Throughout the entirety of my thirty-three years, I’ve given woolly worms about five minutes of my time. Tops. Did you know their fur-stripes tell you how severe winter will be? A longer brown fur-stripe means a light winter, a longer black fur-stripe, the opposite.
My date, Sasha, doesn’t seem interested in this information. What I thought would make for a swell first date – a trip to the Smithsonian’s Insect Zoo – now seems to have morphed into the perfect opportunity to give self-immolation a try. Presently, Sasha looks embarrassed that I keep touching the woolly worms’ terrarium glass with my nose. “I’m stunned,” I say, turning my gaze back to her. “I’d no clue such was the case of woolly worms. As a kid, when I’d come across one, I’d pick it up and try to blow him off my palm. But those little fuckers never let go. I didn’t know they were strong and psychic.”
A wave of disgust passes over Sasha’s pretty face. “That’s just a myth,” she grumbles. I want to tell her that she has nice eyes. Because, really, she does. They’re very blue. Like, bug-zapper blue. But, instead, I turn back to the woolly worm exhibit, nose to glass.
And that’s when I see it.
Inside the woolly worm case, on the other side, is a mirror. In it, my reflection. I stand there, staring at myself. Apparently, while in the museum, I’ve grown facial hair – a little brown and black fuzzy mustache to be precise, one that extends above my upper lip, frighteningly Hitler-esque but nonetheless intriguing. I beckon for Sasha to come closer. “Look,” I whisper, afraid of scaring my mustache away, though I know it can’t hear me. “See that woolly worm sitting on that twig, the one sticking up out of the leaves? If I stand right here and look at my reflection in that mirror back there, he turns into my mustache.”
Sasha sort of grunts and walks off toward the next terrarium. But I’m transfixed. I look great with a mustache. Fucking amazing, in fact. I’m certain I’d have no problem scoring a new date with such a fine-looking brown and black mustache. Especially since it’s obvious Sasha’s not into me. I could sit in a desolate corner of some coffee shop -- one in which all the baristas dress like they’re straight outta Walnut Grove, Minnesota. I’ll be subconsciously tweaking the ends, reading any book by David Foster Wallace, when a young woman approaches me to say, “You have such sexy facial hair.” I’ll blush and shrug my shoulders. Then I’ll scoot over and offer her a seat, saying, “I also make maple syrup.”
Sasha seems to have left the room entirely. No skin off my back. I don’t want a girl who can’t appreciate a good facial follicle fantasy now and then. I mean, why stop with a mustache? What if I had sideburns? I turn back to look at my reflection in the caterpillar terrarium, taking a few strands of my short blonde hair and tucking them under one side of my glasses. Then I turn my head and look sideways at myself. There they are: sideburns, man. Stellar sideburns. Now all I’ll be needing is a ’78 El Camino in sleek brown with a busted driver’s-side door so that, in order to get in, I’ll have to jump through the rolled-down window, feet-first. Then I’ll adjust my rearview mirror, pet my beautiful blonde sideburns, and smile a mischievous smile, toothpick askew.
“Are you still looking at the woolly worms?” Sasha is back again, arms crossed, leaning against the doorway to the Zoo’s exit. I start to tell her about how cool my life would be if only I had sideburns, an El Camino, and a toothpick, but a guy saunters by, slow and careless, before stopping at a nearby terrarium. I can’t help but refocus all of my attention on him. He has long, stringy brunette hair and he’s wearing a Nickelback t-shirt. On his chin rests a soul patch like a fashionably disregarded food stain. Like growing facial hair to resemble an intentionally neglected spot of mushroom gravy on your face is, to some effect, an apolitical protest of all things napkin-ish. I wonder if soul patches are best paired with t-shirts that boast crappy bands. Or do they compliment long, stringy hair? Theoretically, if I opted to grow a soul patch of my own, could I make it so that it’s long and stringy and hangs from my face clear down to my clavicle? Surely Nickelback Guy knows the answers. I move in his direction—
“C’mon,” Sasha says. So much for soul patches. Reluctantly, I head in her direction. But I’m surrounded by facial hair now. It’s all I see. All I can think about. What if? What if? There’s a dad with a Chuck Norris beard by the Tiger Moth terrarium. What if I had a Chuck Norris beard? Would it help me hone my roundhouse? And standing in front of the tarantula habitat is a teenage boy with a blonde pencil-stache. What if I had a blonde pencil-stache? Would it bar me from being able to see a Disney movie alone at the theater?
Sasha is practically dragging me out of the Insect Zoo but I don’t want to go. The Museum of Natural History has now become The Museum of Fucking Incredible Facial Hair. I don’t want to just stand and stare anymore; I want to curate.
Abby Higgs holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts. She lives in Baltimore with her two cats, Max and Wilford Brimley. Upon second read, Abby isn't sure she wants to include that last sentence. Surely there's something more interesting to put in this bio than "Abby lives in Baltimore with her two cats." Oh well. More of her words and links to other publications can be found here: www.slowclapabby.com.