I was still a teenager when I accidentally grew a mustache. I was in my first semester of college, living in the dorms, scraping my life out of the bottom of a tin soup can. Out of pure neglect, I went a week or two without shaving and the next thing I knew I had a mustache. I surprised myself one day when I finally looked in a mirror. I had become a monster. I was a post apocalyptic scavenger of the wastes. A ragged outlaw struggling to survive.

I decided to keep it. It just made sense. At the time I was trying to hide from the world. I wanted to watch it from a safe distance like a spy sent to observe a foreign country he didn’t completely understand. I found the world confusing and frightening. And a beard and mustache seemed like an efficient way to shield myself from it. It was my newspaper with a pair of holes cut in it. The painting with the eyes that followed people while they walked down the hallway. I became invisible.

I hid like this for several years before slowly mingling with society in a more acceptable way. But the mustache never left. It had been too long. I was somehow trapped behind it like a door I had locked and the forgotten where the key was. I didn’t hate it, but 15 years later it was still a regular reminder to me of the person I used to be. A boy, hiding in a room, avoiding eye contact with the world.

I called the girls in to watch the night that I shaved it off. The three of us cringed in grotesque amazement as I slowly removed the fur of the beast and revealed the soft pink skin hiding below. I shrugged off my aged face and emerged from my cocoon a changed person, a stronger person, a more deliberate person. The kind of person that does hard things because he chooses to. A person that faces the world without fear and has no need to hide from anything. I turned and smiled at my children and they forced a pair of smiles in return.

“When is it going to be back again?” Clara asked when she felt the appropriate amount of time had passed.

“What do you mean?” I asked, rubbing my cheek and examining my chin in the mirror.

“I mean,” She said, “When are you going to be a man again?”

The room was silent for a few moments. The words bounced around inside the bathroom and were slowly eaten by the buzzing light over head.

“A man?” I knelt down in front of her. “Kid, you only just met one.”