April 30, 2009


Standing in front of a mirror with a close friend. I watch her face as she watches herself. It changes, is transposed into an expression I've never seen before. Only she knows this face, yet she believes it represents her. She is watching herself watch herself.

I guess we all do. We have an in-front-of-the-mirror expression. Hers included slightly pouty lips, lowered eyelids, cheeks sucked in just a tad. It was a bit saucy and from the side, always at an angle. Others look wide-eyed, almost surprised or fussy with their discovery, because consistently it is that - to find yourself in the mirror is a continual revelation, a sighting. Others literally back away when the glass stands in front of them. For some, the exercise immediately becomes a meditation on bangs - they shift them to and fro across their brow, which is crossed in concentration, a means of avoiding the rest. Washing my hands at the long basins, I always have a look at the figures beside me in the mirror in public bathrooms. In this way, my own reflection is muted, but I watch theirs, trying to discover something about these unknown faces discerning themselves.

I've seen other sorts of mirrors lately too. The gazer, the one who sees the reflection, is always visibly transposed in some way, sometimes a full octave higher, or just a shift in the mode of the scale.

The Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière is a Parisian street lined with mirrors. In-between shops, there are vertical panels of mirrors awaiting absorption from the passersby. She is walking in front of me. A tall form, a tall French form with her black tights, long legs, uncoiffed hair, and stern look. A beauty, no question. She verifies this fact in every mirror panel we pass. I stay behind her, fascinated by what seems like a belief that she might dematerialize, or at least change from one square of the sidewalk to the next. Rabid. But then he appears on the horizon, walking toward her with his wing-tipped shoes and silk-lined suit and his hands gripping a paper. She hesitates, literally debating between the reflecting surface on her left or the reflecting surface in front of her. I watch her vacillate. At the last minute she chooses his eyes.

Another one. Less unsure of herself. Bold. She click-clacks on cobblestone with resolve, with heavy steps. She only hesitates when she comes upon her shadow. It is underneath her and she is so used to looking up. But there it is and her shadow undoes her. In the dark form she sees her mass of hair, which had been painstakingly pinned down and is now somehow freed from those anchors. Magnified by the distortion. Magnified in her mind. Her hands frantically find their way to remedy the ruckus, almost dropping her bags in her discomfort.

I am on a run. Past the arch at Faubourg St. Martin, all the way down to the backside of the Pompidou, across the huge square, down past Hôtel de Ville and freed at the river. Along the quais of the Seine. The forms of a couple are small in front of me, but grow bigger. Holding hands. I am almost face to face. She turns her head, her eyes pivot up to her boyfriend's eyes, watching. As if his reaction is a mirror into their relationship.

1 comment:

D1Warbler said...

This essay should be published -- and not just on a blog!

Love, Chrys

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