More summer reading – enjoy!

WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET…SOMETIME

It was a tall mirror, oval, framed in dark wood, on a matching stand, the featured piece in the window of a second-hand furniture store styling itself an antique dealer.  Something to pair with a clothes valet if that appeals to you.  After a frustrating hunt for a parking space, my near-steady Sharon and I were hurrying to the new Woody Allen at the local fine arts theater.  In my view, Allen’s been repeating himself for years, plus many of his characters are truly insufferable, but Sharon thought anything he did was magic, so here we were.  We paused in front of the mirror and I commented how good we looked together, then we moved on.  A nice-looking couple in a nice-looking period piece, that’s all.

Coming out of the theater, Sharon was raving about the film, “Hollywood Ending,” a rerun.  It was okay, not great, one-and-a-half stars max.  No big names unless you count George Hamilton who my mother once had a crush on.  Approaching the furniture store I stopped short, yanking Sharon’s hand as she walked on, continuing her review.

“Why are you stopping?  Oh, that mirror.”

“Take a look…this is amazing.”

She peered at the window.  “What am I supposed to see?  It’s just us.”  Noticing the odd look on my face she added, “sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.”

“Don’t you see anything else?”

She shook her head.  “It’s us.  You and me.  Isn’t that enough?”

I continued to stare at the mirror.  My hair was gray, what was left of it.  I was bursting out of my sport coat, a couple of sizes too small.  As I unbuttoned the coat it fell open, revealing a paunch just like my father’s before his heart attack.  And Sharon!  In the mirror she was heavier, I mean a lot heavier, her face was pudgy and her hair cut short instead of long and flowing.  She could have been her mother.  We were in our fifties, at least.

“What’s going on?” she asked.  “Am I missing something?”

“Nothing, I guess,” I mumbled, shaken, “nothing important.”

“Do you realize you’re acting very weird?”

I took her hand, shooting a last look at the mirror.  “Let’s get going.”

That night I slept poorly, strange dreams I didn’t remember in the morning.  Distracted at the office, I couldn’t wait for the day to end.  At five o’clock I hurried to my car and headed back downtown.  Parking easily this time, I crossed the street to the furniture store, my heart pounding.  As I approached, I looked in the window.  No mirror!  It was gone!  Entering the store I roused the attendant who sat at a desk over some paperwork, an older guy with a gray mustache, the owner, I figured.

“That mirror in the window…what happened to it?”

“Which mirror?  We have several.”

“It was on a wood stand, dark wood.”

“Oh, that one.  We sold it.”

“You sold it!”

“Well, yes.  That is what we’re here for, you know.”

Feeling foolish, I caught my breath.  “Do you know who bought it?”

“Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t.  Anyway we don’t give out that kind of information.”

“Will you check?  This is very important.”

“Say, you are the nosy one.  What’s your interest in the mirror?”

“I saw it last evening.  I…I wanted to buy it.”

“That’s understandable, it was a beautiful piece.”

“Can you look it up?  Please.  I’ll make it worth your while.”

The man looked hard at me.  “All right, but no promises.”  He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a sheaf of papers clipped together.  Shuffling through them, he began talking under his breath.  “Today’s receipts…this afternoon, as I recall, right after lunch.  Ah!  Here we are.”  He held up a yellow sales slip.  “No name.  She paid cash.  If she used a credit card I’d have to make a decision, but as it is I haven’t the faintest idea who she was.”

“She?  What did she look like?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  Tall, maybe forty.  Said she had a matching piece, a valet in dark wood.”

I paused.  “How long did you have the mirror?”

“A few months.  Four, maybe five.”

“Did you notice anything unusual about it?”

“Unusual?  How do you mean?”

“When you looked in the mirror what did you see?”

He stared at me.  “You are a strange one, aren’t you?  You look in a mirror, you see yourself.  What else would you see?”

“But when?”

“Whenever you happen to look, I’d suppose.  Say, what kind of game is this?  If you look in a mirror you see yourself, if you don’t look in a mirror you don’t see yourself.  Seems pretty elementary.”

“Let me leave my card,” I said, deflated.  If you see her again, tell her to give me a call.”

“All right, that much I can do.”

“How much did you sell it for?”

“We were asking fifty, as I recall she offered fifteen.”  He glanced at the paper, “settled on thirty, she gave me a twenty and a ten.  Didn’t charge her tax.  Sometimes I’ll do that when I like a customer.”

“You liked her?”

“She was all right.  Reminded me of my late wife.”

I never mentioned the mirror again to Sharon, but I will say, for me that night was a wake-up call.  I rejoined the health club and began working out, even dug my tennis racket out of the closet.  Not long after, Sharon and I broke up.  Later I heard she moved away, but I have no idea what happened to her, where she ended up.  I always thought the mirror had something to do with our split.  Don’t get me wrong, it was mutual, but I didn’t try very hard to hold it together, either.  At the time, Sharon seemed kind of put out, but who knows what goes through a woman’s mind?

Hollywood ending, indeed.

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