James King

Shaving Naked

I’ve started doing obituary math. The narrowing
gap does not concern me, for I plan to start
walking vigorously and have already cut back,
with the occasional relapse, on my sugar consumption.
I’ve been told to watch my drinking, so every night

I watch my glass raised to the centenarians.

I am not worried. I have been down
and up and over and through the ether
to the black black nothingness,
only to emerge squinting and stuttering.
I am still here.

I shave naked now.

I celebrate the increasingly prominent collar bone,
the stringier biceps, the growing gray atop
the bonier chest. I take pride in the scars
and, looking lower, rue the abduction
of Europa and the launch of a thousand ships.

I cock my head and consider:

It is not a pretty sight, a man my age shaving naked.
It is a liberation. A liberation to shrug at the denuded
dome, to marvel at the trenches of my face, and to say
aloud to the shadow of a younger self,
dangling blithely in the cool cool air:

“You’re coming with me.”

James King is the author of Bill Warrington’s Last Chance, Grand Prize Winner of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and published by Viking/Penguin. His non-fiction work has been published in a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, and New York Daily News. James is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and holds an M.A. in Writing from Manhattanville College. He lives in Connecticut.