12 Jan



In December a boy was born. Healthy and beautiful. His father looked up. Smiling until he saw the man waiting by the window. Gaunt in a black suit black hat. White hair. The man looked at the father. Then the boy. Then the father again. Tipped his hat and was gone.


His new bathroom had two mirrors facing each other, and one morning he saw a bald spot. Right on top of his head at the… what was it called. Right at the whorl.

Or maybe it wasn’t. His new bathroom had a bright light. He was going gray. Maybe just a light patch. He leaned in to the front mirror to look at the back mirror, instinctively. His reflection in back leaned away. Fuck.

He walked naked into the dining room, found his phone, walked back into the bathroom with his nuts huddling up in the cold. Leaned into the front mirror. Unlocked his phone with his thumbprint. Opened the camera app. Held the phone behind his head. It showed the ceiling. He brought the phone back down, switched to the reverse facing selfie camera, held it behind his head again. Guiding himself by the reflection of the camera in the front mirror. There. Perfect-with his left index finger he reached up to press the white virtual button to take the picture. His right hand instinctively went to move the camera closer to his left. Got a blurry and unflattering shot of his nose in the back mirror. It looked enormous.

Holding the backwards camera in the backwards mirror with his backwards hands it took ten tries to get it. But this was important. Finally there it was. Pink meat under hair. Was it a bald spot.

It wasn’t not a bald spot.


He looked again. After he’d dried off and got dressed. But he’d put on too much Aesop Parsley Seed Antioxidant Under-Eye Serum. It had got in his eyes and now he couldn’t see. Everything was blurry. The picture was blurry.

It cost $85 for one fluid ounce. Ten eye droppers full. But he’d got a tester from the girl. She worked there. She’d brought him gifts, before she decided to be monogamous with the boyfriend who borrowed rent money and gave her chlamydia.


The Joe Rogan Experience on YouTube played targeted ads on episodes where Joe didn’t advocate drug use. LOSING YOUR HAIR? SKIN? MUSCLE? One said. FIGHT! THERE IS A SOLUTION.


He clicked. A pop up said MAKE AN APPOINTMENT NOW. He didn’t.

The ads followed him for nine months.


He liked to take dates birdwatching, in the daylight before he got tired, but she insisted. It will be cool. It’s a great art gallery with a bar and a happy hour. I *never* go on one on one first dates, she said. My friends will be there.

She was 32. They’d matched on Hinge. A Creative Executive for Netflix. He’d hoped to talk to her about The Witcher. Its surprisingly intelligent structural choices. Her profile said she wanted a yard for a dog. Which meant she didn’t have one. Which meant he had a chance. Something red and itchy had been growing on his face under his eye. He’d been smearing ointment on it that got on his clothes but it kept growing. Maybe staying out of daylight was smart.

The bar was dark but a beam from a light sculpture made his ointment shine like a jewel. She didn’t work on The Witcher. Her friends made more money than him designing experiential marketing for documentary series from the Obamas. He tried to say something. Without him even seeing that they moved the girls formed a sort of phalanx. Suddenly he was looking at her back in a cashmere sweater with BLACK LIVES MATTER on the front. She was rapt while a filmmaker for Vice talked about his six months sailing through diminishing Arctic sea ice.


The Norwood Men’s Center was in Glendale by the Forest Lawn cemetery. The graveyard had an art exhibit where he’d taken a date to a famous mural of Golgotha. The office was modern. The receptionist was hot. Maybe Filipina. Her name tag said Sophie. Sheer white shirt. Aqua color bra underneath. The first natural color hair he’d seen in weeks. Welcome to The Men’s Center, she said. You have an appointment-

Hi, yes. He gave his name. Let me give you my Blue Cross

We don’t take insurance.

OKlike how much will it be

I can’t give information about the cost in advance, sir. The doctor may discuss it with you. She handed him the clipboard. The forms.

OK is it more than ten thousand dollars?

I can’t give information in advance

A hundred thousand?

