When he started to grow peach fuzz on his face, he led himself around the world by his chin. He would proudly thrust it forward across the thresholds of rooms and into conversations in which he had no business, and let his head hang there like a prize piece of meat in a butcher shop window.
He was not particularly early in his development, at least not in relation to his peers. In fact, one boy in the class had sprouted a full beard, bushy and unkempt seemingly overnight, and was now more animal than man. The teachers hadn’t known what to do with him; if they had caught it mid-growth they could have potentially intervened, but he had left school one day smooth-chinned and arrived the next with it fully grown.
But the boy with the peach fuzz on his face could also not be considered late either. In fact, there were rumours around the school of a totally hairless person amongst them, one who shifted around under his clothes like a freshly boiled egg; a boy whose name was whispered in public and spoken in private, each mention followed by the giggling of cracking voices.
Every day before he had to be anywhere in particular, the boy with the peach fuzz on his face would stand in front of the mirror, gently running his hands over the growth. Squirrelled away in his den of a room in the middle of a block of flats, he finally felt a connection to some unknown, primitive past. Where previously it had dogged him, leaving water stains at the periphery of his vision, he now felt it keenly in his bones. Something in his body was calling him. He would purposefully avoid grooming the hair, so it twisted in wispy strands and coiled around itself like unattended climbing vines. At night he would lie in bed, screw up his face and will it to grow longer.
It was not ready to obey him though, so for now it had to suffice with coming out in small patches across his cheeks with great gaps in between them, irregular circles of fungi. He would work his fingers around them during his more idle moments.
On cold nights after football, when all the boys’ breath turned to steam in the air and they took turns howling at the moon half-buried in cloud, he would let his perspiring skin breathe out of the scratchy old t-shirt. The exposed peach fuzz rose to evaporate the entrapped sweat. Walking home bare-chested, he would lope along with an elongating stride, pretending he and his pack were in the wilderness, picking up the trail of some prey.
Chris Yeoh is a musician and writer from Glasgow, UK. His work is scheduled to appear in Former Cactus this year, and he was long-listed for the Reflex Fiction Autumn 2017 Flash Fiction Prize. @chris_yeoh
Image: Gabriel Nunes