The mirror, as in both cases, has changed- it’s now a fold out medicine cabinet, in three parts. More useful, if less aesthetically pleasing. Our man inside has changed too. I’m not sure how to evaluate him yet. He’s always been very hard for me to pin down.
I came in, feeling weak and drained. My head throbbed, an ache born of a rampant cough of the last four days or so. Even as it ached, it was lighter, somehow, as if the weakness had forced a crowded mind to unburden itself, rallying against physical troubles with mental strength.
I reached for a spoon in a glass, pouring cough syrup into it.
“Think that’ll help?”
His voice startled me, and I looked into the folded glass. He seemed pale, drawn, which led me to wonder- is this how I looked to people this week? No wonder I was getting the fifth degree at work on Wednesday. This guy needed a painter’s brush to give him some colour (and a sandwich or three to fill him out).
The spoon had paused halfway to my mouth. “Maybe,” I quipped. I’d been taking it for the last few days, with seemingly limited effect. “Feels nice going down, if nothing else.”
He swallowed the spoon, licked his lips, nodded. “I can get on board with that.”
There was silence for a moment- his hands grasped the sink, almost as if needing it for support. I didn’t- did I? My head felt light again, and I moved my neck, looking around the room, as if that would brace me in the moment.I felt my hands on the sink’s edge, not knowing how they’d gotten there.
“Have we figured it out yet?” he asked after a while, breaking the silence.
I paused. “Do we ever?” I quipped back at him. Our conversation so far had been clipped, short, spoken more in silence than in words. That suited both of us, since we could read each other well enough.
He reached for the spoon, twisting it in his fingers idly. “Been a while since you’ve been here,” he commented.
I nodded, conceding his point. “Thought maybe I’d found myself then,” I replied, as much to him as to myself. A moment’s reflection brought slivers of different memories- accomplishment, sorrow, joy, pain, betrayal, shame, love. I imagine they passed over my eyes in a moment, as they would have his.
He shook his head. He was defiant, brash in a way, as he set the spoon back down. “It’s the process, Churchy,” he quipped. It was weird hearing his voice say.
I nodded again, looking away. “Learned that,” I commented, sharper than I intended. I brought my voice down as I continued. “It’s all a process. You don’t reach the end and get the medal. You just get the next baton.” I paused before continuing, my gaze turning back to him. “Don’t know if I’m fine with it quite yet.”
His smirk made me want to punch him. Given that an attempt would result in a grievous personal injury, I resisted. “That’s the fun, isn’t it?” he asked rhetorically, with an edge that seemed almost bitter.
I had to chuckle, though. “Hasn’t always been fun,” I commented, knowing he’d know what I meant.
He inclined his head, agreeing silently. “I’ll be glad to see the back of this week,” he said, and stretched his arms over his head.
“Yeah,” I agreed, feeling the headache pulse again. The conversation was starting to bother it, apparently, and it was making its wishes known. I clenched my eyes shut for a moment.
“So what else have we learned?” he asked, pacing on his side. He seemed unaffected, though I’d missed the moment when I’d shut my eyes.
I sighed. It was the same lesson, wasn’t it? The one I was still learning, and would always learn. “Faith,” I replied. “Faith in a God I can’t understand.” And, I thought silently, hope for the next day.
Maybe it hadn’t been a good week, all in all. But I had it good. These times, difficult and good for me, have all helped develop me, make me a better man. I had to believe that. I DO believe that. The nights when I was coughing up a lung, buzzing through tissues, unable to silence a crowded head, I held on to that. It may not have helped the cough, but when the foundation’s good, the trappings are excess. Have faith in what is. And have hope for what will be. Solid principles, there.
He smiled. That, for once, seemed at home on him, pale face and all. “Good,” he said. “Then we’d best hit the sack.”
“Sounds like an excellent idea,” I replied. I turned off the light, and turned to go, feeling the throb in my head tug at me again.
“Next time we can discuss the woman troubles,” he quipped after me.
I chuckled and shook my head. We both knew that wasn’t happening, but it was like him to egg me on about that, rarely far from my mind, and inserted back with his late foray. Hope had elbowed its way into that conversation- I had discovered, to quote Trek, that “There were always… possibilities…”
Even with sickness dogging me, I still felt lighter, unburdened for having talked. As if his knowing or telling me what I knew had taken it off me. Which was odd, since he should have known it already.