This I Believe

John David - Cahrlotte, North Carolina
Entered on July 4, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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A door slams and a mirror falls from a rusty hook, and shatters onto the hardwood floor. Dust stirs, and reveals shafts of curious light. The room is captured on the surface of the jagged pieces. Each unique shape angles differently, and focuses on different sections of different walls. Some with detailed lines, others filled with color. Silky whites, bright reds and blues, muted greens and oranges. An image crafted by chance, or circumstance. Or worse, omniscience.

The room cannot be understood by looking at each piece individually, but when the entire mosaic scattered across the floor is considered, provokes a vague empathy in me. Pointillism. Cubism. Or worse, Realism.

I believe my life is the room, and I experience it through the reflections on the shattered glass. My eyes focus on one piece, then another—shifting at random if bored, other times zigzagging across the floor, following the trail of an alluring color. All parts of one life, but parts impossible to appreciate separately, even in a logical sequence. Life does not occur serially, or with breaks—even between events that demand their independence.

Love-Marriage-Career-Kids-School-Retirement. Death. Or worse, Loneliness.

Only because the words are written left-to-right do these events display any sense of order. Or imply causation. Misplaced dependencies. But my life does not march along in such an orderly progression. Order is not the ideal, or the standard, or the goal. Life is broken, interrupted, overlapping. Repeating. Or worse, trying to. Slivers of a mirror reflecting infinitely, monotonously, into another sliver. Dangerous déj– vu, where the event is familiar, but I have changed. Or worse, have not.

Love-Marriage-Career-Kids-Death. Love-Marriage-Loneliness. Retirement-School.

Life misses steps, or backtracks. Part of my room is never captured in any reflection, and instead of being blissfully unaware of what I have missed, I am painfully aware of the cuts I have received. Or worse, been spared.

School-Career-Marriage. Love. Divorce. Loneliness. Career.

I have seen my life reflected in the broken pieces many times, but I am still trying to make sense of the shapes and colors. I wonder if I have seen enough—knowing if I had, that I would not be asking the question. As I sit studying, the dust settles back onto the floor, and I find myself settling for where I am. Or worse, who I am. Or worse still, who I was.

Many reflections are covered in soot—easily ignored by me, and the light. It is safer to forget they existed at all—rather than admit they were real, and fading. Or worse, disappointing.

The room shrinks and the colors grow unimportant, and I see the shards for what they are: distorted reflections of life, not life. Disjointed memories of memories. The living done when the room was haphazardly decorated, when I didn’t have time to sit and watch the reflections. Or worse, worry about cutting my bare heels.

Arranging white peonies on the piano and waiting for the love of my life’s smile; pinning the Red Sox pennant over the bar as I lead a drunken chant; aligning a muted rainbow of first-edition hardbacks along the bottom shelf. Even hanging that mirror on the rusty hook, so my daughter can check for a stray hair as she flies out of the room… and then slams the door.

I believe that life is captured in a shattered mirror. Some of the pieces are swept up and placed inside a kaleidoscope for all to see. The good and the bad. Sometimes revealing beautiful hidden images, sometimes ugly feelings. Or worse, nothing new at all.

Some pieces fall under a magnifying lens, and the foundation of Truth is discovered. Or worse, the absence of any foundation.

Others lean on a prism, and motivations are peeled apart—love and fear discerned. Or worse, apathy.

Still others lie in the shadows under heavy furniture, and are forever unknown. Or worse, forgotten.

In my life, there have always been still other important pieces, lying jagged-edge up—an accident waiting to happen. And an accident, like a door slam, can change everything. Or worse, nothing.