It's a sleepy Saturday afternoon in Downey, California, a dull suburb of Los Angeles, where I grew up. I'm 10. The sun rains a shower of light through the window in my parents' bathroom. I'm sitting on the cold toilet seat after a hot bath, examining, in horror, the burgeoning mound of flesh on my chest. My mom is golfing at the Rio Hondo Golf Course, and my dad, a computer engineer, is invariably hunkered over his workstation. My brother, 13, is probably biking around Cord Street, on which our house sits. I'm certain that all the potential witnesses to the devious act I'm contemplating are out of sight, so I proceed to the medicine cabinet and pull out my dad's Barbasol shaving cream.
After slathering it like frosting all over my face, I take the bristly end of my toothbrush in the palm of my hand and start "fake-shaving," mimicking my dad's brusque hand strokes. It's exhilarating and satisfies me on a level too deep for words, but halfway through, my brother appears out of nowhere.
"What are you doing?" he asks. He looks shocked -- like he's just seen a monkey-manned vehicle drive by.
"Just messing around," I say, trying my best to make it seem like innocent fun.
A smirk of contempt spreads across his face and he snort-laughs. "Dude, you're weird," he says before sauntering off.
I pray he doesn't tell our parents. I can't quite lift the feeling of his disdain off me. It lingers as I wash off my face, retreat to my bedroom, and realize that I'm only a boy in my mind.
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