Mishka Shubaly is the bestselling author of the Kindle Singles, Shipwrecked, Are You Lonesome Tonight, The Long Run and the new Bachelor Number One, which is excerpted below. For like not much money at all, you can buy his writing here, which you should do, because it is great.
I ran out to grab a Diet Mountain Dew — judge me, go on, judge me — and when I walked back into my room, I caught a faint whiff of something, a scent that may have been disturbed by my excavations. It wasn’t as rank as the Unabomber’s shack nor as fetid as the sagging couch facing the PlayStation in some defeated suburban basement-dweller’s grotto nor as acidic as the lived-in storage unit of some divorcé in freefall but it was there: the bitter, defeated tang of curdled manhood, a bachelor gone to seed. I was beginning to spoil.
I was on my way to becoming a “creepy uncle” — a male spinster, the masculine equivalent of an old maid. I’ve spent much of the last ten years transacting on Craigslist so I’ve spent ample time trooping in and out of the domiciles of these sad, strange men who appear to have given themselves over completely to entropy. They live alone or in their mother’s basements in Ossining or Mill Basin or West Babylon, paint peeling in sheets, walls stained with nicotine, the couch upholstered in cat hair, the floor slick with dried urine from some huge idiot Rottweiler with long curling nails that looks to have never been outside in its life. They have the trademark twitchy, hollow eyes of the lonely onanist and they offer me a beer or a cigarette or a sandwich as I try desperately not to notice the towers of unlabeled VHS tapes which can only contain the basest pornography: grainy, low-quality second- or third-generation bootlegs, the flickering images flecked with static, particularly in the moments of heightened drama where the tape has clearly been paused and rewound and paused and rewound and paused and rewound. In that moment, I am reminded of unnerving words from my friend Jacob just before he died. I told him that I couldn’t imagine how, at 28, he had managed to become addicted to heroin. He had asked how old I was and I told him, 24. “Oh, you’ve got plenty of time,” he had said with a sad smile.
If I was to be completely honest with myself, I had been going bad for a while. Over a year ago, while getting my hair cut at the Polish barbershop in my neighborhood, I noticed a lot of gray coming off. Sure enough, that night at Beauty Bar, some drunken 22-year-old came onto me by slinging a thin arm around my neck and slurring “heyyyyy Professor …” I told myself that it was fine, I just had a new demographic — girls with daddy issues — but a couple months later, I pulled out a white nose hair. I’m not sure which was more disturbing, that it was white or that it was nearly an inch long and appeared to have been attached directly to my brain. Even then, I didn’t panic as my sinuses had been a pretty high traffic area for a while and it made sense that my army of nose hair had sustained some casualties. But other transformations were silently taking place.
That weird patch of hair that had shown up on the back of my hip a couple years ago had been slowly moving up and over. And that tickle that I kept feeling at the base of my neck was not the tag on my T-shirt, but coarse new hair that appeared to be creeping slowly down my spine. You should imagine a map of the United States tracking the colonization of the country by some vile invasive species; killer bees, poisonous cane toads, Burmese pythons, or even the Northern Snakehead fish with teeth like a piranha, capable of “walking” over a quarter-mile and breathing air for four days. Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and now the Carolinas have all fallen to the infestation. Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas are fighting valiantly but losing. And now a new, separate infestation creeping in from North Dakota? The center could not hold.
With chills, I remembered mocking my Dad’s back as being so hairy that his shirt never actually touched his skin, even getting him to pose for a shirtless picture of his back so not just I but also all of my friends could take pleasure in mocking his gorilla pelt. He had taken it all in good humor, commenting wryly as he was putting his shirt back on “Genetics, my son. If you’re not yet familiar with how it works, you will be soon.”
And then, this spring, as the brilliantly violet crocuses pushed their tender new shoots out of the black earth, a malign flower bloomed on me: one lone, silver pubic hair. I was sure it was just a fleck of white lint and I tried to brush it off, but it gleamed maddeningly in the light like a unicorn’s horn under a full moon. It was over. I was done. My prolapsed adolescence had finally come to a halt with a flat, disgusting thud.
Standing in the rat’s nest of my room — the room of a teenager who had fallen asleep drunk off a bottle of Boone’s Farm wine and woken up twenty years later, a man approaching middle age — I had a sad epiphany. I was like an old car on which the transmission had begun to slip. If I couldn’t pawn that car off on someone else before it really fell apart, then I would have to pay someone to deal with it. Going on a reality show and improbably finding someone to care for this large and mostly helpless man might not be the worst potential fate awaiting me. I thought back to a night seven years ago in Denver when a girl I had been drinking with disappeared in the parking lot of an XXX movie theatre and mysteriously returned 20 minutes later, presenting me with what looked like yellowed wisdom teeth: two rocks of crack cocaine. I decided I would apply the same logic to this idiotic dating reality show I had used when I elected to smoke crack: Why not? I’ve tried everything else.
Portrait of the author by Leslie Hassler.
Mishka Shubaly is the author of three bestselling Kindle Singles on Amazon: The Long Run, Shipwrecked and Are You Lonesome Tonight? He plays bass in Freshkills and is currently working on his next solo record. Stalk him on Twitter: @MishkaShubaly
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