Storytime: Mirrors / Echos

Please enjoy this post where I tell you a story about an event from my life. Nothing more, nothing less. Today’s story: Friendship at night.

Whatever could be said about college, the thing I miss the most is living with someone who had the same restless sad monster that lived under their skin.

Every knows that every lonely monster is in want of a friend.

And that was it. One minute I was in front of my laptop trapped by four walls and a disdain so large I could feel it seeping through my veins like poison and the next we were already outside, standing under the moon riding high in the sky.

Walking past the tower we walk in and by every day. Walking through a hallway, and our history, and the future all at once. Looking up at the lights on top on the buildings I wondered if I really used to be more than I was now or if I always was this small. If I had just come sharply into perspective over time. A blurry far away frame seen through an ever focusing lens that kept narrowing down into the details. Smaller and small until I wish I could be hidden from its magnification. Its scrutiny.

But there’s something about the way he changes when we’re walking. How his voice dips from merely calm, quiet cadence to a near conspiratorial whisper. That’s where I understand his words best, when they’re taken out of his mouth by the wind and as he’s turning and walking away from me. With every footstep I’m running after him and with every turn it’s another door closing. And suddenly, like the slamming of a window, there’s glass everywhere – silver and shine of its reflection running past my arms, lighting up my empty hands. My arms shake and I realize it was just an illusion, just a memory I don’t have. Just an echo of something that happened in another life. I turn my heads to hear his words drone on, my words drone on.

Isn’t the moon nice tonight? Didn’t you think that new TV show was good? Oh. You don’t say. No, I didn’t notice you were—

It’s a long walk and our feet take us to the place we were always going to go. I know we were destined to go there because we don’t talk about it. It’s just that one minute we’re in town and the next we’re standing in front of the diner, its green and red logo staring down at us sandwiched between the “open 24 hours” and the “take out available” signs. It was always going to be here. It was always going to be us. So we go inside, we order, and we stare across the table at each other like we suspect the other has someplace better to be.

(We don’t.)

He tells me about his creations. I tell him about my stories. We laugh. These worlds that we’re creating aren’t real. We’re trying to push a distance between ourselves, between our softness and the things that would pierce it. In doing so we’re two lost souls just letting the air escape out of our lives slowly. For a moment though it feels real. It feels so present that I see time stop. He’s leaning against the left side of the booth staring sadly into his drink, like he wants to ask it for answers. His shoulders are sunk far down, strapped to his sides. No sweater and no coat to save them from being sucked back into the main mass of his body. The rest of him paused, heaved over and slumping towards the table in defeat. His fork is stuck straight up in the half-eaten pie, the line of it dividing him in two neatly pieces. Cutting him into bits. I turn away when it gets too sad to think about. He flinches and my thoughts scatter like birds to the wind.

My hands shake. The music is bad. I can hear the wheeze of my own breath and the unsteady rush of my heartbeat. Looking at him and his uncertainly turns my stomach. He’s a mirror and an echo rolled into one. I push away my food, the taste of it on my tongue turning to ash in my mouth. My mouth feels dry and I ask for another glass of water. My hunger ebbs as I remember the last time I looked at someone like this. Unbeknownst to him echos and echos and echos cascade from inside his face. The noise in my heart, the static in my heart. I see red drip down the surface of a white table when I look to my right. He’s saying something but all I can see is the iridescence of his watch face and all I know is that it’ll be a long walk home.

The waitress doesn’t bring us another glass of water, we leave.

Not that we wanted to go. Not that we wanted to stay.

There’s a section of the road that’s blocked off and a bus stalled out in its lane. “What happened?” “Who cares.” But we keep our heads down like we’ve done something bad.

It’s well past midnight and pin drop quiet with a blanket of eerie energy between us. We are walking no more than a few inches apart and yet we’re worlds away. He is starring at his feet as if the street itself were telling him the meaning of life and my head is craned so far up in the sky it might snap backwards any second. As my eyes roll over the blackness I see it there, a single glimmering star gently swinging above my head. It shocks me. I didn’t know it’d been so long. The star twinkles only a little bit more then the others but I know it is me. It is me and it is for me and he is stuck starring at his shoes, missing it, missing me despite how glaringly obvious it is. Despite how it is drowning out all the other stars around it. How it is overtaking everything! But then before I can do anything, the clouds consume it without struggle and I wonder if anyone else saw it. Will ever see it again. We walk the rest of the way home is silence. In difference universes, with different stars overhead.

There aren’t any feelings lost between us. And as I lay in my bed that right I remind myself that mirrors don’t reflect perfect copies like we think, instead they reflect inverses. Mirrors are notes that rhyme but never harmonize. He is a mirror instead of an echo. But still, I see the shards of the glass on the floor, and I wish I could pick them up, but I’d only end up bleeding.

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