Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Man in the Glass

The image in the glass is not me. I don’t know this man.

The glass that contains the reflection belongs to the Metrorail in St. Louis. The glass reflects the image of a man in his mid fifties. That is the face I see. I see the face that used to be me.

This illusion of time is shattered as I sit and stare at me. The illusion becomes solid the longer I sit and this man holds my stare. The image doesn’t change. The sun behind my head that makes the image possible warms my recently shaved head, bounces off the glass and onto my retina, burning in the image of the older man, the one that used to be me. I am on my way to the St Louis Airport.

I’m thinking as I stare. The thoughts are not the type you can capture, but more like the dreams of night, fleeting and then gone. They are not the sort of thoughts that one can write about. At least I can’t organize them, and I have no paper and no laptop. I have my transitory thoughts only, plus a suitcase, and the older man image staring back at me. I sit motionless as if in a trance, staring at the image of the man that used to be me.

The train rocks and weaves, even seeming to bounce. It crawls to a stop at Busch Stadium where the Cardinals play and fans are exiting the stadium and crowding onto the train. Young boys with their fathers are wearing persistent smiles formed in place by baseball and train rides and sunny days of youth spent in St. Louis on a bright Sunday afternoon. I remember baseball and its impact on my life and I think about its impact on my son’s life. I think about my grandson and his good fortune to live so near a historic professional baseball team. The fathers and smiling sons leave the train in a slow migration to their homes, a few at this stop, a few more at the next. I’m alone again in the train car. The man in the glass stares back. The reflection of the man that is different than the man I remember. He is older, more wrinkled after just a few more stops down the tracks and in the oddest of fashions this man now seems to look quite wise. He is bald like an eastern sage, wearing glasses as if to declare that even if he is an eastern sage he still comes down from the mountain top to visit the optometrist. He looks far wiser than the man I used to be.

I didn't like this man at first, when I first saw him on the train, this man staring resolutely back at me, his gaze following my own without embarrassment. I have been staring at him for an hour now. Bumping and weaving along, people coming and going and yet this man never moved. He only stared back at me and somewhere along the way I began to warm up to him.

He looked kind in a way. He looked expressionless as if he were deep in thought about something but he wasn’t about to let me know what it might be. He seemed more agreeable to me now, this man that stared back, this man that used to be me.

The man in the glass smiled. Finally he even laughed. As I rose to exit at the airport I looked at him a last time. I saw a tear on the cheek of the man in the glass, this man that used to be me and never cried. Then the man laughed at himself again at the same moment that I laughed at him.

I liked him now, this wise and kind looking older man; this man that smiled and laughed at himself. I said goodbye to this reflection in the glass; goodbye to the man that used to be me.


Ilias- said...

Interesting, I can't quite figure out who's who in this story. I like the traveling and reflections on aging and physical reflections to make metaphors. Definitely nostalgic with optimism for the future. Thanks for sharing Seven.

patti_cake said...

If he used to be you, then who are you now? Are you alluding to the fact that we change from day to day?

Seven said...

The idea here is that we all see ourselves in some way. In this case I see in my refelction a man older than I remember. Hence, it is the image of the man I used to be.
The train ride represents life itself. The stop at the stadium is significant because it refelects important things in my life at the mid point of the ride. The fans coming and going represent the people that have passed through my life, including players and parents. The final goodbye and the arrival at the airport represent death. The conclusion is positive because I am saying goodbye to a man I came to like before I arrived at death.

Rick said...

Personally, I cast no reflection. Don't care much for crucifxes and garlic, either.

Cocaine Jesus said...

i know exactly how that bloke feels

Jenn said...

Huh. Very interesting. Kind of the same but different...sometimes I look at pictures of myself as a child and am fascinated because that child had no idea what was to come. But it's me. Maybe I'm a freak. Oh well.

Seven said...

Jenn, Not at all. That is a fascinating way of thinking that I identify with. Excellent observation. Right on track with me n this one. Pun intended :)

Seven said...

I left a comment over on your site today, hope you received it. It is a little confusing, I guess you hace to be inside my brain, but then again I don't really recommend that!
I have seen you at EOTR's site. I'll swing by your place today.

Wayne said...

I am still having trouble with the shaved head. As I approach the magic 70 in about 2 weeks, I have a problem believing that many years have come and gone and I reflect on what kind of image others see. Do they see an old man without much hope or someone who represents a life gone well and still alive. God has blessed me and I hope I am a picture of hope and inspiration

Ilias- said...

Yes, I received your comment Seven. Thanks for your support. It means a great deal to me.. though I know you only through the words typed here on the computer screen, I feel lucky to have such a friend as you.

Seven said...

Having read your autobiography I know your life has been filled with loving friends, family and good times. Those that are much younger will always see old men when they look at us, but we have the remarkable ability to see a young soul every time we look in a mirror. No matter the wrinkles or grey hairs, the soul never ages; a beautiful saving grace is it not?

Enemy of the Republic said...

I just want you to know that I left a comment yesterday, a good one (at least I thought so) and I think blogger ate it. Right now I don't have time to conjuer (sp) it up again, but hey, you know I'm here.

Seven said...

Yes I do. And I like that.

Molly said...

I did not fully comprehend this when I read it. I printed it and showed it to my father. He explained it. I read it again and found a very lovely and interesting story unfolding. Thank you Seven or Rick or Mr. Absent Minded Professor, choose any you wish.
And also, as a young student of writing, I adore this sentence. It's lovely.
"Young boys with their fathers are wearing persistent smiles formed in place by baseball and train rides and sunny days of youth spent in St. Louis on a bright Sunday afternoon."

Reach said...

I continue to be amazed at your ability to speak to, not only my mind, but, my imagination.
I visualized this man's journey and later read your first comment. I felt your description in the comments as I read your post; however, my mind did manage to continue the man's journey. As the end of the "Reflection Ride" closed- a new journey began. The new journey is that of new reflections. Also, in my mind's eye, the reflections are of lessons past.

Just a thought


Enemy of the Republic said...

By the way, thanks for what you wrote on my blog. I shared a story with you from my teaching days. It just poured out. I have always liked talking to people in law enforcement because like urban schoolteachers, they deal with the public realm, far worse, I believe, but we both share the inability to be all things to all people who call on us and yet that is exactly what they need. So tough.

Seven said...

Sorry for the delay in commenting back to you guys. Its been an extremely busy week for me.
Thank you for reading. And of course best of luck in your study of writing. I, like so many others in blogville, write as a rank amateur. It is fun when a good sentence stretches out, isn't it?

Thank you for the kindness you keep sending this way. I really liked the T.O. football thing today. Being here in Dallas magnifies the absurdity of it all. I barely had time to read it but I'll get back over there to comment.

Oh yes. I underestand. I have stories that haunt me and I stay quiet about them simply becasue they are so painful. I understand, and thanks for sharing with me. It sounded perfectly horrible and you deserve so much credit for being there to help.

Rob said...

7, ah, I think I see the rare brochen spectre, earthbound with its bright, nearly incandescent halo clasped tightly around the naked cerebelum, in the refection. The rapture-glow of a man who helps us define ourselves with his prose.

Seven said...

You made me smile! Don't know bout halo's though.