by Shay Swindlehurst
He stares back steely-eyed from the silver-slick glass surface of the mirror. His shoulders rise and fall with his breath. A small muscle of his jaw at the side of his face clenches and unclenches, deepening the hollow of his cheek. He looks familiar, somehow. Perhaps beneath the prickly black stubble of his face, perhaps beneath the deep purple circles around his eyes, there is someone you once knew. An old friend, an acquaintance from long ago. Perhaps.
Because when you turn to look at him, a small spark of recognition does light up somewhere in your head. Like you once knew him. Whereas now you are met by the image in the mirror and are unable to delve any further.
It is unclear why. If it is because he looks older, more tired, colder, somehow. If it is because you knew him so long ago and the memories are so distant that you can’t quite match them up with the face you now see in the mirror. Or maybe, instead of memories reemerging, you are only met by another face, younger, what he may once have looked like, with no true knowledge of who he is.
You could guess at him. He looks tired. He looks as if the coldness of his expression cannot begin to touch upon the coldness within him.
It looks like you could reach out your arm and plunge it into the depthless silver of the mirror that stands before you; like you could search and search with the tips of your fingers for something, for anything, and find nothing to grab hold of. For a moment you are convinced of this. Your arm stretches forth. But instead of you reaching in, he reaches out, pressing his own fingers against yours to stop you from reaching any further. And you know that each time you raise your hand to search he will also raise his to stop you. You look into his eyes to understand why, but his gaze, like everything else, is a cold blank slate open to interpretation, only to be guessed at.
It is not a look of stubborn refusal, defiance, there is no ill will. Perhaps it is a kind of sympathy, a kind of understanding you see in his glossed, bloodshot, slate grey eyes that stare back into your own as if you weren’t even there. Perhaps it is better that you didn’t know him, that you don’t remember.
Perhaps he knows this.
Shay Swindlehurst graduated from University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a BA in English. He lives and writes in the Berkshire, in the small town of Lenox where he grew up, not far from the former homes of Herman Melville, Nathanial Hawthorn, and Edith Wharton.