Monday, January 12, 2009

The Hipster of Dorian Grey

The following is an excerpt from The Hipster of Dorian Grey by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Lipincott’s Press in February 2009.

Adrian took the edge of his two hands and squeezed them together across his scalp. His gelled hair forced up between the two hands into a faux hawk the way that a mountain range is created when two of the earth’s plates press together.

Guys at the office couldn’t pull this off. They tried too hard. Even at the gym, only one guy near Adrian’s age rocked a faux hawk. At first, Adrian thought they were the same age but the other dude was actually 7 year younger. Adrian laughed at that. He felt so much younger then he was.

Adrian took pride in how much younger he looked. He styled his hair. He worked out. He dressed in current fashion unlike the old guys at work. They clung to their fading concert t-shirts. The logos fading along with the memory of the last time they were fun. When Adrian wore a cardigan he looked like Cobain. When they wore one, they looked like their Grandfather.

It wasn’t just looks that kept someone young. It was how young they felt. The cliché was true. Adrian felt very young. He acted very young. He still went to concerts. He still took in the big movies every opening weekend. He still did drugs in bathroom stalls and spent a large amount of his income on comic books.

He had everything he wanted when he was 15. He owned a great car with a sound system of greater value. He had a television screen larger than any window in his house. He had anonymous sex and saw 12 hockey games a year. Most of all, he had the sketch.

The picture made everything possible. It was hidden in his attic behind stacks of Johnny Cash LPs from the year he was really into country and vinyl. It was sketch of Adrian. When he was younger the sketch looked like another simplistic, heavy -lined Chester Brown knockoff.

But the sketch aged. Just as Adrian never grew older the sketch aged with dusty deterioration. After the years of all nighters, hangovers, gravied poutine, and hard drugs, the sketch no longer looked like a Chester Brown. All the wrinkles and baggy eyes were too detailed and accentuated. It was more like portrait of Keith Richards drawn by Robert Crumb. If Adrian kept it up the sketch would soon be a Nick Nolte mug shot by way of Lucien Freud.

That wasn’t something Adrian thought about though. The sketch was safe and he had no other worries. He didn’t have to think about a career. He ate out every night and never jogged or opened an RRSP. When he got married it was so that he could have the coolest wedding ever – Nashville theme and the sketch kept him looking good for the photos. When he cheated on his wife it was because she was getting old while the sketch kept him attractive. When he had a boy it was so he could see how good looking his kid would be. He could give him an odd name like Marmaduke or Ganges and pull his hair into a tiny Hollywood baby faux hawk. The sketch meant he would be the coolest Dad ever.

That day, in the gym shower Adrian got strange looks. It was probably his faux hawk wilting in the shower. It hung in his eyes when it got wet.

He dried it in front of the mirror, combed the hair out of his face then sculpted it into his faux hawk. In the mirror his saw the attack on his face, like a very centralized target of graffiti smart bomb.

On his lip was an exaggerated curly line. It was the drawing of moustache on a silent movie villain, twirling it while he tried a damsel to a train track. It was the kind of thing that you drew on a frat boy’s mouth with permanent marker when he passed out first.

He buried his face in the sink and scrubbed with the cheap pink liquid soap. He looked up and the moustache line was still there. Now it was accompanied by three sharp lines on his chin: A Satanic Van Dyke.

Adrian thought about the picture for the first time since returning to the attic to see if his new Ying Yang shoulder tattoo appeared on the sketch. (It did not) Someone was drawing on the sketch.

He forced his wet skin into the clinging legs of his skinny jeans. It was enough make him decent as he ran shirtless and shoeless to the car. In the review mirror he could see that his face was now marked with crude glasses and two devil horns sprouting from his forehead.

He climbed into the attic. He was out of breath for the first time in years. He heart felt like mouse being suffocated by a constrictor. His knees crackled like fire works on each stair.

“Ganges!” He yelled.

The boy looked up from the pile of paper shredding around him. He looked like he lived in a hamster’s nest of newspaper. It was the final remains of the sketch.

Arian looked at the mirror on the wall. Ganges had suddenly made him a very old man.

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