I can’t

I’m joking, it’s fine. How is it working here

It’s good, I have time to study. I can write my papers

Do the old guys hit on you, he said. The pen skipped halfway through writing “44” next to AGE. They’d asked him for his birth date. Why couldn’t they just figure it out.

Sometimes, she said, and almost laughed.

What papers are you writing

It’s about a book called Dogeaters–about fighting patriarchy in the Philippines

I’ve been there, he said. Thinking good luck. Picturing the woman with two black eyes wading through rice fields on a water buffalo.

I always wanted to go, she said.

You should. Your family’s from there? Nakaka intindi ka ba ng Tagalog?

Haha, no. Maybe you can tell me about it. She was leading him into a corridor with wine color walls and posters for Semen Cryopreservation. Gestured him into a room. Can you please take off all your clothes, she said. You can fold them on the chair. Your underwear too, everything. As she closed the door behind her and he peeled down his boxer briefs the waistband caught on him; he was half hard.


Norwood didn’t make him wait. As soon as he’d sat down with the weight of his balls crinkling up the cold butcher paper the old man came in. Black suit. Black hat. Long white hair almost like The Witcher. Gaunt face like a greyhound. Not tall but a quality about him. Like a Jewish version of the old man from Phantasm.

So you want to keep your hair, he said. Voice like fall leaves rasping on asphalt.

We’ll I’m not sure I’m losing it

Anything else?

My face. You can see there’s this red on my skin

Mm hmm. Let’s look at the hair first. Can you pull it back please.

Like this?

Yes, good.

Dr. Norwood snapped on toothpaste color gloves. Pulled open a high cabinet. Took down a black briefcase. Unlatched it. Inside, on a black cushion, a sickle-shaped knife. I’ll just need a sample, he said. Hold still please. And pull the hair back, all the way back. Dr. Norwood was holding his cheek. The skin of his palm only as warm as the air. I’ll just take a little bit.

The knife swished by his temple and it felt like a bird was pulling him with sharp claws. Dr. Norwood held up a lock of hair. Salt and pepper with a little blood at one end.

Sorry but we need to analyze close to the root. Lean forward please

What do you think so far.

Male pattern baldness is rated 1 to 7. 1 is a full head of hair. 7 iswell, we’ve all seen. All men are on a journey to 7. Some die before they get there. Can you lean forward please.

Norwood pivoted to the other side of the exam table. He felt fingers rooting by his whorl like a chimp looking for an insect. Yes, said Norwood. Yes, there’s some loss of density here. I’ll take a sample

The sickle knife snicked. Felt like a squirrel bit himhow much loss of density, he said.

The scale is 1 to 7. You’re on the verge of “3 Vertex”. You can lean back.

Is 3 Vertex bad?

Well your wife won’t be happy

I don’t have a wife.

Mmm hmm, said Norwood. Lean to the left please.

Are you gonna cut off more hair?

Just a little sample. How long have you had the psoriasis

Is that what it is? It’s–OW–it was like this for a year but only my forehead, now it’s my cheeks and eyelids, it’s starting to hurt–

Well I’m sorry to hear that. No cure I’m afraid.

Is there treatment?

​There are creams, said Norwood. But that’s at the surface level. The root cause is not clearly understood. It’s thought to be an overzealous immune response to the body’s own cells. Lean back please

The knife. AHH! So my immune system is eating my face

“Eating” isn’t the right word, the action is additive. It’s building painful lesions on to your face. It’s taking over.

OK but–

As I said, not much we can do. But it does sometimes fade.

It does?

Yes, and then comes back; the overall pattern gets worse over time of course. But you may have some good days. Can you lean to the right please.

Are you going to

Just a small sample. Most men have no problem with it. Please just relax. Have you had decreased libido, loss of physical strength


When we see inflammation like yours, it’s sometimes secondary to a decline in testosterone. It can be comorbid with impotence

I mean, my sex drive is normal. It’s powerful in fact–AHH! The knife like a snakebite.

You may find your experience changing.

