June 1, 1998

Man in the Mirror

A half light from a half covered half window illuminated enough. A lesson suggested by another’s poem brought me here. I stand fully pulled up with arms crossed and locked before the silvered bathroom mirror. A harsh stance really. A judging stance.

I always notice the hair first: gray, grayer, grayest. I remember learning to compare adjectives in fourth grade and gray was never in our lexicon. But I now sometimes think that it is the dominant color in my life. Surprisingly, the gray does not bother me today. A level of acceptance has arrived.

I began to accept it the day a woman asked me what color my hair was before it turned gray. At that point I did not know that it was gray. I thought that it was still brown. That question three years ago hurt.

A year later I faced a moment of truth when I applied for an Arizona driver’s license. The application wanted to know my hair color. I lied and answered brown.

A chance to redeem myself appeared twelve months later as I was driving to get my Massachusetts license and I decided that it was time to tell the truth: the predominant color of my hair is gray. I resolved. But the application no longer asked the question. Too many liars for the information to be helpful I suppose.

Below the hair are blue eyes, soft and deadened in this light. They are scary sitting unreflected behind my glasses. They are scary for all that they do not say. I flick the light switch looking for improvement. The eyes jump alive and dance in the reflected light. A smile creases across my face, softening my entire body. Even my stiff crossed arms ease.

The eyebrows that were hiding in the dusk now appear - the curly ones. I recall the discussion with my barber about ten years ago concerning curling eyebrows. She said, “It happens at a certain age.” I asked, “What age?” She replied, “Around your age.” I had reached THE age. I am now THE age plus ten.

I have the extra flap on the eyelids now. I remember noticing that my first boss got those when he started to age. He is fifteen years older than me - and that was twenty years ago. I do not like the math.

Wow! I can wiggle my left ear! I did not know that I could do that. I try the other ear but it will not budge. Well, one is pretty good. My father could wiggle both ears so that is still my goal. Can I curl my tongue yet? No, oh well.

You see, the boy is still in the mirror. I still see more of the boy than anything else. A freckled face child opens with hope. My grandmother always told me that freckles were beauty marks and I still believe her. She knew all about gray hair, wrinkles and baggy skin. And yet it was the beauty which sparked her.

I am trying to hold the two truths together: the hope of the boy and aging body of the man. I want to deny neither and hold them in a point of tension because neither alone is the truth. Let them fight, cry and tear at one another. They both hold wisdom, one innocent, one earned. They are the reflection of who I was, who I am, and who I can become.

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