by Walter Dinjos
There is a reason the mirrors kiss the walls.
When my late wife nailed the oakwood-framed one next to my bathroom, she called it a reminder of how far we’ve come. She said that once per day a proper human being ought to spare it a glance.
A glance, however, is all it takes to see it all–the crinkles and patches; the greying tendrils and the soulless stare; the quivering flesh and the gathering fat. Every morning when sleep releases me to the horror of those mirrors, I power up my laptop.
As I type age-reversal, anti-ageing, suspended animation, or any expression that suggests ageing is a bitch, I pretend my fingers don’t traipse over the keyboard, and I say to myself, “Don’t look. Those digits are merely expressing youthful exuberance. See how they tremble with vigour.”
When I finally click search, my screen puts the nearest breakthrough in age-reversal through telomerase gene therapy at fifteen to twenty years’ time. This leaves me pulling a drawer open and lugging out my twenty-year-old calculator.
Yes, I have been at this for a very long time. And there has been no morning the electronic device’s heaviness didn’t remind me of the compromise I had to make the day I saved it from the now-bankrupt vintage store across the street.
Isn’t it an efficient irony?
Every day the calculator’s large, mischievous display commends my eyes for their keenness, but the weight it carries with it mocks my feeble hands. This deters neither me nor my hope. At least not completely. It only manages to sketch more wrinkles on my face. Wrinkles I pray to both angels and demons to help me erase, even if one line at a time.
I punch the calculator’s charcoal black buttons: sixty plus twenty. No! Sixty plus fifteen. And a forlorn smile visits my face and consoles me with the wishy-washy surmise that, in time, I can be forty again. Even thirty-something.
All I need to do is stay alive long enough.
So once again I don’t unbolt my bulletproof door much less stray beyond it. I simply retreat to my bedroom and cuddle up to my doll-ish, six-foot pillow. Yes, it talks and it moves, and its… her voice is mellifluous like my wife’s.
This is the way. I know it is. It must be. I could hear the world calling outside—nothing but hazards in search of unfortunate souls to prey on.
I don’t know what happened. Perhaps it is that cleaning maid, or the pizza boy. The tech guy maybe. One of them must have let something in.
The way my heart now beats, as if being throttled by death itself. Or rather by the creamy prison walls the gathering fat has raised under my skin.
My private physician comes with his test results and it turns out it’s my heart that betrayed me. “Not just your heart,” he says. “Your organs are shutting down. Have you been moving around at all?”
“No,” I said. “I have been at this for a very long time.”