[Photo Credit: Erwin Blumenfeld, “Nude In Broken Mirror,” New York, 1944]
We were so fucking in love, son. I would stare at her putting on her makeup and wonder why she did it, she was so beautiful already. One day, son, one day I was sitting on the bed in my bedroom, the one I used to share with your mother, god bless her heart, and I was in my underwear just watching her put on makeup, completely silent. She wanted it quiet while she put on her makeup, slow about it, she said it helped her meditate like those Hare Krishna we met one time at the airport. I was watching her meditate in the reflection of the mirror we had, the chrome one next to the vanity, the circular one, she always started with her lipstick, as red as the queen of hearts it was, some Revlon brand I think, I never really bothered to check because brands didn’t concern me at home, it was just me, sitting on our silk sheets, and her, painting the silk on her skin, everything was amazing. And then, I sneezed.
She jumped so high, son. She just wasn’t expecting it, and I scared the shit out of her, and it was like she got tazed by the cops, lightning in her bones and bright red lipstick on those perfect lips. But when that lightning struck, she struck the mirror too, and it cracked all over, and it mostly held itself together, but I was still worried she’d leak something to stain her nightgown a few shades darker than her bright red lipstick. When she turned around, I laughed, I laughed so hard, at the racing stripe she’d decorated her perfect face with. I howled and howled and her face started turning its own shade of red, and she was so mad, I’d never seen it before, and everything was suddenly not that amazing anymore… wait, I mean just in that moment, I’d always love your mother, of course, forever, but her eyes were so on fire and her face was full of so much anger that it scared me, and it was a strange feeling being that scared, that’s not something I am very often, and your mother could tell.
I’ll be honest, I questioned things for a split second, like how could a sneeze make her that angry, that livid with your father, that perturbed with your old pop, but then I came to my senses and I thought to myself, well I thought about what I just said, that I’d always love your mother no matter the season and no sense in thinking otherwise. In that split second she saw my worry, she was so perceptive, she softened up a bit right then and there like the sweetheart she always was. She turned around and looked in that cracked mirror and saw her racing stripe, her lipstick smeared in a perfect line up and down her perfect face. But from my angle, I saw a tessellated image of that line, part of it cocked to the side, drooping, until she turned around again and reminded me why I nearly passed out when I saw her the first time. The anger was gone, my worry was gone, and she laughed with me while I wiped the lipstick off her cheek.
She decided to not replace the mirror but keep it, to remind her of an ugly moment. She said it would help her appreciate the pretty moments even more. Your mother would put on her makeup in the morning on the weekdays I drove the Oldsmobile to work, her thinking about me as she stared into that broken vanity, me getting reminded of her bright red lipstick every time I looked in the rearview. It took a while but eventually she got used to the cracks in her reflection, coloring that perfect face but compensating for how angles skewed its curves, never getting too comfortable in case she’d need to adjust her position.
I never got comfortable either, the way her makeup looked after she put it on with the help of a shattered duplicate of that perfect face made somehow less perfect, something I didn’t think was possible, and that scared me again, pulled the fear from the bottom of my stomach, and the acid down there burns, son, real hot. I bought another mirror that she refused, I tried to tell her she didn’t need her makeup, I tried everything I could think of, and she would still use the cracked mirror every morning. She said she didn’t want to forget the ugly moments.
That, son, that’s how I got rich.
Kaleb R. Gubernick is a reformed journalist living in Seattle, WA. He writes wrong and occasionally tries to right wrongs. His work has appeared in The Stranger, The Creative Cafe, Potholes in My Blog, and other various places on The Internet™. He probably loves you.