The Face in the Mirror
by John Vieczorek
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
* * *
Reggie’s vacation arrived. He got dressed and headed out to the “O.” He’d be lost for nearly two weeks.
The first day at the “O” Reggie felt high and mighty; his head filled with grand and noble ideas. When the second day arrived he began talking to Elizabeth. By the third day on his barstool he entered a fantasy world. In his mind he was fishing with his grandson Josh. He lived in the delusion as he stared into the blue plate glass mirror behind the bar.
‘Now here’s how you bait a shrimp Josh, you hook ‘em in the tail so they don’t croak right away.’
‘That cool, Grampa. Let’s get him in the water.’
‘There he is Josh , a big one! Don’t lose him.’
On and on Reggie wandered through in his inebriated fantasy world.
Eventually Reggie began to see the face of mercury in the mirror. It stared at him and seemed to observe his actions. The face became terrifying; Reggie started to curse at the face as he waved his arms for it to go away. Feeling frightened, he called out to Max.
“Tell that thing in the mirror to leave me alone.”
“What thing?” Max asked.
“That smug repulsive moron in the mirror! I don’t want it here.”
Max turned around and stared into the mirror. “What the hell are you talking about, Reggie? The only faces I see in the mirror are yours and mine. Don’t you think it’s time you gave it a rest, and went home?”
“This is my home. So you’re a friend of his, huh? Give me another one, put some vodka in it this time. Maybe my eyes are acting up.”
Max looked Reggie squarely in the eye. “You’re the captain. One dry coming up.”
Reggie continued to stare at the face in the mirror and the face continued to stare back: dueling faces. Eventually Reggie drank himself into oblivion.
* * *
When Reggie awoke he found himself in the hospital, suffering from acute hepatitis and alcohol withdrawal. Now shaking with tremors, and hallucinating, he shuddered at the large spiders crawling on the wall.
Dr. Morel stood at his bedside. He looked at Reggie sternly, and in a gentle voice said, “You’re likely going to make it through this Reg, but I want to see you in my office a week after you are discharged. Understood?”
In a weak hollow voice Reggie said, “Yeah, okay, doc, anything you say.”
After a few day in the hospital Reggie returned home. Barging into the bathroom he glared at the face in the mirror. The face stared right through him. “You are one sad dude Reg, the face said. “Stubborn and conditioned as ever. Your options are wearing thin, soon there will be no other choice. If a man keeps doing the same thing over and over expecting different results each time, it’s called insanity.”
* * *
Reggie arrived for his appointment with Dr. Morel. Sitting in the examination room he nervously picked flecks of lint from his shirt. He knew Dr. Morel to be kind and understanding, and felt compassion was exactly what he needed.
The good doctor entered the examination room carrying Reggie’s chart in his hands. He looked at Reggie for a moment studying the whites of his eyes.
“Well I see your liver enzymes are still a little out of whack, but they should return to normal if you stay away from booze for a while.
“You know, Reggie, I have been your physician now for almost two decades. I know you better than you know yourself in some ways. Your mind is good, your health is good, you have people that care about you. You hold down a decent job, yet you choose to ignore all this for a not-so-occasional destructive encounter with oblivion.”
The doctor threw Reggie’s chart on the desk making a loud thud. “I’m not your babysitter! If I were twenty years younger I would haul your sorry ass out into the parking lot and kick the tar out of you, because that is what you need.
“I’ve been a physician for almost three decades, I know a loser when I see one, but you’re just pretending. However, if you keep this up, it will become a reality before you know it.”
Walking over to his desk Dr. Morel pulled out his prescription pad and scribbled out an order. “There is a diagnosis for you in the DSM manual for mental disorders I call it the nutsy book, because half of what is in there is nonsense. Here’s your real problem. You are acting pathologically stupid. My unofficial diagnosis is that your irrational behavior is going to kill you if you don’t snap out of it.”
The doctor stood up, handing the scrip to Reg. “Here take this, It’s a prescription for an anti-depressant. This is my advice to you. Go get this filled and then dump it in the toilet, followed by your head. At least I won’t be accused of not trying to help you.”
