My stubble is now salted. Not hugely so. To be honest, I don't think anyone else notices. But I do. It's a small streak of white whiskers that run down the right side of my chin. My finger finds them at odd moments and twists them, scratches them, assesses them, trying to work out if they're different from the rest. They're not. Not that I can tell at least. But they interest me nonetheless. They are a sign of age that bear no pain. There's no morning stiffness, no prolonged hangover, no pessimism that comes with them. They just are, and I've become quite fond of them.
I don't shave often, twice a week tops. It's not a fashion thing, or a 'look' that I go for, it's just general laziness. If I didn't abhor having a beard so much I probably wouldn't shave at all. Still, it's nice, every once in awhile, to scrub up good. A close shave, shirt and tie. Its infrequency makes it all the more special.
I can't shave at the moment. In the early hours of Sunday morning I took a punch to the chin. A hard one. It knocked my head back into a stone wall and nearly sent my bottom teeth through my lower lip. While my fingers fiddle with my white whiskers my tongue traces the inside of my lip, probing the fast-healing indentations. The base of my skull behind my left ear aches where it hit the wall.
The punch came without provocation or reason. The bonfire was warm, the chat merry, old friends and new sipping wine and waiting for the sun to appear. I don't remember the hit itself. I remember shaking, curled in a ball, being told what happened. I went down. Marcus took a punch to the head, then stopped him, throwing him against the stone and sitting on him. I got up. I retaliated, raining both fists on him. Raging and frightening my friends. I don't remember.
He hit me first. I'd done nothing to him. But I look at the cuts on my knuckles, the bruises on my hand, and it all lingers, unsettled. Wrong in equal parts. He left the beach, confused, apologetic, saying that it wasn't who he was, it wasn't him.
It wasn't me either.