Halfway through the working day, he begins to find himself repulsive. More specifically he finds his beard – the beard that he had grown excitedly, tended lovingly – disgusting.
When he licks his lips he finds hair whichever way he moves his tongue. When he rubs it with his hand, his face feels like a stiff brush. The beard, he now believes, makes him look much older than he actually is. It makes him look wild, unkempt, dirty. He feels a bit sick when he thinks that for the past few weeks his beard has been influencing the opinion of everyone he has met. He wants rid of it. He wants rid of it now.
He should remove it from his face straight away, but he is at work and he does not have to hand any shaving equipment. Plus he knows that people will comment if it disappears suddenly in the middle of the day and this will cause him embarrassment. He runs his hand over his face again. It is tough and unmanageable and what was he thinking.
He remembers how he took a post-it note and made a list of things to do. GROW BEARD, he had written proudly, followed by a smiley face. It was item number four on the list, following FILL IN TAX RETURN, SORT OUT PET INSURANCE and the vague notion LEARN TO BAKE.
He had never got around to completing any of those other tasks, and he realises now that this is because growing a beard is an action which requires only inaction, and he is extremely good at being inactive.
He sits at his desk, bearded and unhappy, and does nothing.
After doing nothing for a while, he takes another post-it note and draws a picture of his bearded face. He then starts to plan the attack he will mount on his beard, a military campaign with clippers and razors brought in to break the stubborn resistance of the occupying forces. He launches a campaign of propoganda to undermine the beard, telling his colleagues that the beard is on the way out, that it will be gone tomorrow. He affects a casual air to mask the stress the situation is causing, and he imagines it as an insult to the beard, a show of his strength.
The more he thinks about the beard – and as he thinks he tugs at clumps of beard hair with his free hand – the more it begins to creep him out, to make him feel sick and he works himself up into such a state that he kids himself into believing that he can actually feel the taste of vomit at the back of his throat. He knows that if he did vomit it is likely that some of it would stick in the hair on his face in the way that toothpaste did every morning.
The working day is finally over and he hurries home, ignoring the glances of passersby who are surely judging him and his beard. He tries to exude thoughts of: ‘Look at me tomorrow, look at me all you like, but not now. This isn’t me! This is somebody else, I’ll be back tomorrow.’
At home, he undresses hurriedly but erratically and the beard catches on his shirt, which takes him by surprise and makes him yell out loud as he wrenches it over his head and retches a little, struggling to breathe. He needs to be calm. He stands in the bathroom in his socks and tries to be as calm as possible. In the mirror he sees a monster, but it’s ok now because the monster will soon be slain. He has his plan of attack memorised.
First he runs the clippers over his face, starting beneath his chin and then running it across the gap between his chin and his mouth. Some parts of the beard yield immediately, others are more obstinate, knotty. His discipline is weak and he soon deviates from the plan, starts attacking here, attacking there. The metal teeth hack hack hack their way through the hair and the sink begins to fill. He finishes off with a wet shave and then stands back to admire himself, still no oil painting, he will admit, but this is better. Fresher. Younger. He feels as though he has lost years, as though his beard were a time machine without any controls and now he has crash landed and everything is fine.
He spends the the rest of the evening watching television, running his hands over his smooth face, it’s luxurious bare-faced cheek. He goes to bed exhausted, but happy.
He dreams of being chased by bearded women.
In the morning he showers and then examines himself in the mirror as he dries off.
His face does not look as clean as it did the previous evening. Already it is peppered with the tiny shoots of a revival, an uprising, barely there, but definitely there. He moves towards the surface of the mirror and the closer he gets, the more clearly he can see.
If he concentrates, he can feel the hair pushing up through his skin.
Situation #2 will be broadcast next Saturday.