Can I stop chasing women?

Desire never goes, said Norwood. Only what we desire goes. Open your mouth please.


I’m assessing the situation, be patient. I’ll check the nose as well– Norwood’s thumb began furiously bruising his gums– as men age our noses and ears never stop growing. You can see for example, older members of the British Royal Family, it’s quite hideous. And yours is abnormally large, disjointedI’ll take a look, but first

The knife again. Back of his head. Like a cigarette put out on his skin.

How much hair do you need

I need to make a full diagnosis. Now the nose please– tilt your head back

His neck didn’t want to move. He flinched like Norwood might cut his throat. But he leaned back. Norwood produced what looked like a small chrome drain snake. Try to relax, he said.

Norwood jammed the cold marble-size metal end into his nostril and began jerking the steel into his sinus. It felt like drowning. Thin fingers grated hard on his psoriasis patches. Made them sting. The bones in his face creaked like an old house in the wind. NNMMMPPH, he said.

It’s as expected, said Norwood. Now for your testicles


It’s for your own good, I need to understand your endocrine function.

He looked as Norwood brushed aside his paper gown, to where his nuts lay in their hideous pool of skin.

Quite distended, said Norwood. Are they always like this?

I guess.

At your age the gonads will have lost some function. Your sperm– what’s left– may be… less than ideal. And the decline will of course continue. No wife no children?

No, guess I better get married quick.

To whom, said Norwood.

Is Sophie single?

I don’t think she’d be interested in someone like you.

I was joking

We joke when we’re afraid of the truth, said Norwood. One more

Before he could duck the sickle knife scraped halfway across his crown. It felt like being scalped by a tomahawk. Norwood dropped hair into what looked like a biohazardous waste bag.

What can you do about my hair

What can we do about anything, said Norwood. Chuckled a little as he latched his knife case closed. Tucked it under his arm and reached for the door handle. But you’ll be hearing from us. We’ll see you again. Soon.

His scalp burned as he struggled into his pants. Stumbled into the hall. Lurching past the FREEZE YOUR SPERM poster he saw his reflection in the black letters. The dome of his skull naked and white. A few sickly spikes of bleeding gray hair. Huge nose purple and jagged. Lakes of beet red wrinkling beneath his eyes. Sophie at the desk, startled, then breathing as if to calm herself. Something in her eyes like pity for a second. Then nothing.

I’ll take your payment, she said.

18 Responses to “Norwood”

  1. schneedly January 12, 2020 at 11:29 pm #

    seth macfarlane is older than you, remains unmarried, is without kids.

  2. bowler hat January 13, 2020 at 12:33 am #

    good this. well done, sir. leaves me wondering how close to the truth it is, and .. was it more than 10k?

  3. FredFarkle January 13, 2020 at 12:58 am #

    Do you fuck Sophie?

  4. Atlanta Man January 13, 2020 at 5:00 am #

    Dude fuck Norwood. All you need is Rogaine avoid Propecia it kills your sex drive. You don’t drink or use marijuana so your sperm is fine, you can waste your money on a sperm count but if you ever got a chick pregnant (I assume you did and she got an abortion) it is definitely fine. I don’t know about your testosterone level, but as long as you work out, and considering you don’t drink or use marijuana it should be normal for a white man your age- avoid tap water (because women throw away birth control and it is in the water supply) and drink bottled water in glass containers ( physoestrogens are in plastic) eat a healthy diet and don’t get fat. As for the psoriasis, it happens, unfortunately because it is on your face you cannot use steroids on it to reduce flare ups unless they are particularly severe- see your dermatologist, worst case you may have to see an immunologist- but I doubt it is that extreme.

    You are healthier than 95 percent of the people in your age group and have more hair than most as well. A Rogaine regimen, continued exercise, and a trip to the dermatologist (should be covered by insurance) as well as your primary care provider ( get a Complete Metabolic Panel, TSH , FSH, LH , and Testosterone also sperm count if you wish) and you are good. Quit smoking if you do, it causes wrinkles and premature skin aging- plus it is unhealthy- and you are good.

