Mirror (1 of 2)

This originally was just supposed to be a Visual Dare for my friend, Angela. But, somehow, someway, it evolved into something more.

Hope you all enjoy 🙂

I grew up as an only child, raised by a single parent—my father. He was a very rich man but how he got his riches was a mystery even to me. I asked him once what his work was but he just smiled at me and said “You’ll find out someday, John.” I never asked again after that.

Then came a point in my life, like in most of the lives of teenagers, where a huge chasm suddenly appeared between my father and me. There was no cause to it as far as I can remember. My father loved me and I loved him. But then one day, a coldness had wrapped itself into our everyday, normal conversations. When one looked at us together, one would think that we were strangers. Days would pass when not a single word would be spoken between us, and when we do talk to each other it usually consisted of one word replies or grunts and nods of the head.

Upon reaching my twentieth birthday, I finally decided to move out of the house and be on my own. I had saved up a considerable amount of money to be able to live a very comfortable lifestyle without any help from my father. I told my father about this. It was during dinner. I remembered us having duck that night. After I told him, he sliced a piece of duck meat, ate it, chewed, and washed it down with a glass of water. He looked at me and nodded slowly, as if he was in a place where time moved slowly. He then said “Whatever you wish.” He didn’t ask why I left, where I’m headed, or what I planned to do.

The following morning I left. I remembered my father standing in the doorway, his eyes on me as I placed my bags a cab. His face was a blank canvass. I had no idea what was running in his mind. Was he sad that his son was leaving him? Was he disappointed? Mad? I was clueless. I got into the cab and that was that. No goodbyes were said.

***

Five years passed and I received a phone call from my father’s lawyer. It happened on a Saturday.

The night before I was in a party held by a friend who just got promoted. Needless to say, there was a lot of alcohol drinking involved. So I woke up the following morning with a terrible hangover. I stayed in bed, the blanket tied all around me like a snake, and I waited for the headache to subside. All the lights were turned off and the only sound came from the second hand of my wall clock. Tick. Tick. Tick. I focused my attention to the sound; allowing it to keep my mind from returning to the headache. Sleep was massaging my eyes when I felt movement from the other side of the bed. I squinted my eyes and waited for my vision to adjust to the dimness of the room. There. It moved again. Underneath the white sheets popped out a woman’s head followed by the rest of her body; she was naked. Her hair needed a good comb and lipstick smudges ran around her mouth. Her eyes caught me and her lips broke into a wicked smile.

The unexpected turn of events obliterated my hangover. I probably looked comical while I stared at her because she suddenly started laughing.

“You’ve no idea who I am, do you?” She said, grabbing a pillow and hugging it over her bare breasts.

“I—uhm—I,” I’m a guy who’s good at remembering faces but that morning I was completely, helplessly, frustratingly clueless as to who she was. I must have been drunker than I thought. “I’m sorry,” I finally ended up saying.

She laughed again, after which she looked at me and bit her lower lip. “You know, be thankful I had a great night last night, otherwise I’d be all hell mode on you right now for not remembering who I am.”

My brain was still a jumble and my mouth seemed to have forgotten how to function properly. I opened it, then closed, and no words came out only awkwardness.

She tilted her head to the side, her brown eyes on me, and she smiled. “You’re trying to remember. That’s cute,” she said laughing. She then dropped the pillow and picked up something on the floor, beside the bed. It was a white, leather purse. She unclasped it and took out a lighter and a pack of cigarettes. She pulled one stick using her lips and then looked at me. “Want one?” She asked.

I waved my hand and replied: “I don’t smoke.”

She winked at me and smiled. “I know,” she said, cigarette dangling from her lips, “I just wanted to test if you were bullshitting me last night when you said you don’t smoke.”

Who is this girl?! The thought was like an itch in my brain I couldn’t reach. It felt annoying. There were a lot of people in the party the night before. I tried to remember who they were but the alcohol had meshed their faces together into one, messy blur.

She adjusted her position so she was seated cross-legged facing me. She lit up her cigarette and sucked in deeply. “God, that feels good,” she said, blowing white smoke upwards. She extended her left hand to me. “I’m Leaf,” she said.

I shook her hand. “I’m—”

“John,” she said. “I know. You introduced yourself to me last night, doi.”

How could I forget a beautiful girl with an uncanny name of Leaf? I had no idea. But there it was.

“So…” I said.

“So,” she repeated.

The silence settled in, punctuated by the ticking of the clock. We sat cross-legged facing each other. She was really beautiful. Her hair was cut like a boy’s and they curled at the ends. I wasn’t able to properly distinguish the color of her eyes due to the lack of light but she had pretty eyes–huge and surrounded by long eyelashes. Her lips were a bit thick but they did nothing to diminish her beauty. She tilted her head again to the side (she seemed to love doing that).

“You know, you’re veeeeery different now than from when you were drunk,” she said.

“What am I like drunk?” I asked, afraid of what would come out of her lips.

She just smiled though and said: “I like you more sober. I was thinking…”

She was cut off by the ringing of my phone.

“Thinking what?” I asked.

She shook her head. “You better answer your phone. It might be something important.”

I forced myself out of the bed and searched for the source of the ringing. I located my pants on the sofa across the bed. I got my phone out and saw my dad’s number displayed on the screen. I looked at Leaf. She was looking back at me. She waved a hand. I clicked “Answer” and pressed the phone to my ear.

“Hello? John?” It wasn’t my dad. The voice was higher in pitch and seemed to belong to someone who’s of the same age as me.

