All That Glitters…

The chimes from the bell tower rung through the silent living house. She stood by the window, eyes closed and counted the gongs. One. Two. Three… It was 11 PM, she realized as the sound faded away. The day had slipped by her. The coffee in her hand had long since gone cold.

Tomorrow, she decreed, tomorrow would be better and opened her eyes on a sigh. Her diaphanous shadow in the window glass merged with the solid reflection in the mirror behind her and her heart jerked. For a minute it looked like her body and soul had shifted sideways and come unaligned. Transfixed, she stepped back to carefully observe her dual images.

Two pairs of red-rimmed eyes stared back at her out of two faces pale with fatigue that accompanies heartbreak.

One translucent, one opaque. Twin ghosts that looked liked her but were about as real as a half-forgotten day dream. None of them was truly her, she knew. But which of them defined her? Was she the gossamer-like creature as fragile as a wisp, or the solid, assertive body next to it?

Do we ever truly meet, see people, or just their shadows, representatives? If she went to every person she knew and asked about herself, she had no doubt she’d get countless variations of her person. Each impression of her would have a glimmer of half-truth attached to it. And each would be a part, a shard of her.

“Truth is subjective,” he’d told her once.

“Like cannibalism is a culinary taste,” she’d snarked back only to have him dissolve in laughter.

“Oh, you’re delightful.”

Back then, she’d been too enamored by his charm to hear the condescension underlying the mirth. Had been delighted, she remembered, to be the one to have made him laugh. But now that the rose-tinted glasses had dissolved to dust, she could think.

Was it true? Was truth really so subject and threadbare in its existence? What, or rather who was she, then? All of the images in peoples minds, or none of them? Was anybody ever, truly, just one thing or the other? Could she blame him, then, for not being the person she thought he was when she herself was not entirely the concoction cooked up in other people’s minds?

Troubled, she turned to set the mug down on a coffee table. Her shadows straightened when she did, a surreal movement like rapid flutter of butterfly wings which then merged into a single mold.

Experimenting, she stepped to the left, and watched both shadows move as one. Then she planted her feet and tilted her body right from the waist. The silhouettes parted, still together but not longer symmetrical until she was once again standing tall.

She flipped to face the mirror and her reflection stared back at her. Solid. Real. Sincere. The corporeal presence in the glass pane behind was too flimsy to be of consequence.

No, she realized. She couldn’t blame him for not being the person she thought he was. But she could, would blame him for making up a persona that did not exist.

The bells gonged again, chiming the midnight hour. A smile marked her face. She’d have no trouble sleeping tonight.

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