Brian slid in through the bathroom door like a thief. The old door, belonging to an old house resting on old foundation next to a very old street, rattled gently in the frame upon closing. The wood did little to mute the howling sobs coming from his mother down the hall. Brian stood there, leaning against the wall as if not wanting to be seen, and stared in silence. His father was leaning forward over a porcelain sink. A thin, white lather covered his face, save for the clearings already made by the straight razor in his hand.
“Dad?” he asked, with a voice that was near trembling, a tone that wanted to know what has happening without ever having the knowledge of what was truly going on, “what’s wrong with Mom?”
His father made a slow, deliberate swipe down his cheek. The lather was cleared away. The blade dipped into the water in silence. He looked at Brian through the mirror, a tall oval that matched the rest of the aging house. “Your mother and I are no longer together,” he said. He leaned his head to the side and tugged at his skin. Again, the straight razor came down.
Brian watched the movement of the blade, the foam being carefully peeled away, the plain look in his father’s eyes. Beyond the door, down the hall, his whaling mother smashed something made of glass. The scattering shards made a delicate tinkling along the wooden flooring. “Why?” Brian asked.
His father tilted his head high to stretch his neck. The blade flipped up, and the razor’s edge kissed the skin. The stainless steel moved upward with slow precision. Brian watched the steady hand of his father while his mother crumbled to pieces a few feet away. “I’ve informed your mother that I no longer love her,” his father said. “That it’s quite possible I never have.” A strip of clean skin appeared on his neck, and the blade was dipped in the basin.
Brian tried to comprehend, to take the words and shape them into anything that made sense. Years of childhood memories, emotions, dreams, were on the verge of being swept away. He felt as though his world was floating, suspended, like the water held in place over the drain of that sink by a small rubber plug, about to be lost at any moment.
The wet blade came back up to the skin. “Life is a strange thing, Brian,” his father continued. “It can be hard to understand. There are times when you’re forced to make decisions, certain choices, that cannot be sustained.” The blade moved up and cleared another strip away. His father looked at him through the mirror. “Sometimes life forces your hand.” Dip went the razor and back to the skin again.
“Do you love me?” Brian asked.
His father’s hand stopped and the sound of air rushing in through clear nostrils filled the room. A red line appeared on the steel. His father leaned forward over the sink, so disgustingly white. A red drop fell into the water below.
Brian looked at the white foam and saw a subtle red streak. His eyes returned to the mirror, to his father’s.
“I do love you, son,” he said. Ploop. “But I’m afraid I’m not likely to be the man in your life much longer. There’s another woman, you see. One that’s been around for quite some time. I have a family with her as well. I have another wife. Another son.”
“It’s with them that I choose to be.”
Brian felt all the world diminish then. Even the sobs of his mother faded. The door rattled in its frame as he spread his arms and slid down the wall until his bottom touched the floor. All the while, his father’s eyes followed him from the mirror. The red mark on his neck. The pristine white of that porcelain sink that now made his stomach turn. The straight razor resting on the edge of the basin with vibrant red on its blade, like the bold lipstick of a mistress. Blood fell into the water and swirled, piercing the white clouds of shaving foam with its bite.