Finish this sentence: “When I look in the mirror, I . . . “
It was a rainy Saturday morning. The forecast called for even more rain the rest of the day and over the course of the weekend. Bill woke and sleepishly looked at the clock beside his bed. It read 6:30. The glowing red numbers felt like laser pointers shooting into his half-opened eyes.
Ahh, it’s too early to get up, Bill mumbled into his pillow as he buried his face into it. He gave a long stretch of his legs, making it reach all the way to his toes. His right big toe bumped the end board, causing him to flinch. He laid in a pile of fatigue and disquiet.
Bill wanted nothing more than to lay in bed all day. He felt safe and secure in the dark sarcophagus that was his bedroom. He had one of his grandmother’s hand-stitched quilts hanging over his window, making the room a perfect, blinding black.
He lay motionless for several more minutes, trying to recall his dreams from last night. He thought of things from the past week; actions, bits of conversations and the rest.
He flopped his body over onto his back and opened his eyes. He strained against the blackness of the room. The ceiling fan whirled overhead. With one quick jerk, he removed his covers and allowed the cool air to rush over his tired body. He sat up and stretched his arms and did half-turns flexing his torso, popping his stiff joints.
He turned the light on in the bathroom. He squinted against its harshness. He wet his toothbrush and began brushing his teeth. The whole time he kept his head down, face toward the sink. He dried his mouth and rubbed his eyes. Crusted sleep fell from the corners and his lids stretched wider.
Bill looked up, facing the mirror. At first he looked away, back down to the sink, but then lifted his head again. He stood for several seconds, hands firmly on the sink bracing his frame, looking at his reflection. His eyes began to blur and he saw a myriad of reflections. He looked past them, almost through the glass.
He refocused his eyes and looked at himself again.
Why only the black, he asked his reflection? He stood erect and turned from the mirror, facing the opposite direction. Why only the black, he whispered again to himself?
Bill sat at his kitchen table with a cup of coffee in front of him. He looked down at the wispy steam boiling off the hot coffee. The coffee, dark and murky. Why only the black, he again asked?
It was a question he had thought much about before going to sleep last night. He couldn’t be for sure, but he thought he had even dreamed about it.
It was a question his good friend Cindy had asked him. Bill had been struggling with his past. He had been trying to come to grips with things that he had tried to forget. During his therapy sessions, his counselor had recommended that he deal with those unresolved issues.
He knew he should. He knew ignoring them did no good. But, it was hard. It opened up old wounds that festered and stank of rotted flesh and dried blood. But, he was tired of depression. He was tired of battling himself, fighting those internal demons that would sink down into the abyss of his soul for a while giving him some peace; but then, they would resurface and the battle started all over again.
Cindy had been his friend for many years. She was a shoulder he could cry on. Last night, Bill had grilled some salmon and potatoes and invited her over to eat. They sat out on the deck and enjoyed the cool breeze as they ate.
After the meal, they sat in their chairs, drinking their Pinot Grigio and making small talk.
How are the sessions coming along, Cindy inquired of his recent counseling sessions?
Oh, they’re going all right, I guess, Bill answered.
Do you feel you are making progress, Cindy asked?
Well, yeah I guess. I don’t know really to be honest with you, Bill said as he drank from his glass.
Cindy smiled and lightly sipped from her wine. I’m sure it is hard, but I know you will be a better person for it in the long run.
Bill looked at Cindy and gave a half smile. I hope so. It’s just that right now it’s hard to see the endpoint. You know what I mean?
I understand Bill, Cindy assured him. It is a process and it may be a long one. But, there is no doubt in my mind you are doing the right thing. I just want you to be able to see yourself as I see you, as your family and friends see you.
Yeah, Bill said halfheartedly.
No, I mean it Bill, Cindy continued, You are a wonderful and thoughtful man. You are smart and good-looking. You are a kind and caring person. You are a better person than your depression tells you you are.
Bill shrugged his shoulders and drank the last of his wine. He stared up into the night sky as the breeze nibbled at his ears.
Cindy followed his gaze and looked up at the sky overhead. They sat still and quiet.
Cindy finally broke the silence. The sky is beautiful isn’t it?
Yes. Yes it is, Bill replied. There’s almost something magical about it. So peaceful and beautiful. It makes me feel so small, yet so, so . . . well, I don’t know that I can describe it.
I know what you mean, Cindy agreed, It does have an enchanting quality to it.
Yes, it does. It really does, Bill said.
What do you see Bill, Cindy asked?
What do you mean, Bill replied?
I mean, when you look up into the night sky. What do you see?
Well, I . . . I see the stars and the cosmos and the wonder of it all, Bill said in reflection.
Let me ask you something then, Cindy said as she put down her wine glass, Why is it, when you look up into the night sky you see the stars, those points of light, and the beauty of the created world. Yet, when you look into your own soul, just as much created, all you see is the darkness . . . all you see is the black? Why can’t you see the light there too, the wonder and beauty of who and what you are? Why do you see only the black Bill?
Bill stared at Cindy. He thought about her question, but he had no answer to give. He had never thought of it this way before. Why only the black, he asked himself for the first time?
Why only the black, Bill asked himself again as he sat at his kitchen table? Why only the black?