“Who’s this?” I asked.

“I’m your father’s lawyer,” he answered. “He wishes to speak to you.”

A weird feeling had found its way into the pits of my stomach; it was like a stone that had settled into the ocean floor. The weird feeling lay there, unmoving, as it exuded weirdness into my bloodstream. I sat down on the sofa, phone still on my ear.

“What happened to Mr. Torres?” I asked. Mr. Torres was my father’s lawyer, a man I’m pretty close with. Had father fired him and hired this guy with the high-pitched voice? Why?

“Mr. Torres is no longer under the employment of your father. My name is Derrick and I’ve been hired to replace him,” he answered. There was something wrong in how he spoke but I couldn’t exactly identify what. “Your father wishes to speak to you,” he repeated.

“Then put him on the phone,” I didn’t know why but this Derrick fellow was starting to annoy me. I stole a glance at Leaf and saw that she had covered herself up with the blanket; she was using her phone as well.

“Your father is adamant in wanting it to be done in person, here in your house to be precise,” Derrick answered.

Why didn’t he call me himself?”

He didn’t answer at once. From his end, I heard the sound of paper being shuffled. Finally he said: “Your father’s dying. He believes, and the doctors believe as well, that he doesn’t have long. A month at the most.”

The weird feeling cracked and it caused more weirdness to seep out of it. I tasted it in my mouth—a sharp, acrid taste and it took everything I had to not throw up.

“Dying?” I said. At the sound of the word, I saw Leaf look at me from the periphery of my vision. I didn’t look at her.

“Yes, John, your father’s very ill. He’s been ill for the last couple of months now. I’m afraid his body has finally given up.” His voice was followed by the sound of papers again.

“Wait. What’re we talking about here? Cancer?” I got on my feet.

“We…don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know? You don’t know what’s killing my dad? How can you not know? Who’re his doctors?” I coughed. The bad taste had clung to my mouth—it rolled around my tongue, it stuck itself to the roof of my mouth, it hid behind the rows of my teeth.

Derrick avoided my barrage of questions. He simply said: “John, I’ve to go. Your dad is a very rich man and I am alone in settling matters for him. I still have a lot to do. I’m sorry for cutting our conversation off.” He paused. He seemed to be talking to someone else on his side of the world. Then he got back to me and said: “Your father really hopes you’d be able to come talk to him. Message me the time and date.” He then hung up.

I stood there—naked, phone on my ear, mouth opened, and my brain all fogged up. One word kept on repeating itself in my head: Dying. It echoed around the walls of my skull, bouncing around until it was the only thing that I could think of. Leaf’s hand on my bare chest startled me. I looked at her and saw that she had dressed up. Her face reflected worry.

“What happened?” She asked.

Dying. Dying. Dying. I tried to answer but I knew no words other than Dying. In the end, I just shook my head in reply to her.

Her hands moved to my shoulder and she pushed me down to the sofa. She sat beside me and we remained like that in the silence of my room.

Dying. Dying. Dying.

I rushed to the bathroom and threw up in the sink. The weirdness gushed out of me and I felt myself choking. When it was all over, I slumped down to the cold, tiled floor. I didn’t even bothered wiping away the vomit on my chest and lips.

Dying. Dying. Dying.

I felt like if you cracked open my head, the Dying would all slither out like centipedes and you’d find out that they had eaten everything and there’d be nothing left but a hollow skull. My father and I hadn’t spoken during our five years of separation. Not a single word was exchanged between us. Why was I this affected by his dying? The question lingered in the air mixing with the putrid scent of my vomit.

When I had found the strength to stand up, I walked back to my room. Leaf was no longer there.

***

I dreamt I was walking in this long, narrow corridor. There were doors on either side of me and they all looked alike, but I didn’t bother reaching out for one. I just walked.

The place had the smell old places have—musty, depressed, and broken. The floorboards creaked each time I took a step. There were other sounds. They came from behind the doors. I heard the sound of John and the rest of The Beatles singing Lady Madonna, there was the distant sound of a baby crying, the sound of a TV radio host congratulating someone of winning. I walked on.

There was no end that I could see. There was only darkness ahead and I drew nearer to it. I wanted to stop. I wanted to just turn around and run. I wanted to wake up. But my feet kept on moving.

Finally, I stopped. I stood on the edge, just a bit beyond the threshold of the darkness. You could see it—a thin line that separated the darkness from the light. I stood just beyond that line. A light draft blew from the darkness carrying with it a single word—Dying. I squinted my eyes and I peered hard at what lay beyond the veil of darkness. I saw something moving. It looked like a man. His shoulders were all hunched up and he seemed to be in pain.

“John?”

I turned around sharply. Leaf stood in front of me, she was naked. She had her head tilted to the side and an unlit cigarette dangled from her cherry lips. I was about to say something when hands shot forth from the darkness and held me tight by the shoulders. I didn’t have time to scream. The hands pulled me into the darkness.

That was when I woke up.

I didn’t wake up screaming or panting or scared. I just…woke up. My eyes slowly opened and I was out of the darkness and back in the safety of my room. My body was drenched in sweat. I didn’t know what the time was or how long I was asleep. Hunger filled my body. It sat there screaming. I hadn’t eaten anything since I got the phone call from Derrick.

I reached for my phone, typed a date and time, and I sent it to my father’s number. Then I dropped it to the floor. The carpet broke its fall and it landed with a soft thud. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to once again be carried by the tides of sleep. I dreamt nothing this time.