On The Other Side of the Mirror

Image Source: PixBay

When I was eight, I overheard my uncle describe the beauty of his job as a photographer, "You can see the beauty in anything", he said "At the right distance, a picture can show you a beautiful teddy bear even though outside the frame is a sea of trash"

I remembered those words six months later walking home from my parents' funeral. The screams of my older brother rang through my ear, echoing through the emptiness left by the departure of my father's stories and my mother's pieces of advice. "My parents died in that explosion because you made them stick around because you wanted a toy", he shouted before punching me to the floor "Their death is your fault"

All I thought about on the ride home is how everything I wanted was disallowed. I no longer wanted anything. In my room, I stood in front of the mirror thinking about what my uncle had said. I stood close to the mirror holding my toy and in front of me stood a kid with a swollen eye holding a similar toy. Maybe standing so close wasn't the best idea, I kept taking steps back until that kid looked okay.

The toy in his hands disappeared as his eyes began to heal as the heat caused mine to hurt more. Later his parents walked in and held him as he smiled in his colorful world behind the mirror as I walked out of my room into the rest of my grey house. I was happy for him, I really was.

I saw more of him as years went by, taking flowers and asking out Lina, the girl I had a crush on for three years, going to school as I went to work at the local car shop to support myself after my brother kicked me out of the house. We would often talk and catch up about what we were doing. He would tell me about all the places he visited as I share with him my opinion on movies and TV shows I watched or the books I have read. I would share all of that with him, I would share all of those things that masqueraded the fact that I was really doing nothing.

"Don't worry", he once said "I will live for both of us"

As years went by, I have felt closer to him. I no longer needed a mirror to see him. His dates out with his wife, Lina, were keeping me warm as I had one of my many dinners alone. He made good friends with his older brother as my brother and I grew more estranged. The nights he made love to his wife helped me sleep as I closed the final porn tab of the night. I was grateful that he was living for both of us. But that all changed.

One day, this beautiful woman stopped by the car shop to fix her tires. I restrained from looking at her as she got out of the car until she recognized me. It was Lina, as beautiful as the man behind the mirror described her to be. The ring on her finger laughed at me for not only missing that train but not being on the way to the station in the first place.

We talked and caught up as I fixed her tires. She told me that she had actually passed by our old house when she learned that my brother was putting it out for sale. We said goodbye and as she got into her car I stared into her eyes for a moment.

"You know, this is probably meaningless to say now", I said "But, I was actually planning to ask you out at school"

"Why didn't you?", she asked with a curious look on her face, a look that quickly faded before she drove away as she found me staring into the thin air. Her question awakened something in me. At that moment I decided to visit the house one last time.

Wearing my greasy, dirty work clothes I walked home thinking about everything I ever wanted but never got the chance to say or even think it to myself for more than a few seconds. I pulled out the old key I had to the house, one I kept with me all the past years, and walked into this old, broken grey house and headed to my room.

Upon opening the door to my dusty room I saw the man standing in the mirror from afar, wearing his fancy suit and tie, standing tall. He was staring back at me wearing my greasy clothes, almost bowing in humiliation. I looked into the mirror that held everything that I wanted in life.

"What are you doing here?", he asked "What do you want?"

"I don't know", I replied "Hold a gun to my head and ask me again a thousand times, I still wouldn't know the answer"

A few moments of silence ensued as we stared at each other.

"But you know", I complained "I am tired. I am tired of Youtube reaction channels being the friends I share my likes and dislikes with. I am tired of previewing tens of porn videos each night just to find how I want to feel before going to sleep. I am tired of living vicariously through you"

"But I am the one doing all these things for you", he explained with a comforting sound as I started to inch closer and closer "I asked Lina out, I married her. I had children with her."

I sensed fear as I got closer while he continued talking "I stayed in school, I got the fancy car, the fancy house, and the fancy clothes"

I stared into his eyes as the wallpapers of his colorful world started to peel off

"You know". I confronted "You don't look that fancy to me"

Suddenly, all that was staring back at me in the mirror was a scared child holding his toy.

"It's okay", I sought to comfort that child "Everything you feel is okay. The pain you feel is okay. And everything you want, it's okay for you to say it. You will no longer be suppressed"

I walked outside the house and looked around. I saw the car I want to one day own, the house I want to one day live in. The type of furniture, clothes, shoes, hairstyle, and even games I wanted to play, the places I wanted to visit. Those were all the thoughts coming to me as I went to work during the day and studied at night school.

My uncle once said, "At the right distance, a picture can show you a beautiful teddy bear even though outside the frame is a sea of trash". But now I want the full picture in order to clean that sea of trash.

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