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The Other

By tr1str4m

You’re never supposed to start anything looking in the mirror like this. But I’m doing it anyway.

Inches away from my reflection, I see the other me staring back at myself inside my pupil abyss. My irises bloom outward from the center of those event horizons like a gray nebula.

They say each galaxy has a black hole at its center. Black holes suck everything up. Even light.

The dark stars at the centers of my eyes suck everything into them. They tear space and funnel all subjects to another dimension where only the movement of my thumb and forefinger exists.

Distorted and fragmented images transmute to brushstrokes inside this place. In turn, my movements make a new universe from paint chaos on a canvas void.
I should never look at my reflection. It’s a cliché. And whoever’s writing my life would face the scorn of critics everywhere for using this mirror as an easy way to describe me. Lazy writers do it all the time. So now everyone hates it. But some people can’t help themselves.

My biographer girl—whoever you are: You’re the only one who’ll ever love me. I’m sorry for looking through the mirror like this. I hope you find some other way to tell everyone how I look later on. Your creative universe exists beyond mine. But maybe I can help you out by looking away.

No. I can’t. Not now.

I face another, worse temptation when I look in the mirror. Sometimes I lose my Self. Instead of seeing the Someone I think my Self into, I see a Stranger. His attitudes and ideas, his face and features, his history and future, aren’t quite mine.

Suddenly, when this happens, neither of us belongs to the body on either side of the mirror. So we stand here looking at each other in an infinite loop of who, what, why, where and when. We fall through each other’s black holes over and over again.

I can hardly think inside this circle of gravity between him and me. I only feel detached. If I wanted to, I could just let him have the life he wants and float outside the circles of our space forever. But I’m scared to do that. So I won’t.

Instead, I found a way to get rid of these psychotic cycles. He is the Me I wish I could be. So I paint his life.

Now. Looking in the mirror. My pupils suck in spaghetti light streams from his parallel universe. I close my eyes to get away. But his image still bounces around inside the Nothing between him and me.

I stumble to the canvas on an easel set up in my kitchen. The smell of latex and thinner guides me. I touch the fabric and easel where his table should be. My thumb and forefinger find their home on the brush. Then I open my eyes and paint his existence.

His thoughts in me portray his family. I paint their portraits in tints of red. Never shades.

His wife is voluptuous: A redhead with curves. Her chubby cheeks house a quarter-melon smile aimed at him. Aimed at me. Her eyes gaze down at three stair-step children. Only one of them has reached the age of five. All are boys. And all have blonde hair like the other in me.

The other has my face. Only he’s bigger and stronger from working metal all day. He’s also fatter from eating his wife’s cooking at night. He wears T-shirts and jeans that I would never own. But his dark eyes never gaze at his family. Instead, they always yearn toward me.

Days go by.

Again and again, I paint them as a family. They’re never alone like the Me He wants to be. So I smear myself in as a background in shades of green.

On one canvas, the family watches Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park. In other paintings, they’re all dressed like drugstore cowboys for Cheyenne Frontier Days.
Sometimes I paint them crying at funerals in Rawlins, or singing at Christmas parties in Casper.

His family is together in every piece, but the last one.

All danger of me losing myself to him is gone. The wormhole between our pupils closed hours ago. And I can barely hear his thoughts anymore. So now I feel comfortable painting him alone like me.

He’s standing in his bathroom, brushing his teeth, with nothing but boxers on. His house is quiet, except for his toothbrush swishes. That’s when he looks across the mirror into my studio bathroom and sees me.

“Honey,” he calls to his wife in the other room. Jay Leno babbles bad humor from the TV in the bedroom beyond. Even so, he hears the thud of her Janet Evanovich book closing.

She says, “What babe?”

“Come here for a second.”

The bedsprings creak and her feet flop across the carpet. She stops in the doorway. He looks at her lush profile, hidden by her thick red curls. Her black nightie is short.

“What?” She asks again. But she doesn’t let him answer. “Come on. You have to work tomorrow.”

“Yeah. I know.” He gives the mirror a ‘duh’ look. Then he seems a little scared.

She giggles. “But we have work to do tonight too. Remember? We gotta make a little girl.”

He spits out his toothpaste in the sink and kisses her hard. The lip collision echoes off the tile. He barely detaches himself before she drags him to the other room.

“I’m serious,” he says. “Come look at my reflection.” He tugs her into the bathroom by one freckled hand.

She looks at him in his boxers. “That’s you alright,” she purrs. Her fingertips move down his bare chest to his waste band.

Barely managing to keep focus, he says, “I get this weird feeling sometimes…”

Her fingers plunge beneath his boxers. “Uh huh,” she says.

“It’s like I’m not really me when I look in the mirror.”

She stops. “What’re you talking about?”

He looks at her, not sure if he wants her to listen anymore. “Sometimes, it’s like someone else is looking back at me. You know.”

“No, I don’t she says.” She looks puzzled now.

“It’s like he’s got the same body and everything. But it’s not me. It’s the me I could’ve been.”

His wife sighs. “We’ve talked about this before. I can go back to working in business if you want to go to art school.”

“No,” he says. “I’m not about that anymore. You and the kids are my life.”

“But you have regrets.”

He shakes his head. “I love you. And I would trade ten starving artist’s lives for a tenth of a life as a welder and family man like I am now.”

She looks relieved. But she presses on, with no hint of wanting to continue their foreplay. “You still think about painting though.”

“Yeah. So,” he shrugs. “I think about welding too. Doesn’t mean I love it.”

She looks into his eyes. My eyes. “You think about what it’d be like without me and the kids. You want to be the starving artist.”

He looks down to lie. “No.” Then he looks at me. “Why would I ever want to waste my life like that?” He bares his teeth at me. “Art for art’s sake is a waste of time. It’s got to be functional. No regrets.” He looks at his wife. “Hear me. No regrets.” Then he attacks her with kisses and groping hands.

She’s receptive, if reluctant. And she lets him push her out of the bathroom. At the last moment, he tries to set his toothbrush on the countertop. It falls to the tile out of my view. Then he’s gone.

Our universes untie forever.

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The Other

Created: Jan 12, 2010

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