Hall Of Mirrors
I am in a chair, vinyl and blue. There is a feeling in me. Deep and still. There is a man before me in this medical room. On the front of his shirt is a tag. It says “Dr. J.”
“It’s something of a confusing procedure, I must admit,”Dr. J. says.
Dr. J has instructed me to begin documenting my memories in active tense at the earliest convenience. It provides “neural therapy.” Dr. J. continues, and asks me if I remember anything. I hesitate. He asks me what my wife’s name is. I tell him. He asks me what seven times five is. I tell him. He asks me the route I will take to get home. I tell him. He explains I will not have to drive. My wife waits outside in our car, he tells me.
“It sounds as if things have gone off without a hitch,” he says. Then he smiles. I have undergone an elective procedure. Something concerning memory. It is a common procedure for those who are retiring, such as myself, he tells me.
“Think of your life as a hall of mirrors that you walk down backwards,” Dr J. says. “Each moment is a new segment and, upon realization, this hall has already reached its event horizon. As more mirrors get added things become jumbled as light bounces and bends. The hallway distorts, sometimes causing confusion.”
I start, and sit up. “What did I do?”
“Sit down, please,” Dr. J. holds his flat palm to me. He continues. “A restructuring of your neural pathways. As you travel down your hallway, you develop failsafes so that you do not stop moving, or get lost. The issue is that sometimes these mechanisms that allow you to continue end up being a detriment in and of themselves.”
He takes his hands, and holds his palms parallel. His fingers are skewed, ugly. Then he snaps them to utter rigidity. “This procedure straightens the hall out. In a sense, you can see more clearly. There will be changes. The results differ greatly between patients, but the overall effects present similarly. Euphoria, increased sense of purpose. You may see people differently and vice-versa.”
I nod, though I do not really understand.
“You may notice some discomfort in the next few days. Thoughts that feel alien may come to you. Let them pass. Restorative therapy has been discussed with your wife.”
“Restorative therapy? I can get the memories back?”
“No, no,” Dr. J lets out a small laugh. “R-T is a series of tactics your wife will use to ease you in to your new life.”
I remember her. Kate.
On the ride home, the world feels like a peeling sunburn. I cannot remember details from before the vicinity of three-thirty five in the afternoon today but light seems lighter, the air feels fresh, and the song on the radio gets me humming. It feels strange. Kate stares at me, alien, for a moment. Then she hums too.
As we arrive home, Kate kisses me. She asks me how I am doing. Under her questions, I hear other questions. I tell her I am okay. Under my answer, there are other answers.
She asks me if I remember her name.
Smiling, she kisses me again.
I remember the house as Kate shows me around. Couch and television. One office, two computers. Big closet.
We sit on the couch. She asks me what I want to do. I do not know. I ask her what she wants to do. She turns the television on. I quite like the program. We watch it.
I stand, later, and go to the washroom. Walking to the toilet, my own profile catches me in the mirror.
After using said toilet, I come back to the mirror. A horizontal rectangle, split in to three vertical rectangles. Hinges connect all three. Ugly is not the word I would use. Alien. My brow is too thick. I take the outside two rectangles and fold them at twenty degrees. Two more versions of myself spring in to existence, mimicked of my own form. Sullen-looking things. Forty-five degrees, and two reflections of my reflections come in. They gaze somewhere far off. Finally, ninety degrees. Back to three versions of me. The real me, and two reflections of reflections to the side. I return the mirrors to their prior positions, then myself. The couch.
Kate hums, and rubs her cheek on my shoulder. I ask her if she will help me use the computer.
The humming stops. After a moment, she agrees.
Before the glow of a screen, I sit at the desk in our office at the back of the house. Kate stands behind me and suggests that we call the doctor. I agree. Dr. J. does not answer. I explain to Kate that this is important to me. She nods, slow.
A video. One of the first when I search my name. Me, at a podium, before a class. I am gaunt, and somber, and speak like a vampire. I am angry. I pound the desk. I say:
“one million people may tune in to drivel, but that does not make it worth more than the greatest poem never read.”
People clap for me, but I cannot see why.
Kate bites her fingernails, behind me. I can hear her. I can hear her trying to not be heard. I ask her if she loved the me I was before I was me today.
After a pause, she says yes.
On the couch we sit, together, Kate and I. We kiss, and she coos. It is enjoyable, but I am confused by her ecstasy towards small matters. Kisses, hugs, and cuddling are not things I take pleasure in. I feel they are my duty. To Kate, they are luxuries. In my hall of mirrors, there are none of these things before today. Why are they gone? Does something once have to be here to be gone?
Dressing this morning I see, tucked away in the back of our closet, a box. It is crooked at such a strange angle I feel it wants me to notice it.
Kate finds me in the back of the closet. Strewn around me are bent spines and ruffled pages of the man I was before the man I am now.
She pleads me to stop, to leave, and grows silent when I smile and tell her I am just curious.
I feel that she expects a different response. I ask her if this is part of Dr. J’s restorative therapy, hiding the books.
She nods. She says she was supposed to burn them.
I tell her it’s okay and that she acts in my best interests, but that I really want to read them.
She leaves, and I hear her on the phone.
She does not come back in.
A strange thing that a man, that I, will spend their lives on work that can be consumed in a matter of two or three days of leisurely reading. It is good stuff. A little mean at times, and dark more so, but I can see why I say those things in that video.
Silly, is what it is. Why the misery? I can’t help but feel that I am better off watching television with Kate.
She is lovely, and she makes me proud. I tell her that the other day. She cries. She says I had never said such a thing before.
At the bottom of the box there is a letter. It is written is script that looks like how I used to speak. Jagged. Short.
In this letter I ask myself to read my works. I have grown sick of always knowing which ways my own stories went. I refer to the procedure as my greatest gift to myself.
The man that I was does not know how true this is.
At the end, I ask myself to write. To document this procedure, to make as much of it as I possibly can.
I do not. I do not care for my books for it seems they brought me no joy. Writing held little appeal to me at Dr. J’s behest and even less now at the command of my former self.
I have composed something, though. My final testament. It goes like this:
Love is a fire that does not burn.
Love is the dark that watches us turn.
Love is given while love is earned.
Love, it does unite us.
Love is lake water, stilled by the morn.
Love is forever death as you’re born.
Love mends us, and by love we are torn.
Love, love, defines us.
Love love love, love.
Love, love love.
No matter how much you repeat it,
never, ever, shall love lose its meaning.
Now, I am going to watch television while I hug and kiss my wife for the rest of our lives.