I was riding in a bus today, seated just there in the corner seat. The smell of field, sweat, fertilizer, growth and rural life thick on me. I fit in, yet stood apart, an unusual mixture of smells, musk and scent.
I took a deep breath…there was lime, mango, chickens and goats, dark rich earth, crisp morning soaps…a hint of perfume as an older woman nestled into the seats behind me.
I glanced around the bus. Men, women, children safely strapped and wrapped in chitenge, all jostling in a uniform manner as we hurtled across the broken road. Bumps, sudden braking, gravity, momentum trapped in physics, a moment shared by so many unique individuals.
Sighing I let moment pass to moment, sensation to sensation. Life moving forward in its cruel, benevolent persistence. I looked out the window, at fields of tall grass, rows of corn and cassava. I wished for a breath of that unsullied natural air, knowing at the same instant that it would smell of fertilizer and chemicals, not earth.
Another internal sigh and I caught the eyes of a strange man. We were both looking in the mirror. Ruffled hair, stunted curls struggling for ringlets, a thick fiery-red beard, blue green eyes…well built, thick shoulders, worry lines and some hint of stress. I searched the cabin. Who is this man staring at me in the mirror?
Suddenly I knew! It was the first time in three months I’d seen myself in a mirror. What a shock. Was that me? Familiar traits, dirt worked into a beard redder than I remembered. A tan and tousled curls. My face – a man I knew from the inside, but could only recognize parts of the outside.
My mind struggled, the cogs and parts squealing with stress and excitement. Processing, updating files, making new images, marking changes and associating features. I was my reflection once again. I’d become familiar.
Imagine before mirrors, catching sight of yourself in a clear stream, trapped as narcissus by an image that couldn’t be you.
We change with age. As time passes and life grinds forward, we discover a discrepancy between who we see inside and what a chunk of metal and glass shows us. I can only imagine being 73, feeling young and alive, capitalizing on my knowledge and experience, looking in the mirror and being shocked… Who the heck is that?
I guess that’s what’s so wonderful about living life without my reflection. I feel and believe I look one and the same. Who I am, how I decide to feel, governs how I perceive myself and my abilities. No chunk of glass and metal will tell me I’m not something I know I am.
This is who I see, and he’s always staring back at me:
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