The Specialist
Robert Aquino Dollesin
After work, Charles usually finds himself drinking alone at the Pelican Club. Until the band begins playing just before nine, the place is pretty much blue-collar. Stiffs having one with friends after a shift at one of the nearby mills, factories, or warehouses. Charles tries to keep to himself, but once recognized, he becomes the subject of lewd jokes and curious queries, which continue until he finally pays his bill and leaves.
What do they know, these men who either smell of sawdust, or have oil-stained hands. What do they understand of women's pains? Nothing.
"There he is," one of them might say out loud, "the guy with all the pussy." Or else, after having had a few drinks, a group of burly, ball-capped machinists might come by and ask, "How about a sniff of them hands, buddy?"
Charles smiles it off, nursing his rum and coke. The bartender, a fat, one-armed veteran named Higgs, will always intervene, saying, "Leave the man alone. Somebody has to do the job."
How would they like it, Charles thinks, if they had to see women in pain day in, day out? They think its funny, doing what he does, having to see these poor women with either their knees up and apart, or their legs hanging over the edges of the paper-covered table while the technique is performed.
Steady relationships don't come easy for Charles. Conversation always leans toward work, and inevitably, an explosive jealousy will consume the woman. Even this Charles finds difficult to understand. Can't these women see the importance of his work? Still, they sooner or later begin to question the physical characteristics of other women, and not only request, but demand comparison.
"After a while," he'll say, "all vaginas look alike."
He hates to see the clients he's treated in public. The discomfort of their relationship, no matter how professional, hangs over the chance meetings. Of course, despite the wonderful results, the pain still lingers in these women's minds.
Sometimes they shut their eyes, pant their way through it. Other times they curse, screaming at him while the performs the delicate procedure.
"Calm down. Breathe deeply. It'll all be over in no time." These are the stock lines he uses to appease them.
Some women, mostly first-timers, stiffen up during the process. Embarrassing accidents have occurred, requiring paper changes in mid-procedure. But those who'd been through it before, they just close their eyes and let it happen.
Charles hates the fear he witnesses in the women's eyes, hates how they put their trust in him, hates knowing that he can do little to reduce the pain that comes before the joyful finish. They alleviate their fears by laughing or gnawing their lower lip or staring at the spackling on the ceiling. They make faces, rolling their eyes or pouting their lips. Sometimes they request— and of course, Charles allows— a loved one to sit beside them and hold their hand.
Sometimes they'll talk while he works, ramble on about unrelated subjects: some movie they've recently seen, a book they might be reading, why they are going to this extreme, doing this, and how they honestly believe that by having it removed their lives will improve.
He used to lie to them, telling them the procedure was completely painless. But he could not sleep, sometimes for days, after seeing that look of betrayal glazed over their eyes when he finally snapped his gloves off.
"Higgs," he says to the bartender, shaking the ice cubes round his glass. "Refill, hey." Higgs comes over, tops the glass off. "Must've been a rough one," the bartender says.
Charles sips from his glass and shakes his head. When he sets his drink on the bar, he says, "This girl today couldn't have been more than sixteen."
"Getting younger, are they?"
"She screamed, cried. And when it was over she asked for her cell-phone and called her boyfriend. 'It's done,' she told him. 'Are you happy?' When she heard his reply she cried with joy."
"Crazy world," Higgs says. "Not like when I was young. If a girl didn't like what she'd been dealt, too bad. She'd just have to live with it."
Charles feels a tap on his shoulder, glances back to see a young man standing an arm's length away.
The man clears his throat and says, "My girl wants... I mean, we want... I hear you do..."
Charles nods, reaches into his pocket and removes a stack of business cards. "Call and make an appointment," he says, handing the young man one of the cards.
"Is it painful? I mean, will she be able to deal with it?"
Charles nods. "Both." He looks at the kid, thinking the boy can't be more than seventeen. They are coming in younger than ever.
The kid smiles. "She wants me to do it to," he says.
Charles nods. The trend is becoming more frequent. Over the past year, men too, have been desiring a full Brazilian waxing.
Robert Aquino Dollesin was still a kid when he left the Philippines. He now resides in Sacramento, where he manages to pen out a short story here and again. Among other venues, his work can be found on Storyglossia, Pequin, Nossa Morte, The Drill Press and Ken*Again.