by Mikaela Wong
He loves us? Only aesthetically.
His brows scrunched in affirmation, as well as in concentration at the last question on YML’s dreaded final test.
“Why is gravity so weird?”
How was he supposed to know? His frown grew, expending the muscles on his face until they twitched and trembled. Inside, Bill could feel his brows begging for mercy, but at this, he only furrowed deeper.
Last night, he had meticulously plucked and brushed, and gelled and waxed them, all to prepare for this moment. With the tension in the room palpably electric, Bill could strike a menacing frown and pierce into YML’s cold heart. His brows were ready, shapely drapes framing his eyes, poised and prepared to execute his commands.
It was the final hour: five minutes until class would end. Bill took a moment to reflect.
Yes, the regiment to maintain them had been a grueling process, but Bill believed in tough love. His brows, on the other hand, felt that his love was more akin to a disease. After cultivating precious new strands of hair for years, and what did they have to show for it? The latest face wash? The hottest conditioners? The fanciest treatments? No. They laboured for their tyrant tirelessly, only to have their newborn torn out from their roots. It was infanticide. Daily.
But sitting just a hair’s length away was Adam, with his luscious locks of jet black hair flowing freely in clusters on and around his brow ridge. It was the life Bill’s brows wanted, a life so close they could almost feel those midnight spires. There, grinning disarmingly was the face of the man Bill’s brows wanted to adorn. He was glorious, waltzing through the fifteen pages without showing so much as a hair contracting in confusion. How naive Adam’s fields of brow hair seemed, lying undisturbed, untainted, unknowing of the malice the Tweezerman 5000’s metallic fingers held.
Pluck by pluck and hair by hair, day by day and year by year, their ranks would continue to be flanked. Although more of them meant more to do their job, to protect their dear leader from swarms of foreign invaders like dust and dirt, Bill was set in his tormentous ways. He would never relent, much less to a group of spineless and flimsy hairs. Those hairs were a kingdom without a future. In other words, hairs with no heir and no hair to enheirit.
But all this time, creeping ever closer, undetected, was a bead of sweat, threatening to roll over the sparse line of hairs and splash into Bill’s eyes. He would be blinded and unable to answer that last question. The advance was slow at first, but after making contact with the first hair, the situation quickly snowballed out of control.
In the liquid, all was silent. His brows started to sway and for the first time in front of Bill's classmates, the shackles melted away. Was this what freedom tasted like? Lukewarm and unbearably salty? What was once a menacing foe had become their saviour. Below, their host began wincing and rubbing his eyes. But it was done. They had failed their leader. Despite their defeat, his brows seemed to soften. After all, hadn’t their leader failed them first? Yes, they had lost the battle, but they had won their liberty at last. The greasy substance numbed their senses, washing away memories of their cousins, sisters, mothers, fathers, cropped short, shorn tight right in front of their eyes. It was a relief, a gentle slaughter, a most generous gesture.
As they went limp, and surrendered to the waves that washed through their ranks, a laughter began to bubble. It was because their tyrant-- who never flinched, even when yanking new life from its fleshy womb, even when pressing hot wax to his face, even when the razor slipped and slit his skin-- was weeping. Great savoury streaks of sweat, the fluid a noxious mixture of mucus, slime and snot slogged down his cheeks. But before he could get a tissue, a warm glob landed smack in the middle of his page. It pooled out over the last question, still empty. Bill shirked back into his shirt, stretching his sleeves over his palms to swipe at the puddle on his page, but it was too late. Bill watched as Adam collected his papers and strode across the room as the next class came flooding in.