Reggie sat on the examination table with his head hanging and his shoulders slumped. He started to sob. This was not the treatment he expected. Looking up Reggie glanced into the mirror on the far wall. Reggie recoiled when he saw the face of chrome sneering at him.
“I’m sorry doc, I don’t know what’s got into me. I’m scared. I haven’t been right since Elizabeth left me. I don’t know how she could do it. I loved her, even though I couldn’t show it.”
Dr. Morel placed his hand on Reggie's shoulder. “I’m sorry Reg, but we’re all scared. I know her departure must have hurt you, but there is nothing I can do but schedule you for rehab. If you want someone to hold your hand I can arrange it. But we both know the truth don’t we? You’re non-compliant and you wouldn’t follow through with treatment, would you?”
Staring at the floor once again Reggie did not answer, but he knew Dr. Morel was right. He knew if he were going to lick this thing he had to do it himself.
The good doctor walked over to the door, just before he exited the room, he said. “Don’t come to me like this again, Reggie. There is nothing I can do for you.” He then left the room closing the door with a thud of finality.
Reggie got up and got dressed. He left the doctor’s office like a dog that had been beaten for peeing on the rug.
* * *
Monday morning arrived. Reggie got up and got ready for work. After his shower he shaved, ignoring the face in the mirror, but before he left he spoke to it and said, “Today is the day.”
That morning Reggie went in to talk with his supervisor Joe McKay. Joe was tall, tanned and lean. He sat at his desk reading a report.
Upon entering the office McKay said, “Have a seat Reggie. Man you look like hell, what happened to you?”
“I had a touch of the flu over my vacation, but I’m getting over it.”
“Touch of the flu? I hope so. Whatever you got I don’t want it. What can I do for you?”
“Well, Mr. McKay, I wonder if our firm is still offering the early buy-out. I’m thinking about retiring.”
Without a moment’s hesitation McKay replied, “Of course we are, Reggie. You have a nice retirement nest egg set up here and we would be able to offer you a decent severance package. You’re quite well compensated, you know. There are a thousand young accountants that would kill for your job for half the money we’re paying you. So, if you are sincere, the answer is yes, we can begin the paperwork today. May I ask why the sudden change of heart? We always thought you were satisfied here.”
“I’ve decided to move out west and buy a condo along the shore. I have some dreams I want to live and not just imagine. I talked it over with a trusted adviser and we decided it was for the best.”
That evening when Reggie got home from work he called his son.
“Hello Seth, it’s your father.”
“Where the hell have you been Dad? I have been trying to contact you for almost a month? I thought you must have run off and got married.”
“No, not quite, son. The reason I called is I wanted to tell you I am moving out near you this Fall. I am going to sell everything, take an early retirement and spend the rest of my time with Josh and you guys.”
“All right!” his son screamed. “Yes, yes yes. we can’t wait to see you, we’ve got a lot of fishing to catch up on. Is your girlfriend coming with you?”
“No, no... I don’t think so son; it wasn’t what I thought it was.”
“Oh, well, we can talk about it when you get here, Dad.”
Two months later Reggie retired and sold most of his belongings. He made one final trip to the Oasis. Max looked at him and said, “Hey, long time, no see. What can I get you?”
Reggie smiled gently and said, “Oh, nothing, Max. Just thought I’d say goodbye to an old friendly enemy.”
Max looked at him in confusion. “We was never enemies, Reg.”
“No, Max, not you and me. I wanted to say goodbye to that bastard in the mirror.”
Max grimaced. “I don’t wanna hear about it.”
“And you won’t. Not anymore. Bye!”
At home, Reggie hopped in the shower for the last time. When he got out he wiped the steam from the mirror. To his pleasure, the face in the mirror had disappeared, but he knew it would never really go away. It was there, hiding, waiting for him to screw up again. He stared at his image in the mirror. His eyes held a new light and he felt young and free again as he contemplated living out his days with his son and grandson.
For a moment Reggie broke down, a tear trickled down his cheek. Speaking into the mirror he said. “Thanks, whatever you were.”
Reggie grabbed his suitcase. In a few hours he would begin a new life in Oregon.
Copyright © 2006 by John Vieczorek