You can’t make Mother Nature change her mind
Arduino Gherarducci, university professor of bibliographic data exchange formats (formats developed to help reduce duplication of effort when transferring bibliographic information between libraries) believes that “every man in the world has a bald patch hidden within him.” That’s quite easy to proclaim when you descend from a family with a long and storied tradition of male patterned baldness, one that chooses the combover as the only respectable way to combat the flaw, and views anyone who chooses to shave their head instead as a clear “sign of our declining society.” The rest of the world at large however, might view this train of thought as being quite odd and this behavior of clinging to a long deceased tradition of grooming as rather off-putting.
The “problems” start for Gherarducci as a thirteen-year old, when watching his brother Manuele revel in torturing their father by mussing up his perfectly executed combover time and again, he comes to the realization that he hopes “to become bald as quickly as possible.” He doesn’t have to wait long for this dream to come true. Returning from his military service a few short years later, his mother notices his that his hair is starting to fall out and urges him to visit a doctor. He steadfastly refuses because he wants to “cover what nature was taking away, to decorate the void, to emphasize it by the very act of covering it.”
This one major, character defining peculiarity aside, Gherarducci is an intelligent man, one who has managed to educate himself enough to become a professor and also somehow, miraculously found a woman interested in him enough to take as his wife. There was of course, awkwardness at the wedding, and well, things at the university don’t always come off quite as planned, but no life is perfect, and certainly having a combover is preferred to being a “slave to fashion” when you firmly believe that “shaving is simply a form of subjugation.”
One day, after an unpleasant incident in which a student rises from his seat and proceeds to embarrass him by disturbing his well sculpted combover mid-lecture, Gherarducci decides to up and leave everything and everyone behind for a bit of much needed solitude. He calls his wife and leaves the following, extremely thoughtful message on her voice mail:
Hi Teresa, don’t wait for me, I’ll come back later or perhaps never, I’ve got to sort myself out; yes, yes, myself, I don’t know what this myself is, but I’ve got to sort things out all the same; so don’t go looking for me, just leave me in peace for once. Bye.
Sorting himself out involves living in a cave in Lapland for a bit and accidentally becoming a mystic whose combover has the power to heal any ailment imaginable. It’s a role he’s unsurprisingly reluctant to play, especially after word of his supposed gift spreads like wildfire throughout the land. It’s here where things get really interesting for the poor overwhelmed Gherarducci as any dreams of solitude he might have fancied quickly dissipate.
Extremely amusing, yet also strangely unsettling, Bravi’s tale is more than just one of combating the ravages of hair loss. Through his his quirky protagonist Gherarducci he questions the unique father-son bond that often manifests itself in wholly unexpected ways and wonders why some children wildly rebel against their parents while others fiercely bond with them. He also asks if a life of solitude is really preferable over one filled with the joy that only lasting, meaningful connections with others can bring. Perhaps most importantly however, Bravi questions whether or not those personal hang-ups we each cling to oh-so-tightly are really as important as we believe them to be in our twisted little brains.
In other words, what he’s really trying to say is that we shouldn’t take ourselves quite so seriously and that each of us could probably stand to lose a little off the top.
By Adrián N. Bravi
Translated from the Italian by Richard Dixon
Frisch & Co.