    Avoid hair replacement and anti aging centers they will make you insecure to sell you shit you don’t need. Just putting lotion on before you dry off after a shower is as effective as their ” eye serums” . If you wake up with a morning erection and don’t have diabetes your sex drive is fine. Worst case scenario is you may have difficulty maintaining erection with a condom on , but we both know you don’t use condoms so no worries.

  5. Anony-fucking-mous January 13, 2020 at 12:31 pm #

    I sincerely hope that this is a part of your next book. And by book I mean full story novella, like FSGN. I recently bought a 2nd copy to gift to a friend a d I would like to keep doing this with more of your books. This story is great, has all of the elements of foreboding mixed with the raw honesty of male horniness filtered through the sieve of ageing.

    Please make this a full story.

  6. Thom Lynch January 13, 2020 at 3:24 pm #

    Great one

  7. james coomey January 14, 2020 at 12:38 am #

    tacos, my boy! you’ve done it again.
    sounds like hypochondriatic-wagecuckino.
    cliff martinez would make excellent composer for the ost:

  8. robocop January 14, 2020 at 5:39 am #

    Psoriasis sucks ass man. I had it bad – all up my arms, across my body, my legs – luckily never my face/head.

    2 weeks in the carribbean sun and swimming in the sea got rid of 90% of it and it never came back – I have small placques on my elbows but aside from that Im all good now. There’s hope.

  9. HGW January 15, 2020 at 2:47 am #

    This is great. Flows beautifully.

  10. johnthecowboy January 15, 2020 at 1:47 pm #

    It’s a human peptide, effective in re-thickening hair, amongst other things.

    Ben Greenfield has an article about it

    That, and another peptide, bpc157,, might be worth looking into

    • Drew Baye February 7, 2020 at 1:37 pm #

      Ben Greenfield is a quack. Be very skeptical of anything he recommends.

  11. jacques de coomer January 17, 2020 at 2:03 pm #

    Not advice, but for me, I’ve noticed more hair loss after showering with hot water. I’ve noticed hair-gains after showering with cold water. of course, that is just one variable. genetics, diet, masturbation, sleep, and exercise habits can play a role. but think about it this way…you tend to have either your forehead or your back turned to the showerhead, and that’s where the hot water is hitting either that front hairline, or that whorl area…makes sense dunnit. but many will continue showering with hot water because it’s comfy-womfy and feels good. go ahead, scorch them hair follicles.

    Disclaimer: the above is not offered as ‘advice’ but merely an observation that might be helpful to anyone who chooses to read it.

  12. Compaq Deskpro January 27, 2020 at 9:08 am #

    I’m just waiting for the hairline to walk back so I can chop it all off and go full Jason Statham.

  13. Nikolai Vladivostok January 30, 2020 at 11:32 pm #

    Crypto. I like the sting in the tail.
    Don’t worry about a bald spot. You might have had a brain spot. We’re old enough now to have seen friends in our age group die, so we have no excuse for whining about small things.
    Not that you were, I’m just talking about the character in your story.
    Incidentally, I know a 67 yo man in a town you’ve visited whose just fathered a baby with a 20-something wife. Doesn’t look at all Downsy so far.

  14. ssmokers March 10, 2020 at 2:09 pm #

    I don’t know how i ended up here and i don’t have any idea what was this article about.

    • CK January 4, 2021 at 9:14 pm #

      It’s about aging while twenty-something girls stay the same age.

  15. Anonymous May 16, 2023 at 4:41 pm #

    Ageing will leave nobody alone unless we engage (coerce?) the population and decisionmakers to reorient our medical-rnd complex towards search for the treatments, a cure, even. I don’t think it is entirely hopeless, you can already achieve surprising rejuvenation feats in model animals.

    There is a surprisingly well written book imagining a (mildly dystopian, ambivalent, not without pleasant streaks) future where this reorientation happened: Bruce Sterling’s Holy Fire.

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