The Sneezing Mirror

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The Sneezing Mirror

Sometimes, you know, it's almost a relief to go into a public toilet somewhere and hear sounds coming out of one of the stalls that prove that someone out there is having a worse day than you are?but this is different. There were no sounds, nobody else in the bathroom, and guessing as to the source would only lead to trouble.

I decided immediately to put it behind me, ignore it as best as I could. I paused only long enough to remember that old Klaus Kinski quote, "I believe there is no stench that I haven't stunk of"?before going about my business.

There wasn't anyone else in the office yet. It was early. That's pretty much the only time I feel comfortable using the men's room here. That's also what made it doubly unnerving when the large mirror over the sink to my right suddenly?sneezed.

It went, before rattling a tiny bit. This wasn't the first time it had happened. That mirror had been sneezing at me for well over a week now. I didn't know what to think the first time it happened. Was it one of those two-way spy mirrors, like the kind John Wayne had in his place? I had no idea. I tried to ignore it, but it kept happening. And now there was this smell, too.
I haven't been sleeping wall lately. Several weeks, at least. Maybe that has something to do with it. Maybe my senses are going all loopy on me. A touch of kinesthesia may be setting in.

Of course there were a few other things I should add into the mix, as well, apart from the lack of sleep. It had been a rough morning?though, I suppose, no rougher than most. I was awakened at 4 (again) by my retarded cat. Shortly after getting out of bed an hour later, I found myself trapped in my own bathroom after a stack of old, failed paintings leaning against the wall there fwumpped to the floor, effectively blocking the door shut. I was able to break out after a few minutes of work with a stick I keep handy for just such emergencies. Then, with my right heel, I discovered the inevitable sputum pile. Ten minutes later, while washing the dishes, the sink clogged. That needed to be taken care of before I left for work. My lower back was killing me, too. I'm getting old.

Outside, the fierce winds were no help. The wind is a Great Disrupter?which I might appreciate on some sort of philosophical level, if it didn't mean so many lost hats, so much hair in my eyes and so many resultant pedestrian collisions.

On the crowded train?more crowded than expected?I found myself sitting across the aisle from an elderly woman. She must've been in her 70s, wearing a light blue coat and glasses. She looked frail. In her face, if I squinted hard enough, I saw hints of my mother, and immediately felt everything begin to slide. I'd been holding myself together just fine despite the mounting annoyances, but that did it. There went everything.

I hadn't been out to visit my parents in more than two years. I always talk about it, always half-plan it, but then something comes up. Some big project or terrorist attack of some kind. I hadn't even talked to them in a week, which is a long time for me. As they grow older, I worry about them more.

So later that morning, I picked up my office phone and dialed their number. It was good to hear her voice.

"How's everybody doing?" I asked.

"Oh," she said, "your dad's been feeling a little blah for the past, what, two weeks? No energy. He hasn't even been going for his walks."

I immediately began thinking about his heart, his diabetes, all those things that could go wrong.

"We think it was this medicine he was on. It's happened before," she said.

"Well has he gone in to see a doctor about this yet?"

"Not since he was in the emergency room last week."

"Emergency room?"

"Oh, we told you about that. It was last week. Last Tuesday or Wednesday."

"You did not tell me about this."

"Yes we did."

"No, you didn't."

Things went on like that for a bit. In the end, it turned out that he had gone to the hospital, had all the necessary tests run and everything seemed clear?except for the fact that he was still feeling shitty.

"I asked him if he'd started taking any new pills?you know how many pills he's on?and he says, 'Oh, no, no, no.' Then a couple days later he says, 'Wait a minute?I am on a new pill.'"

This is why I worry about them.

She convinced me, though, that it was just the new drug. He'd talked to a doctor and stopped taking it. "He'll be back to his old sassy self before long," she assured me.

Despite her assurances, I was still feeling down and homesick when I hung up the phone. Maybe even more so than before. I owed them a visit, and much more than that.

My back was still making it hard to either walk or sit down. The morning's six aspirin hadn't done a damn thing so far.

I slowly pushed myself up from my chair, and even more slowly walked into the men's room, where it smelled really weird and the mirror sneezed at me.


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