perhaps you didn't feel as connected to the grown up Paolo? It didn't quite sit right that he'd somehow come to terms with it and the de-fuzzing was now just a fantasy - I'll be interested to hear how you felt about it.

Some great imagery though, and I really felt the abrasion of blunt razors on sore skin!


Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Wonderful description of the external invasion thrusting an innocent young man into adulthood. Doesn't hurt in my book that the protagonist shares a name with my fiance ;)

Caroline said...

This is lyrical. I connected and understood.

Anonymous said...

Very clever, effective.

briliantdonkey said...

Exceptional description of a rather odd response to puberty. One of my favorites so far. I could say more but am running out of time to get my votes in. Great work!


The Moon Topples said...

The Jury says...

"Loved the analogy and the perspective, quirky and original. Nicely written with a sure hand, good flow."