Objects In The Mirror.
The first thing you need to know, I suppose, is that this isn’t a story. There’s no beginning or middle here, just an end; though there will be moments, many many moments, and they will all be true. That will hurt the most.
You remember that your wife always wanted to go on a Nordic cruise, and that you surprised her with tickets for her fortieth birthday. Two weeks watching the solid ice cliffs pass by like great, old ships; clear skies that went on forever ahead of the boat and came back around the stern, an endless strip of blue heaven winding the earth. You remember the afternoon spent wrapped in winter coats, sat on deck chairs on the prow, as cold and spidery fingers crept in and tickled even as the sun warmed your faces.
You remember your daughter burying her husband, and how you waited with her as the mourners moved away, and brittle, greying leaves drifted down from the trees and swayed under the breeze to left and right before alighting on the grass without a sound. She asks, her voice so soft that the autumn air can barely carry it, Is it God that creates such suffering for us to bear? You wait a while before answering, because it is such a question, and one you’ve wondered yourself since losing your wife, her mother. You wait until the leaves stop falling and there is a silence that you can fill, and you say, Yes, darling – why else would He make the days so long? And you watch then the slow tear that builds at the corner of her eye, a process as age-old as the formation of diamonds, you wait until it can grow no more and tumbles wetly down her cheek, and you take her arm in yours and walk together to the waiting car.
You remember that your wife’s name is Jacqueline (and she loved most of all your smile), and your daughter is Yvonne, though she only ever answered to Evie. And that there was a cat you owned when you were first married that was called Concho, and that Evie cried so hard when he died that you never dared buy another. Also the name of Jared, the son you nearly had.
You remember the school reunion you attended, twenty years older and further away than ever before. People you never knew pretending to have missed you every day since, while they drink nervously and energetically and touch your shoulder with every other sentence and remember events that you could swear never happened. And none of them remember the things you remember, the way you remember them. After an hour you find Jackie and leave, and you go to the restaurant and eat a fine meal and talk about the good times that actually matter in a world you recognise as your own.
You remember, of course, your father losing a slow battle with his own body, and the way that he gave up near the end and the light left his eyes and his face turned more to stone until there was almost nothing left to die. And how you missed even that when he was gone.
You remember driving all day to visit Jackie in Cornwall one time. And how the neighbour in the house next to your first home together would brush his drive every day of the year. The boss who promoted you to the job that made the rest of your life possible, like opening a door to a different world. The first time Evie made you a grandfather. The time that your leg went out from under you, which marked forever in your mind the start of getting old. The time Jackie told you she was pregnant. The early retirement that gave you your marriage back. When your grandson – Jason, his name was Jason – passed his driving test and took you for a spin.
When, and when, and when, all these moments in time that you see in the broken fragments of the rear view mirror, each jagged facet a doorway to another world.
And you think, in these last few instants that draw out almost forever, that you always thought that the phrase Your whole life flashes before your eyes meant that your memories passed before you. Except these things that you see in the mirror haven’t happened yet; you’re only nineteen years old, not even close to being married, and you don’t even know anyone called Jacqueline.
The bonnet of the car is bending up now, folding like the foil wrapper as you unwrap a bar of chocolate. The windscreen actually buckles a little before exploding inwards, a glittered expanse of tiny cubes showering the inside of the car. You can smell the fuel already, but you’ll be gone before it sparks and billows outwards like a hot blossom, you’ll be gone just as soon as the steering wheel completes the long process of slamming into your chest and stopping your heart forever.
But there’s time yet. Time yet to glance once more into the mirror and watch all those things that you could have done, and, in another world than this, would have done.
You were a good man, and it was a good life. That it didn’t get to happen doesn’t change it all that much.
So ignore the noise and the sounds and the pain, and look into the mirror at the man you were going to be. Watch them all surround you in the moments of your lives, and ignore the end of this one. You get to watch your whole life flash before your eyes, and it’s a good one.
You were a good man, and you were loved by those you loved the most. And it’s nice to see you smile.