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The Mirror by Richard Seltzer

 (pulbished in American Bystander #13, 2019)

 

            A middle-aged man in a business suit is about to walk out of his apartment.  He reaches toward the doorknob, then halts abruptly.  There is panic on his face.  He tries again and again, but he can't bring himself to touch the doorknob.           

            He checks his pockets, his hair, his shoelaces, making sure everything is in order.  Something is wrong.  He doesn't know what, but he simply can't leave the room until he figures it out.

            He turns around and starts checking and straightening everything in sight.  But still something is very wrong.  Something he can't identify.

            Finally he turns toward the mirror over his bureau.  Once again he checks pockets, hair, shoelaces.  He checks his wallet, his zipper, his tie.

            Once again, he halts abruptly.  He feels the tie at his collar.  Looking down, he sees the tie hanging in front of his shirt.  But the image of himself in the mirror has no tie.

            His eyes open wide in shock as he looks from mirror to tie to mirror.  It's a dull green tie, held in place by a silver-plated tie clasp.  It goes well with his gray suit.  But it simply doesn't appear in the mirror.     

            In the mirror, he himself looks the same as always.  His height and build are the same.  He'd recognize his face anywhere.

            Everything in the mirror is the same as everything he sees on him and around him -- the gray suit, the white shirt, the black shoes.  Yes, that's certainly his own face, with an expression of confusion and fear. 

            He shuts his eyes, turns around and looks again.  Still the image in the mirror is not wearing a tie.

            He goes to his bed and lies down again.  Then he gets up and walks to the mirror -- still no tie.

            He undresses, climbs back into bed, gets out of bed again and dresses again, just as before.  Then he walks to the mirror -- still no tie.

            He starts testing the image in the mirror as if it might not be real.  He moves a hand quickly, then both hands, and the head, and the hips, and a leg -- faster, and faster.  The image in the mirror falls at the very same time he falls.

            He gets up, smooths out his clothes, clenches and unclenches his fists several times.

            Then he checks his watch, takes a deep breath, and stares again at his image in the mirror.

            Finally, he takes his tie off, hangs it with his other ties in the closet, calmly walks to the door, turns the doorknob, and enters the world.


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