“No, you’re still looking at the mirror. Look at the wall there – about a yard to the left of the mirror. Just notice in your peripheral vision what’s happening in the mirror.”
Peter shifts his gaze according to Dawn’s instruction.
“But I still don’t see anything,” Peter says.
“Relax your eyes and give it a minute,” Dawn says.
Peter tries again.
“There’s nothing here, sweetheart,” he says.
“Seriously, Pete? You didn’t even look for twenty seconds. It took me a minute to see him the first time.”
“Him? What are you talking about, baby? Who is ‘him?'” Peter asks.
Dawn looks away automatically.
She wanted Peter to see him on his own first. How can she possibly expect him not to question her sanity with slips like that? She can’t very well say, ‘Hey, honey, look at our bedroom mirror. I’m seeing an older gentleman in it, and the bedroom is empty.’
That wouldn’t go over well, so she had tried gently to pull him into her illusion sideways.
“No one. I don’t know. Just a figure in the mirror when I relax my eyes.”
None of this is true.
She sees a man in the mirror. A somehow familiar figure, but for the life of her, she can’t recall where. He moves around the bedroom behind her and has, so far, refused to acknowledge that she is there.
The first time she saw him, she screamed and ran from the room. Several long minutes later, she had wandered back in the bedroom, shakily wielding a wooden tennis racket. The mirror was empty by then – it was only through trial and error that she discovered the optimal procedure for seeing the figure in the mirror. Only by staring at the wall, relaxing her eyes – as if she were ‘spacing out,’ did the figure appear in the mirror. But he wasn’t always there either.
That’s when she realized what she was seeing. She was seeing a reflection from a different point in time. That the man in the mirror was in the past or the future. Since she and Peter had built the house together (their first) – she was sure that the reflected man was, somehow, in the future.
And she needs Peter to see him. She needs his help in working out what this might ‘mean.’
She had approached him nonchalantly – a ruse she never could pull off with him. He could always somehow tell when she had an agenda. He could always ‘read’ her.
Peter looks at her with concern in his eyes.
“Here, let’s do it together. Just trust me, okay? If you still want to make me an appointment with a psychiatrist in five minutes, if you don’t see him, then fine. Hell, you probably should make an appointment if I’m the only one who sees him.”
Again, with the ‘him?’
She checks her internal mental state and decides that this is one hundred percent true. If Peter follows her instructions (not always a given) and if he doesn’t see the man? Well, then that means something chemical is wrong with Dawn’s brain. And she should see a shrink at that point. She decides that this is likely true.
“Okay, baby, I can tell this has rattled you. You’re acting cool outwardly, but I can tell you’re a bit shaken by whatever you think you’re seeing – sorry. Whatever it is you are seeing. Show me again, please?”
That stops her cold. Peter can be such an ass, insensitive, clueless, even detached. But then he’d say something like that, and it just makes her fall in love all over again.
“Okay. So, relax your eyes like you’re spacing out or simply staring at the wall. At the wall and not the mirror is the most important part. You can’t look directly at the mirror.”
Together they stare at the blank wall. For several minutes, they continue to stare, and, to Peter’s credit, he doesn’t let his attention wander from the wall. He’s staring at the wall while gently noticing what is occurring in his peripheral vision.
“Oh, my gosh. There’s a man there,” Peter says, jumping up from their bed and looking behind to make sure it’s just the two of them. He even walks to the far side of the bed, looks under the bed – the room is empty. Except for him and Dawn, there are no other people here.
Peter sits down on her side of the bed and repeats the process. He sees the man in the mirror again; he is an older man, maybe in his late seventies. Though he looks familiar, Peter can’t say why or from where he might know him.
Peter shifts his attention to the mirror, and the man disappears. Then he steps towards the mirror to comb his hair. A ritual that Dawn knows well. Two swipes on the right side, two on the left, one swipe to reset his part, raise the head back and up a bit, tighten the jaw, smile. She can mimic it perfectly. So many times, she’s seen him repeat it while she lies in bed, feigning sleep while secretly watching him get ready for work.
“Oh, damn baby,” Dawn says. “It’s you.”
