My father bought rounds of shaving soap wrapped in crinkled pastel paper and stored them in the bathroom drawer. When I was small enough to perch on the counter, I’d watch him wet a caramel-colored brush, swirl the bristles around a mug of soap, and paint his face with the froth. I loved the squelch of the bristles, the hollow ring of the wooden handle against ceramic, the razor’s chilling scrape, the satisfying reveal of soft, pink skin.

Later in the day, I’d sneak into his bathroom and peer into the mug, at the morning’s bubbles fossilized in dried soap scum. I’d press the damp brush to my nose, inhaling the concentrated piney scent, so sharp compared to the faint trace he wore at 5 o’clock.

When he was sick, the nurses used a plastic razor, too-blue shaving gel, and a kidney-shaped bowl of tepid water.

After his death, I wandered around my house, curiously poking in reorganized closets and cabinets. I found his bathroom drawer empty.

“Mom. Where did you put dad’s shaving kit?”

I was hoping she’d reveal a secret room where she stored his ties and shirts, combs, buttons, broken tools, old pictures and books. There I could rub my face in the soft folds of his sweaters, and once again breathe the mingled scents of piney soap and sweat. I could clean the shaving cup, set it on my desk, repurpose it, use it to store pencils or thumbtacks or something.

But we lived in a house of three girls; there was no need for collected masculine accouterments to gather dust.

“His shaving kit? I threw that away…”

Of course she did. She saw bristles stiff with age, a ceramic mug ringed brown from years of soap scum and water.

Verity Sayles


Verity Sayles is a freelance writer from Massachusetts and enjoys airplane food and the ocean in winter. She graduated from Trinity College (CT) in 2011 and is currently reading all the Pulitzer Prize Fiction winners and writing about them at

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