Today, the mirror showed me the same reflection. I toyed briefly with telling Karen, but chickened out again. Like yesterday, I just showered, dressed and left for work. Jack stared at me again all day. Two windows reflected my image in his direction, concealing my actual position.
Later that morning, I spent some time scrutinizing my reflection in the gents, almost too long, as Alan Seaman walked in the door while I was standing by the sinks. Fortunately, I moved aside to let him by, before he could see my reflection, too. That reflection, I've discovered, is like me in many ways. She has a similar bone structure to my mother, although again, my mother wasn't a blonde, neither did she have blue eyes. I can see myself in her now, especially as we have the same mole on the left side – in the mirror, it's on her side just below the left breast. She has beautiful breasts, by the way, perfect, and I find it difficult not to look at them. I would like to touch them, if only ...
Perhaps that is what Jack stares at all day. At least he is a confessed breast man.
When I arrived home, Karen looked like she had seen a ghost.
"What happened?" I asked putting my arms around her.
"All our pictures ..." she trailed off, sobbing.
"What about them?"
"I was dusting, and ..." Again, she couldn't continue, and I was starting to have a terrible feeling.
"Look!" she exclaimed, pointing at our wedding picture.
Standing with her arm around Karen in her wedding dress was ...
I always thought she looked stunning in that dress, more beautiful than at any other time in our lives. She looked so happy that day, as she stood there held by my naked, female reflection.
"Not just that one," she sobbed. Pointing at other pictures of us, or more specifically me.
Every picture that had ever been taken of me looked like her. I pulled my high school yearbook off the shelf, and there she was, by my name, and in the band and jazz band photos – even the one of me high jumping. In earlier pictures of me, she was age-adjusted. The picture of me with my brother at a Cubs game when I was five, had her there looking five years old, too. Fraternity pictures of me smashed with the guys – they looked particularly lurid – although my graduation picture was a scream, standing there with the President of the University in the buff. I could just imagine the blackmail possibilities.
"Aren't you going to say something?" Karen asked.
"I'm sorry," I said, still at a loss as to how to explain it.
"What did you do?" she asked, always keen to blame me for something out of my control.
"I didn't do anything!" I protested.
"Why?" she pleaded.
"I don't know. Come look," I said, walking in front of the bay window.
"It's her!" she pointed.
"I know. Every image of me is now her."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I thought it was a bad dream, and it would go away. Believe me, I've thought a lot of things yesterday and today."
"Every reflection, every image."
"I'm not going to be able to hide it much longer. Anyone that looks at my yearbooks, every shop window I pass ..."
"Why does she have to be naked?" Karen asked.
"Why does she have to be so beautiful?"
"Is that what you wished me to look like?"
"Heavens, no! I love you as you are." I reached out to hold her, but she backed away.
"No, it feels too weird, especially since I can see us in the windows."
"Let's close the curtains then."
"I don't think that really changes anything."
"I haven't changed, Karen. It's just my reflection."
"It's still too weird."
"Let's just sit down and have some dinner. I'll order out for some pizza. What you need is comfort food."
"I'm not really hungry. I think I might just go to bed."
"I'm sure this will all blow over. Let's see what it's like tomorrow."
"I'm afraid," she started crying, still not letting me hold her.
"It will be fine. Don't worry."
"You order yourself some pizza. I'm going to bed," she said, not able to get away from me quickly enough.
She obviously wanted to be alone, so I stayed downstairs and ordered a pizza. Oddly, I had an inexplicable desire for mushrooms and olives, as well as my usual pepperoni. I often eat mushrooms, but I usually don't touch olives. Tonight, though, I had a taste for their saltiness, and finished my meal with a bar of Karen's dark chocolate, resolving to pick up a few bars for her the next day.
There was nothing on the television, so I went onto the Internet, to be greeted by a flood of email messages:
Facebook admin: Your Facebook account has been suspended, due to non-compliance.
Tim Peterson: Who's the babe?
Holly Anderson: Hacked?
MySpace: Message: Buttercup wants to be your friend.
Claire and Glenn Hopkins: Missing you. Call us.
Ning: Your profile picture has been blocked.
Friendster: Dianysus has commented on your profile picture
Friendster: Dal McAllen has commented on your profile picture
Friendster: Slimey Pervert wants to be your friend.
Classmates.com: Faye Goretsky has signed your guestbook
Classmates.com: Faye Goretsky has sent you a message
I didn't make it past that one. Faye Goretsky (nee Burns) was the red-headed high jumper. In the absence of a field events coach in high school, I coached her. There were pictures of us together, one when we had both won at Regionals, the one in the paper had us wearing our medals, but I knew Faye had one with us holding them. She was very proud of that. Considering the circumstances, the other messages were predictable, even the one from my parents. They had pictures of me all over the place.
I logged onto Classmates and picked up Faye's message:
I was just thinking of you today. I know it's been a long time, but my divorce came through today, and I was getting sentimental. It's funny how when that happens, one inevitably thinks of their first time. When we did it after the Homecoming dance, it was one of the happiest days of my life. I hope it won't embarrass you to have me say that I thought you were the one back then. Much has happened since then. Oh, I didn't realize I had a character limit. I have to ask you something – what happened to our picture? In fact, every picture of you? Weird. If you want to discuss, send me your email, so we can converse directly.
That was something I had to reply to.
It has been a while. I don't know what is happening. Believe me – I would tell you if I knew.
I'm sorry about your divorce. I heard that you had two kids. I hope you are coping. I'm married now. Her name is Karen, we met at University, so you wouldn't know her. No kids. I'm still playing my trombone, but earning my living in computers.
Keep in touch,
PS: I'm glad you feel that way about Homecoming. I think I felt that way, too. I'm not sure what happened.
I knew exactly what happened. Faye dumped me. She was getting too close to an old boyfriend, and I didn't trust her. She sensed that and never spoke to me again. That email was our first communication.
As much as I welcomed her message, it hurt. Maybe she wasn't to be the love of my life, but there was no explanation – just silence. I wasn't going to tell her the full extent of my predicament, until I got more from her.
I couldn't bear more emails, although I did act to clean up my Facebook, Ning, MySpace and Friendster accounts. Replacing the revealing pictures with a non-descript photo of irises. There was an old photo of me lying amongst a bed of irises, which Karen had taken. Obviously, I couldn't put that one up, but she had also taken one without me. That, at least, would be significant to anyone who knew me well.
I pulled out my scrapbook to look at those pictures with Faye. I still thought she was pretty, even next to the new female version of me. We looked good together, holding our medals, even if I didn't have any clothes on. A small part of me wished that I had indeed been a girl then. Maybe we would have stayed friends.
That was ridiculous, I told myself, even as I felt a tear dribble down my cheek.
My brain was just going nuts, so I decided to go up and take a shower, knowing also that I would take another in the morning after my run. I needed to get back to my normal routine, and that was a start.
Showering was a mistake. I must have stayed in there an hour as Karen pretended to sleep.
But I shouldn't have looked in the mirror. My wet reflection was so sexy that it hurt. I couldn't drag myself away until I had almost dried. Desiring one's reflection seemed so ... well ... worse than narcissistic.