If you look closely, you can see a patch of hair under my lower lip. I was going to glue some sort of fuzz there but decided it was just as easy to grow a little of the real thing for the purpose of tonight’s reading. You see, I find myself in the middle of a crisis. Not global climate disturbance. Not unaffordable housing, medical care, college tuition—our oceans choking on plastic. The spread of fascism. No, it has to do with the way I look. Specifically, my face. And whether to grow and keep a soul patch—also known as a jazz patch, mouche, jazz dot, and love patch.
As to motivation, I’ve tried various deflective explanations, for myself and others. Especially for my Mexican writing partner, who serves as the living voice of my id, super-ego and internalized negative parental voice—although he can also be understanding, thoughtful and kind when so moved. In this case, on seeing this young white bat clinging to my lower lip, he simply broke out in the prolonged, forced laughter of a Serengeti hyena.
I compose my deflections while lingering in front of the mirror, preening, considering the dimensions and significance of my newly contrived identity. I have prepared my responses to the questions, all of which ask roughly the same thing. Which is, “What is that?” I say, “It’s to balance my eyebrows.” Like my father’s—bushy and overgrown. But my cleverest response is “To catch food.” In this latter case, I find I am not original. Jazz musicians of the 50s and 60s, especially in Kansas City, found the patch of hair useful for absorbing the bruising pressure of the trumpet and trombone mouthpieces against their lower lips. The patch also caught and held saliva generated by prolonged blowing. Same with flute players. So it didn’t just drool down the chin with no hand free to wipe it away.
Then there’s the question of the variation, “Love Patch,” with its supposed use too sensitive to talk about. Plus, I would not think of opening this door to your private world of phantasy—or reality. And so, instead, I reach back for others’ words. Acceptable verbal deflections. All stolen.
And though she be but little, she is fierce.
I would not wish any companion in the world but you.
The idea, not the deed.
Save us from the idea.
When love speaks the voice of all the gods makes Heaven drowsy with harmony.
Let not men speak unless it be from the Delphic…Google.
I refer to a small article, claiming that the love patch is known for its obvious advantages in love’s earthy snuggles. Alas, a little too explicit and flat for me. Plus, I have not interviewed women. But an adjoining little poll shows 26 thumbs-up, agreeing with the so-called obvious advantages; 20 thumbs-down, expressing reservations. For all I know all 46 voters were men or mixed, or all women. Or one person. Who, I assure you, was not I. It was the only article I could find, which leads me to believe the subject is not widely discussed in literary circles.
Which leaves me alone and by myself to deal with the attending mysteries. The first and most important, Why I have grown this thing? The second, what do people think when I walk down the main avenue of this small Mexican city? I will be four score and two on July 4, 2019. And so my expectations remain guarded that too many women (or men) should suffer any sort titillation.
Sobering news for me in my lingering adolescence. For I had always hoped to add a veneer of sexual prowess to my public image. So that women would drop trays, reach for their tethered spectacles, twirl their parasols faster, or lose their balance for a moment on colonial stairs as I come into sight.
The sun catching this stubby moth, this twitching beard-lette between lip and chin. This small prickly epiphany—shimmering and eternal.
But still, it is me. I stretch to my full height—I, this kind, gentle, tall, slim, dangerously talented, black, Kansas City jazz musician with his Soul Patch, Love Patch. Jazz dot. I ask you, is it so bad, to want to afford this gray puff of lint at least some respect—this symbol of late rebellion and autumnal confusion?
My Mexican friend of 20 years, Carolina, when asked her opinion about my Love Patch, remarked that made me look three years older than I actually was. For which reason, I went straight home and shaved it off. As I will this one tomorrow—at the first rays of sun.