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The Writers Page: The Face

The Face
By Vincent A. Caruso

He had been retired a few months. He didn’t much care for it. It was not enough for him to have done something, he needed to continue to do something and achieve something. It wasn’t that he was vain. He just believed that what he did was important and to give it up would not be right. But give it up he had because ‘it was time’ or he had convinced himself it was time which he later learned it was not. He tried to make the best of it. All the while looking for the ‘break’ that would get him back into being productive.

On this particular day he had chosen to go to one of those large outlet stores that had everything from soup to nuts as the expression goes. There was everything imaginable. And as he walked thru the crowded aisles, not necessarily looking for anything in particle, he came upon an area that carried mirrors. Now, he was not a particular vain person. His only contact with the image of his face was when he shaved; washed his face and hands; combed his hair; flossed and brushed his teeth. He took his face for granted and paid little attention to how that face had changed. It was now considered an old face by today’s standards. He had rings under his eyes; his eyes were not as blue as they had been when he was younger; there was no twinkle in his eye; somewhat bloodshot were his eyes. His neck which was once smooth and taut was now flabby. Where he had lean muscles in his arms, the skin now hung loose but he did not see all this. You have by now gathered he is old.

But he had such a creative mind that he was unable to see himself physically as others did. He would walk and talk as if he were younger. All he actually could see of himself was what he believed. His eyes were like a telescope scanning the horizon recording what was before him and transferring it to his brain where he could process it. In his mind he pictured a face that might have been but was no more. He thought of himself as a somewhat handsome face with rich deep set eyes and eyebrows which danced when he laughed. As he passed people he would say hello and tell them it was a fine day and it was nice to see them. Some managed a smile back but most would stare and think he might be a little off.

His life changed abruptly when he reached the mirrors. He was ambling along when he spied a figure in one of the mirrors. At first he thought it was someone walking on the other side of the aisle as the mirrors were so arranged you could see beyond them as well as look into them. The figure that he saw startled him and then it struck him. He was looking at himself because the figure in the mirror moved in the same manner when he moved his hands, arms or head. Not expecting to see himself, and being startled at what he saw, jolted him into a state of reality from where he would never escape. He studied his features convincing himself that he was not dreaming; that the figure in front of him was he; that he was not young anymore; that he was indeed old; that he did not look very useful; that his life expectancy was very limited; that he had been fooling himself and he could no longer continue to do so.

Where he had come into the store feeling good and upbeat, he left the store as an old man. When he looked out thru his eyes, he no longer saw beauty or horizons. He saw only the image of his face which had been implanted in his mind. His legs began to hurt as he headed toward his car; he noticed a pronounced limp in one of his legs; his eyesight was not that good even with his glasses; he noticed a tremor in his left hand as he fumbled with the car keys. He could not find his car. From what direction had he come into the parking lot? His thoughts were garbled. His ability to recall, lost. He just stood there, helpless. The only thing to which he was cognizant was the image of his face in a mirror which had destroyed him.