The Glass Room and the Mirror
Tom was killed a year and three days ago. We didn’t do anything for the anniversary, at least I didn’t. His family probably did. We were at a party and he got into a fight with someone. He got mad and wanted us to leave; I came to the party with him. I was having a good time. I didn’t want to go.
So he got into his car and left. About eleven minutes later he swerved off the road and hit a tree. His uncle came to my apartment the next day and told what had happened. If I left with him we could’ve died together.
Or we would have been fine.
Probably that one.
Because if I had taken a little longer to get into the car than he did, whatever happened that made him go off the road would have happened just a little prior to when it did. We would have been driving, maybe a possum scurries across the road twenty yards ahead, and we’re fine.
Or maybe I would have convinced him to not go at all. I could have made him laugh, throwing off his leaving time by a half minute, avoiding whatever made him crash. Events are relative to time. Events based on time are situations. If any of the variables change so does the situation.
If I had been more concerned with him we would have gotten home safe. Tom and I would be going out tonight.
I like neon lights a lot. I go on drives through the city to just watch them, think a little bit, get some writing done in my head. Sometimes I’ll take Brian with me. He always has something to talk about, at least some kind of good gossip or some future event we discuss. He likes to get high beforehand. That’s fine, I just don’t really like it personally.
Sometimes when I drive around the lights get too bright. Like everything becomes really overwhelming and my mind freezes. I have to hold my fingers together on my right hand to try to get focused. Noises become louder too. I don’t know if they’re directly connected but they happen at the same time. I think my thoughts are just too loud and that causes it. Or that might be stupid. I’m not sure.
The Bitter End is a coffee shop my friends and I go to a lot. It’s open all the time. I don’t like seeing my reflection in the windows outside because then I feel self-aware. Like it’s the cool thing to be there, which cheapens it for me.
And life feels even more like a glass box with a mirror inside.
I’m trapped in this room watching all these events go by. I can’t change them: only watch them. I’ll bang on the glass, but it’s too thick for people to hear. Or they just continue on because what is a guy in a glass box going to do? The only thing I can do other than watch from inside is look at my reflection, see my reaction to what’s happening outside the walls. I can keep feeling the pain, the joy, or whatever emotion, then watch it slowly leave me, having no choice but to continue on watching and reacting to new things, because life moves too fast to focus in and hope to change what is currently happening or just happened.
Everyone must feel like this.
Because everything we do is just how we react to what we see and can’t change in a hopeless effort to be able to change it when something like it happens again. No one realizes it’s all for nothing though. That’s where I’m different. Because if something is currently happening, that means all of the mechanisms are in motion for the event to carry out. We can try to change its effects, but the event itself is frozen in time, there permanently.
I see these events in glamorous cinematic neon lighting. Stuck behind these glass walls knowing the lights and what they illuminate exist with or without me. Glancing at the mirror to see the effects. Seeing my eyes get brighter or darker. Seeing my wrinkles create longer shadows.
Tom participated in a series of events he couldn’t change, trapped in his own separate glass box.
And I was at the party laughing and drinking when Tom died.
And I can’t have any regret when we live in our separate glass houses.
So why do I keep looking into this mirror?
more by TYLER CLIFTON
photograph by Sidi-Omar Alami