A Hindu family, the Mahajans, moved into the space between
my eyebrows. The space wasn’t for rent, had never been, but I didn’t have
the heart to evict them.
People mistook the eyebrow – Mahajans – eyebrow for eyebrow – eyebrow
– eyebrow, in other words, a unibrow. I told them it wasn’t a unibrow,
just the Mahajans, setting the table for dinner.
In their second month of occupancy, the Mahajans asked for an extension
on the rent. Seriously? I said. You’ve got to meet me halfway here. The
space wasn’t even for rent in the first place. They got all defensive,
as if I’d affronted them personally. They said my eyes gave them funny
looks, weren’t very “neighborly”. I believed this to be ridiculous, a protective
reflex. My eyes had been nothing but good neighbors.
The dandruff in the driveway needs plowing, they said. I laughed and
asked them who they thought I was, the dandruff plow guy? Did I look like
a plow guy? Mr. Mahajan said he couldn’t back his car out. You can call
somebody, I said, but I’m not paying.
The Mahajans moved to the side of my nose in search of – in their own
words – a more accommodating environment. Also, Mrs. Mahajan liked the
They built their home from hair (plucked from my left eyebrow) and flakes
of sun-baked skin (peeled from the end of my nose). Mr. Mahajan grew a
beard. Mrs. Mahajan learned to churn her own butter. At dawn, Mr. Mahajan
climbed to the bridge of my nose and played “Sweet Caroline” on his sitar.
I told him he’d need to stop that, and he took to practicing in his living
People asked about the mole on the side of my nose. I told them it wasn’t
a mole, just the Mahajans, reading in bed.
I raised the rent and bought a tandem bike. So if a pretty woman ever
asked if I owned a tandem bike and if I wanted to go tandem riding with
her, I could answer, Yes, I have a tandem bike and I would love to go tandem
riding with you.
I felt a little guilty about raising the rent, but Mr. Mahajan had a
steady job inspecting for lice in the Northern Epidermis. Plus, I wanted
a new coat. During my morning shower, I could feel him splashing around
up there in his rubber waders, wearing a nice coat too I bet. The coat
I owned had a hole in it. And the first rule of management is to dress
better than your tenants, right?
They laid a plaid blanket over my left temple and had a picnic. After
eating, they took a hike through my sideburn, stopping occasionally to
take in the scenery.
They were a pain in my side, but they seemed happy. I liked watching
them in the evenings: hand-knit sweaters, hot chocolate by the fireplace.
Laughing, touching. They hooked arms when they drank, like magazine ads
for Aspen timeshares. I didn’t think real people actually drank that way.
Apparently they do. Sometimes I thought I could go on watching them forever,
in their tiny house, by their tiny fireplace, with their tiny mugs and
coasters. But then I’d find something else to do.
I bought a new hat. An authentic bowler, wool with satin lining, stitched
by the Chinese. Mr. Mahajan complained about the rim, said it blocked out
the light in the mornings while he was doing his crossword. He liked doing
the crossword to natural light. He asked if I would tilt the bowler up,
or else take it off altogether. I told him to sit tight and dug through
my hat closet until I found an old sombrero.
They thought about getting a dog. No dogs, I said. What if it’s just
a small dog, they asked. No dogs, I said, and sniffled, to show them I
When the weather grew warmer I buzzed my head. A poor quarter forced
Scalp Wildlife Management to make major budget cuts. Mr. Mahajan was let
The coat I purchased claimed to be made from the fur of one hundred
stoats, but I had my doubts. It would have been just as easy to toss in
a few squirrels or rats in the mix and pass it off as pure ermine.
At night, Mr. Mahajan snuck out of bed, hid in my right nostril and
either cried or played these heartbreaking tunes on his sitar, or both.
I could feel the haunting vibrato sizzle up nasal cavity like soda fizz.
While I watched Mrs. Mahajan perform her jazzercise workouts through
the bedroom window (thrusting in, thrusting out, thrusting in, thrusting
out), I started to sweat and flooded the house. Mr. Mahajan was at a job
interview along my mandible with National Plaque Defense at the time. Ruined
was the finished basement, the hardwood floors on the first level, Mr.
Mahajan’s collection of classic vinyl, and most of their antique furniture.
Mr. Mahajan didn’t get the job and they were forced to seek out less
expensive housing. I asked if they had insurance. They didn’t. They asked
after their deposit. I said I couldn’t rightfully give it to them without
sixty days notice. But the space wasn’t even for rent, Mr. Mahajan said.
Well you wrecked my basement, I said. You wrecked your own basement, he
said, his voice rising. I shrugged. Let it go, Mrs. Mahajan said, and pulled
her husband by the arm.
The last time I saw them I was combing my hair. They were passing through
the helix of my right ear, waxed leather bags under theirs arms, eyes melancholy
and gray: a solemn plea to the road ahead.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/lowbrow.html]
Originally posted March 7, 2009