By Kelly Dasta-
I tug on my eyebrows when I’m bored. I don’t remember when it started. All I know is it’s hard to stop. It’s weird, I know. But listen, it feels so fucking good—catching the hair between my pointer finger and thumb, stroking each thread. Sometimes pieces break off and create thrilling little thin patches. These are my favorite places to poke at, which only makes the patches worse. Thankfully I’ve never had any bald spots, so no one has really noticed my eyebrow habit, and if they have, they didn’t say anything because they’re, you know, polite. So you can imagine how startled I am when I’m on a date and the guy asks me, “Why are you tugging your eyebrow?”
It’s a first date. He’s clean-shaven with a buzz cut. He’s wearing a button-up, fitted chinos, and oxfords, as if this is a networking lunch. Would you be surprised to hear I found him online? He’s 29, 5’11” (5’9” if we’re being honest), works in tech. Over the course of a week, we exchanged messages about the basics: jobs, hometowns, pets, hobbies. Then he asked would you like to meet up sometime? and I said yes because the advice columns say that’s what I should do. Meeting in person, rather than aimless messaging, is how you make “real connections” after all.
“I don’t know,” I respond. “Sorry.”
“You shouldn’t do that.”
I shove my hands under my thighs. He sips his cold brew. We’re at a Starbucks. It’s the perfect first date location—daylight hours and the opportunity to leave whenever the conversation hits a dead end. Also, never take a man to a place you actually enjoy. Could you imagine sitting at your favorite independent coffee shop and some guy tries to chat with you about what a great time we had? No thanks.
“Do you do it often?” He stares at me, unblinking.
There’s no use lying when we both know the answer. “Yes.”
“I don’t know.”
“You have to have some reason.”
“I really don’t.”
I sigh. “It feels nice.”
I take a swig of my coffee. It burns my tongue, but I let the liquid linger in my mouth, transfixed at how the sharp pain melts into a numb static.
He leans across the table. “Am I making you nervous with these questions?” He probably thinks he’s being flirty, clever. I bet he rehearses the line in the mirror before bed every night.
I resist the urge to pull at my eyebrow. I roll my eyes instead. “Not at all.”
He smirks. A pop song plays in the background. Only two other people are here, typing on their laptops, probably eavesdropping. I would if I were them. Dates are much more interesting as a bystander. People try so hard to fool each other into believing they’re sexy and charming. Consequently, they become pitifully unaware of the person in front of them. As an onlooker, it’s pretty funny. But as a participant, the posturing sucks the life out of you.
“Have you ever thought about shaving them off?” he asks, his smug grin growing wider.
I blink. “Excuse me?”
“I know it would look weird, but it would kill the habit.”
“I would have no eyebrows.”
“Would you shave yours off?”
“I don’t have to. I don’t tug at mine.”
“By the time they grew back, you probably would be used to not doing it anymore.”
“I don’t know if it works like that.”
“You don’t know unless you try.”
I gape at him. “I guess.”
He licks his lips, his eyes meeting mine. “I could do it for you, if you’d like.”
A surprising thrill begins to spread through me. Maybe I underestimated this man. “Okay.”
“Let’s go to my place.”
Perfect. I certainly don’t want him to come to mine. You think I’m going to let a guy know where I live, when I won’t even let him know where my favorite coffee shop is?
We leave Starbucks and talk about nothing as we walk down the block. We purchase a razor at Rite Aid along the way.
When we arrive at his building, we take the elevator to the fifth floor. His apartment is one of those sleek, minimalistic bachelor pads: bare countertops, leather couch, angular coffee table. The only decoration is a stock photo of the city hanging on the wall. The whole area is gray, black, and white. I bet he’s proud that he isn’t one of those guys whose apartment is covered in cheap mismatched furniture, crumbs, and video game posters. But in my opinion, his personality must be uniquely grotesque if he feels the need to repress it in his own home.
He leads me to the bathroom, just past the kitchen. It’s also colorless, besides a single blue toothbrush on the sink. I sit on the toilet lid as he removes the razor from its plastic casing. The room is missing a hand towel, and the soap container is empty. I imagine him wetting his hands, just to feel like he did something, and rubbing them dry on his jeans. He pulls shaving cream out of the medicine cabinet. While it’s open, I spot three half-empty medication bottles that resemble the ones in my own bathroom.
He dabs some cream on my eyebrows, and he wets the razor.
He leers at me. I can see every pore on his face. He has one freckle on his nose. I hope he doesn’t want me to stay and chat after. I’d like to get home before dinner.
I close my eyes.
He slides the razor over my right eyebrow. I experience a tight sensation and a tingle of cold air. Between swipes, he washes the razor in the sink. Then he applies a wet towel to whisk away the shaving cream and remnants of hair. In two minutes he’s finished. I open my eyes.
He appraises me. “I think I did a good job.”
I stand up and look in the mirror. My cheeks are flushed, and my long brown hair is frizzy. But the shape of my face is different. My eyes are bigger, heavier. My forehead is too long. I touch the skin where my eyebrows were, feeling a string of muscle and a sandpaper-like texture. I pick up the razor from the sink. A few hairs poke out of the blades. I pluck a strand and twist it between my fingers, searching for horror, relief, regret, something. Instead, I’m just disappointed at how anticlimactic this whole day has been.
I put the razor down. He’s standing just a foot away from me. I can smell his Old Spice cologne, see his chest expanding and contracting. “Thank you.”
He nods. “I hope it helps.”
“I should get going.”
He guides me out of the bathroom. At the front door, our eyes connect, and he places his arms around me. His hands barely graze my back. My chin bumps his shoulder. We separate after a second of contact.
As I turn the doorknob, he asks. “Would you like to do this again sometime?”
“Sure,” I say, knowing he’s going to text me when I get home, then maybe again a few days later, and I’m not going to respond.
Kelly Dasta resides in Brooklyn, working in marketing at a book publisher. Her work has been published in The Blotter Magazine, Drizzle Review, and Coal Hill Review. She holds a B.A. in English Writing and Communications from the University of Pittsburgh. Besides writing, her many passions include reading, traveling, pop punk music, and finding the best independent coffee shops in NYC. You can follower her on Twitter @KellyDasta.