BATHROOM MIRROR

I came out of the shower this morning and heard Henry scratching on the door: “Let me in! Let me in! Llama Louie wants to give the morning teaching!”

I didn’t want to hear Llama Louie because I caught sight of a strange woman in the bathroom mirror. “Who the hell are you? And how did you get inside the bathroom?”

She smirked.

“You put blue shadow under the eyes rather than on top, don’t you know how to put on makeup?”

She smirked again.

“Your face is lined and you’re too curvy, which is a nice way of saying that you’re overweight.”

“I am you,” she says.

“Don’t give me that Zen stuff,” I tell her, “I have too much on my mind.”

“Like what?”

“I’m feeling dark about this country.”

“That’s because you read the book Prophet Song,” she says. “The reviewers warned you not to read it even though it won the Booker Prize because it’s so depressing. But did you listen?”

“I read it because it’s gorgeously written. Only once I read about how the Republic of Ireland becomes a fascist state and people walk around saying a million times This can’t be happening in our country—only they say that the beautiful Irish way, you know—I got dark. If things like that happen here and we start saying This can’t be happening in our country, it won’t sound that beautiful. Come to think of it, I don’t know why the Irish want to restore Irish when their English is so gorgeous.”

“I think you got down on account of the Iowa caucuses this week.”

“It’s hard to face another election with Trump running. What’s worse is that I don’t know what to do.”

“Just like you don’t know what to do about the Middle East war, not that your input is all that critical.”

“What’s worse, strange woman, is that it’s winter with snow on the ground, frost in the air, and a wind chill of about -100, give or take.”

“It’s getting even colder.”

“And even worse is that Aussie is chewing on something in the back yard; she may have killed another squirrel.”

“Stop bitching,” she tells me. “Do your sitting, toss Llama Louie around with Henry, fill the birdfeeders because they’re empty after yesterday’s snow, do laundry—have you forgotten it’s Wednesday, your regular laundry day?”

“How is that going to dispel the darkness? And tell me again, who are you? Some kind of spiritual teacher or something? And how did you get into this bathroom?”

“I told you, I am but a reflection of you.”

“Like the moon reflected in water? Don’t give me that Zen shtick, I am way younger, way slimmer, way cuter. Only what’s that birthmark at the edge of your forehead? Looks familiar, but I can’t remember where I’ve seen it before.”

“Let go of all that darkness stuff, sometimes it’s poetic but mostly it’s mush. Work on gaining strength for what’s to come.”

“Hey lady, I don’t know how old you are, but I’m 74.”

“Which means you need to gain your strength.”

“I knew you weren’t me. There’s a Zen koan which asks: When the ancients got here, why didn’t they consent to stay here? The Zen master answers: Because they did not gain strength on the road. See? If you got an answer, show me.”

“Put some lipstick on, you look terrible. Now listen to me,” the woman in the mirror says. “There’s snow outside, maybe more coming this weekend. Temperatures like in Greenland. Use the winter to burrow deep, like all intelligent animals. This is the season for regaining confidence and strength, use it wisely.”

“How do I do that?”

“Trace the progress of the afternoon sun on the snow, keep your hyacinth blooming. Watch the juncos outside. If they can make it through a brutal winter, so can you. When the time comes, you’ll know what to do.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“As Mariana Leky writes in her book: You cannot always choose which adventure you’re made for.

“Huh?”

“Donald Trump, Boris the bear, Hamas, winter squalls, Bibi Netanyahu, dead squirrel on the snow—find a way to meet them.”

“I don’t want them.”

“It’s not your choice, so make it your choice. Create your own rules, play the game. Just one more thing: Use the winter season to gain some strength.”

“Who are  you again? And what are you doing in my bathroom?”

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