“What’s me?” he says as he pockets his comb.
“It’s you,” she says again. She tries to explain, but the words aren’t there.
“Hey, hey, hey, whatever this is, it’s going to be okay? It’s a ghost or a spirit? Are they the same thing… not the point, I know. But we will …”
“Baby, it’s you,” she says as she points emphatically at the mirror.
Her meaning takes only seconds to reach him.
The man in the mirror is Pete. The ghost of future Peter. He’s aged well.
“But how can you be so certain?”
“That,” she says as she gestures vaguely towards the mirror. “That ritual thing you do? With how you always comb your hair? He did that. He’s done it a few times. I can’t believe I never noticed it before,” Dawn says.
Peter sits back down, stares at the wall, relaxes his eyes, but the figure is no longer there.
“He’s gone now?” Peter asks, double-checking with his wife.
“Yeah. I think we are seeing a future time. He comes and goes just like us. But that’s you.”
A chill runs through Peter. He believes her. And a ‘future version’ of himself might look familiar. Who are you more accustomed to seeing in a mirror besides yourself?
“Whoa, this is heavy.”
Dawn feels a flood of emotions.
Gratitude that she’s not crazy, that Peter can see the man in the mirror.
Happiness that she’s not alone in trying to solve the mystery of what this might mean.
Affirmed by the trust and faith of her husband.
“But what does it … mean?” Peter says experimentally.
“I’m not sure. The only thing that I am certain of is that is you.”
They sit quietly for a moment.
“But I still look good, don’t I?” Peter says.
She laughs, playfully punches him in the ribs.
“No, seriously. Tell me you wouldn’t hit that?” Peter jokes and pulls her back on the bed with him.
His lips find hers, and they dance the dance that never tires for either of them.
Later, afterward, she admits that yes, she would still hit that, and then it’s his turn to laugh.
“You awake?” Peter nudges Dawn.
“Hm?” she says.
“You need to see this, Dawn.”
He only calls her ‘Dawn’ when it’s serious. Usually, it’s ‘D’ or baby or sweetheart – her eyes open wide, and she’s wide awake.
“What is it, Peter? Are you okay? Is it your chest again?” she says.
He’d had a bout with angina last year and then again earlier this year.
“No, not that. It’s the mirror people.”
Mirror: an object capable of casting reflections.
She sits bolt upright; he has her attention.
“Excuse me. Did you say ‘people?’ As in more than one?”
“Sh, just look,” he says.
She shoves the blankets aside, slides forward, and faces the mirror. Peter sidles up to her on her left side and gazes at the wall.
“There’s two of them,” she says.
Why had I never thought to look for the man at night, she wonders? But then she remembers. Since she was a child, she had always deliberately avoided looking into mirrors when it was dark.
He takes her hand; she rests her head on his shoulder. They watch the older couple in the mirror.
The people in the mirror move together – the way people will when they have a lifetime of shared experiences. The older couple in the mirror began making love.
But if that’s Peter…? Then she relaxes. She sees the female figure turn her head to the left, away from the mirror, and rhythmically press her head into the mattress.
That was how Dawn moved — when her climax was imminent.
The man in the mirror is Peter. The woman in the mirror is Dawn.
They both relax as they watch their older versions of themselves move together, both building together and paradoxically apart, towards their own and their combined pleasure.
“It’s us, baby. That’s us. We are watching ourselves in fifty years? Maybe?” Peter says.
What an exceptional gift, she thinks. Marriage statistics are a disheartening set of numbers to consider. But to look in your mirror and see that you make it? What a gift. Her heart fills with love and serenity. Sure, there will be rough patches, disagreements, hard times, even fights, but how bad can it be if she knows the man lying next to her now will still be next to her in fifty years? Peter’s heart condition? Just a passing blip.
She reaches out towards him, takes him in her hand. He’s ready.
“You perv. You got excited watching the old couple go at it, didn’t you?” she teases him as her heart threatens to explode with happiness.
And then he is on her, moving her, guiding her, his hands finding her, his mouth finding hers, and the time for words passes.
An earlier version of this story first appeared on VOCAL.media.