One Clean Mirror Downtown

So, maybe I will see you there.
We can forget all our troubles,
Forget all our cares...

So go downtown!
Things will be great,
When we're downtown.
Don't wait a minute for Downtown!
Downtown! Downtown! Downtown!
D-o-own-t-o-own! D-o-o-own-t-o-o-own!

Thus sang Petula Clark, so long ago. Forty-four years ago.

I worked downtown. I was only forgetting my troubles and cares because I had to take on new ones instead. And even if I wanted to wait a minute, there were no minutes to spare down town.

But she was right about something. I did need to find somebody. My search for self was going to happen through another. I had to see myself through another's eyes, this I knew.

It is, indeed, a city of mirrors. I had seen myself enough through my own eyes, in every sharp mirror that scathed my sight.

I look up, in search of a job.

The skyscrapers scrape so deep into the air that they dig in, like knives. So high as to become the sky itself, and fool each pitiable bird that flies against their glass panes. Pains. Here, the city stole all that was sacred and empyreal.

The heavens themselves are here in the city, behind barriers of glass and death, not so great as foretold. I came to know this too well, as for every luxurious suite that lurks behind them, there are countless floors of cubicle hell.

The walls of my office encroach further and further, Planck by Planck, infinitesimally slow. It is agonizing. I push away from my desk, and turn off the computer monitor. I'm tired of being some chauvinist's administrative assistant; a hindrance to my self-discovery. What a verbose euphemism for secretary.

For a moment, I hear the alluring rural siren-call. I never thought I would miss the corn fields, the cow fields and the corn-for-cow fields.

And I don't.

Because he's there.

No, not my boss. Not the Tyrant, as his minions call him. Someone else. Me.

In shock, I drop my resignation letter upon the ugly carpet of the Tyrant's office. I wonder just how long it has been since I've seen a window. At first, I assume it is, like every other window, a mirror. I conclude that what caught me off-guard was just another reflection of myself.

Yet I am wrong.

He is not I.

For I am a woman, and he is a man.

Is that the only perceptible difference? Sex and gender are only the medium, not the message. Through the glass, I watch his graceful movements. Spray bottle in one hand, and teal squeegee in the other.

He smiles at what I hope is me. I don't know if he's smiling at me or at his own reflection.

And I find myself smiling back, my lips having moved of their own volition. I gave them too much freedom, and now they have betrayed me.

Behind me, the Tyrant speaks. I hear, but I do not listen. Listening requires silence, silence of the mind. I think to myself, Silent and listen are spelled with the same letters.

Through the glass...

He is silent.

I am listen.

And my job is no more. I don't know what the Tyrant has commanded, though I relish the prospect that I have been fired.

I listen.

He has commanded that my 'ass' is wonderful.

He is an 'ass' so why isn't he wonderful? I ask myself.

The window washer moves about, feet dancing around, plank by plank, to my left.

I move left, too. Further into my boss's office. Still facing the window. Further into his reach.

Fwap!

Why isn't he worthy of slapping, too?

I flirt with this violent notion, but I am too distracted by my own reflection, or rather, the man who is my reflection. This is not narcissism. There's something clairsentient about it, as if I see myself in his anima, his inner woman.

I do not believe in love and first sight; because the more accurate term would be 'attraction at first sight'. Perhaps 'lust at first sight', if one is shallow enough. Why? Because genuine, full-thrown love, of which I know nothing, must surely depend upon more than just what we see.

And so I call this: love at first sense. And I mean more than just the five senses. Because I could not smell him yet, I could not taste him, I could not know him. It was a sense altogether different from those that are commonplace or even sixth.

I am whipsawed by hope and doubt, grasping at that it may be or may not be mutual.

But now I am more than alone. I stare into that mirror, now, and know that I myself am not even there, because he has descended on his platform of pulleys and skyscraping hygiene.

I run, as the tyrant begins to examine what has been dropped upon his floor. I run, because it is all I can do to find myself once more.

Stairs trump elevator.

Cubicle, cubicle, cubicle. Hell is gray and boring. There's a meeting room on the floor below my boss's office. It is in use.

Desperately, I return to the stairs.

Step, step, step by step, step, step. Three at a time.

Two floors beneath the Tyrant, I enter upon more of heavenly cubicle purgatory. I wedge myself into one, my back against the chair of another woman who is busy. She is hard at work, solitary PC work, playing Solitaire.

At the window, I look up.

He is not there.

I look down, as far as I possibly can.

He is not there.

Fwap!

Like a fingerprint, a pigeon has left its smudgy mark against the window.

I did not see him again for a long and weary month. Time passed two slowly. It made me cry out, as I ran to find myself and see him again.

There are people all around me, but none of them are him. I feel a rising feeling, though I am the only one among us who'd rather have a sinking feeling.

They wanted up, to the open winds of the rooftop, for their smoke breaks. For their true high. The smoke that breaks our lives and shatters the sky. Normally, I'd indulge. The fresh patch on my arm isn't working yet. People come and go, here, at the place where the towering height scratches the sky and it bleeds smoke and smog.

Then a falling feeling; a glorious feeling. We descended as one, in a room too small for us all.

After the first four weeks of that month, the crowded elevator finally reached the bottom floor. And for two and a half days, I sprinted out of the main floor lobby.

The final twelve breathless hours of my search were spent sauntering along the side of the reflective building, before I found myself again.

'Downtown' repeated in my head, my thoughts carrying her voice, the piano, the saxophone, the trombone... or was it a baritone saxophone? I never listened to my parents' records enough.

And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you. Someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand, to guide them along.

She wouldn't see me here, though. Petula was elsewhere, in her seventies, likely enjoying a lavish retirement. Who knows, maybe she was dead?

Neon signs again. They are like veins, holding the gaseous blood we've stolen from the sky. I know that to be true, the science is there. It is a luminescence now missing from the sky. A sky that, without blood, pales to gray.

However, he was there, on this sidewalk, reloading the supplies of his window-washing platform. Downtown.

The End

27 comments about this story Feed