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Dritan KIÇI: The gentleman’s pleasure

Halim shaved every morning, an indispensable rite, impervious of the schedule of the day. Going out or staying home was of no consequence to the process. When for some reason he did not, his hands could not stop touching his face and the man experienced guilt. The hairs on his chin seemed to grow within minutes, and twenty-four hours is a long waiting he endured quietly tormented, for coming morning would renew that amazing pleasure with a meticulous shave.
The evening’s gentleman’s toiletry was an option too, but is not proper to shave at night! Why so, the man did not know, but hearing the warning from so many and so often, he really had no doubt on its forbidding reasons. The toes and fingers nails belonged on the same category as the hair, and all had to be trimmed ‘only’ during the day. Although, there was a discrepancy on the rule.
When the day was gone and darkness had fallen, and few clients bothered to walk-in so late, he often visited the barbershop, just before closing time. By all indicators, this was at night, specially in the winter, but the people had not slept yet, so, technically one could call it “not-night”. Well justified by this loophole Halim considered an evening visit to the barber’s shop a day’s pleasure.
The morning’s routine, with all its indulgent self-centered attention invigorated the man and helped him feel young and full of life. Retired early, long ago, when he was in his fifties, now seventy, Halim still hunted around for “jobs” to occupy his day. The ex-army officer hated wasting time, unlike most of his friends who passed their days in front of a shop or in the neighborhood’s cafes, discussing the same unstable political situation in the country.
After washing off bits of shaving foam left in stripes by the Bic, he spread on his face the after-shave cream and sensed the skin soft and fresh. That exalted feeling overwhelmed his senses.
He finished the ritual with the appropriate attention by checking himself in the mirror and having not found anything wanting, he walked to the bedroom to get dressed.
The white shirt, ironed the night before, was hanging in one of the doorknobs of the wardrobe. A flashing ray of the rising sun had found its way to the room, from a crack on one side of the curtains closed without reaching the very end, shimmered like snow the shirt’s bright white cotton.
The man unhooked the garment with attention and slipped his arms neatly into the sleeves. The crisp fabric rubbed against his new undershirt causing a barely audible sound, arousing him with the same goose bumps and pleasurable discomfort he experienced every time he dressed the uniform.
Then, the already knotted tie slid cautiously toward his neck, not to ruin the perfectly combed hair. Unhurriedly he tacked the noose under the straight collar, making sure the inch wide red fabric was pushed up and invisible.
Finishing all with a sigh and standing in attention, he found himself pleased with his reflection on the mirror.
The tie was old; bought 20 or so years ago. He applied the proper care to the fake silk fabric, for he felt particularly well wearing it, pulled tight and isolating completely his neck, only then he grew comfortable, warm.
He was expected to be at his new job at nine o’clock. Even though it was nothing permanent, just a few days replacing a sick friend in a slot-machine bar, somewhere near the new maternity hospital, Halim could not allow himself to be late and taken for a fool.
With all he needed on him, wallet, wrist watch, getting out of the apartment he put on the gray jacket and locked the door. Having lived in that building for so long, he always tied his shoes outside, placing the foot high on the third step of the climbing stairs to the above floor, conveniently positioned next to his door.
With that last thing done, reassuring himself that everything conformed to his standard, he took the descending stairs toward the exit, where nearly always he exchanged pleasantries with neighbors hanging out in the courtyard.
The location of the “casino” was not far from his home, maybe ten minutes walk, and calculating that, he had time. The man took it slowly, walking with the same paste and tenure he had in the good old days when he went to his office in the Ministry of Defense.
“A gentleman needs so very little to hold his tenure.”, whispered him to self, stepping firmly the concrete stairs, and before touching the pavement of the next floor his legs failed to keep him standing and he died.

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