The face in the mirror this morning was not mine, perhaps it was that of my grandparents, all I never met, having only old and faded pictures that vaguely resemble the mirror’s face.
It might be my parents, both dead before I found them only yearbook pictures and just possible a vague similarity to the face that i see in the mirror each day.
I tried to ask the mirror who it was hiding in the glass, but like most mirrors it was silent, a sad reflection of its ilk, so the old man peering out will continue to be someone that I have never met.
Once the winter stars wrapped in their cloudy shroud shed frozen tears, unwilling to come out of hiding. We searched for them in vain, knowing our failure, retreating to the warmth of home, only to repeat the failed effort on so many other nights.
Now, here, the winter stars are usually fearless, some drowned by the moon, but she waxes and wanes and they reappear, the brightest never fearing the chilled sky. We stare at them in wonder having forgotten for so many years just how beautiful they can be in their glory.
It appears unexpectedly like a sock from behind the dryer long after its mate has been discarded or converted to rag. You have looked for it ever since it went missing and knowing the way of socks and their hiding places the dryer was one of the first places you looked for it. Memories are much like socks now and again running off and hiding, leaving half thoughts and untethered emotions, and there are those worn so thin, holes appear. It is horribly difficult to darn a memory, and once done they never again fit comfortably. You need only look in the back of your sock drawer for all the single socks pining for their mates, but even when you do so you know, deep within, its mate will not reappear and reconciliation will remain only an unfulfilled desire.
First published in Periwinkle Review, Issue 1 (2020)
The cat stares down from her new perch atop the living room bookcase. She watches us move about, wondering where she might be. She can tell we are getting increasingly frantic in our search as she is new here, and we are adapting to each other still. We look behind everywhere she might hide, but she is gone. She can tell we are getting ever more nervous. She lets out a whistle, drawing our attention, and seeing us see her, she nods, saying Here I am, foolish ones.
What I want to tell her is this: it’s fitting, perfectly, that you who so assiduously hid the past from me, your past and mine, now bars your entry, refusing you even the briefest glimpse. You want so to grab onto it to have it carry you to a place removed from here by time and distance, where it is warm and most of the time, cozy. It is also fitting that you call out his name, as though he was in the yard pruning a tree, delaying dinner, the same he you cursed glad to have him out of your life and out of your house, you wished him dead so that you might call yourself a widow and share condolences with the other black draped women. You never mentioned the six months of foster care or the little sister who came and went so quickly when he had the audacity to drop dead on you one morning. This is what I would say to her, this is the curse I would place upon her but she no longer recognizes me, I am no more than a well dressed orderly come to remove her lunch tray.
The moon hid from me last night in a cloudless sky, and only a week from full, so we both knew it was there, peeking for a brief moment from behind the old oak in the neighbors yard. It wasn’t the first time the moon had done this, it will not be the last either, I am certain, but I do remember the time in 1970, the heat of San Antonio in mid-summer more oppressive than usual and only the old barracks for the moon to use as hiding place. Yet it hid, and that night I didn’t mind Lying in the base hospital, where the nurses ignored me for the seriously wounded, as they should reading the orders issued that day transferring me to the Reserves as my fellow air policemen in my training squadron were calling home, most in shock, to announce that their plan to avoid Vietnam by enlisting would soon be scattered on the tarmac of Da Nang Air Base.
Cats have more in common with snakes that we care to recognize. She said this with a straight face. He wanted to laugh at her, but dared not. She didn’t take laughter kindly when she thought it was directed at her. He calmly asked her to explain. It’s simple, she said, with feigned patience, both can slither around, are expert at hiding when they wish, and as you have now so clearly demonstrated, much as Adam did, both of you the hard way, both snakes and cats are smarter by far than your average male human.
There comes a moment when, if our backs are turned, it will arrive and if we notice it will withdraw and hide in corners. We may see it in the periphery and sneak up on it. If we move quickly enough, we can snatch it up and watch it fly off into the morning.
Do you have old Basho hidden away in your home? If you do, I will gladly give him to you, but if he is not within your walls, you should produce him immediately.
If you need to cross the river walk carefully on his back on a moonless night. If there is a moon, walk along a darkened road, hand him your shippei and he will light your path. If there is a pouring rain you will both be soaked.
A reflection on Case 44 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate)