We slowdanced in a house of mirrors.
Some of the mirrors had been burned in fires and showed black. Others were webbed in cracks. Still others bore dimensional distortions leading to instant surrealism.
When I asked her which of her reflections was her favorite, she said–The one in which I can’t see myself.
Then she laughed, to soften the acid of her longing for the unreflected.
I squeezed her hand. And kept squeezing it, tendering the glove of a second pulse.
Which is your favorite reflection, she asked me, as I prompted her into a whirl.
I like all of them.
All of them, equally?
Yea, I mean maybe not equally, I have my biases, but then again, equally in that they all derive from the same source, right? None are really any better or any worse than the others.
Maybe, she hesitantly agreed and smiled. But maybe unreflected is the best of all. The most freeing.
I don’t know, I said. I’ve never lived unreflected. I see myself everywhere. I don’t mean that narcissistically. Or maybe I do, who knows? But what I also mean is I see myself reflected in others, and others reflected in me. Like we’re all from the same fragmentary gene-pool, ya know?
So it’s a world of sounding boards and funhouse mirrors, eh?
Perhaps, I said. I’ll need some time to reflect on it.
You, she said, and nudged me into a hip-sway.
Then she pointed–You see that you over there.
That one, she pointed pointier.
Well that one reminds me of me somehow. It could be me, don’t you think?
I looked at it, specifically fixating on the jutting clavicle and lazy-lidded haunt and sensuousness smoldering in the eyes.
Yea that me could be you. Do you want it? It’s yours.
You’re going to give me one of your reflections?
Sure, there’s plenty more where that came from. Besides, I think people are too greedy and possessive of their reflections. Please, a gift from me to you.
I feel bad just taking it. Like some kind of weird stalkery-thief-girl. But I’ll gladly trade you one of mine for yours.
I play fair.
Okay, which one do you want?
I looked around. Everywhere mirrors screamed reflections, each bearing their own signature and set of tonal values.
How about that one?
Her expression sunk and the heat went out of her hand.
What’s wrong? You don’t want me to take that one, I don’t–
No, no it’s just that … I never noticed her before. I didn’t even know she was there. How could I have not seen her?
I knew the answer she was looking for had nothing to do with me, so I kept quiet.
I stared out at the reflection I had chosen. She was a young girl, maybe five or six, wearing a maroon dress with thin straps and butterfly embroidery stitched into the upper back. There was a zigzag riot of scratches and pinkish welts on her shoulders. The girl was on the ground, her face and back turned to the mirror, and she struck me as the physical equivalent of crumpled clothes tossed into a corner. She was balled up, softboned, against the wall at the base of the mirror. It looked like she might be trying to burrow.
Why do you want her, she asked me.
I don’t know, I said, there’s something about her that I recognize, something about her that I recognize in me, ya know?
She nodded, silently, in a daze.
She kept staring at the little girl.
Then she said–How could I have missed her? Is this what happens to . . . was she part of my unreflected?
She looked at me, wet burn in her eyes.
I’m so tired, she said. So very very tired.
Do you want to stop dancing? If you need to sleep–
No, she practically screamed. I’m done sleeping, I’m tired of sleeping, I’m tired of not sleeping, I just want to . . . I don’t know … what I really want is to just keep dancing. Can we keep dancing? For right now? Can we?
Yes, I said.
She rested her head on my shoulder. We moved slowly, in time to the mirrors and their reflections.
I noticed that she kept staring over at the little girl, lodged somewhere between forgetting and burrow.
I imagined it was only a matter of time before she went over, lifted the little girl up into her arms, and claimed her as one of her own.