Tears in the Mirror

By Robert Drynan

face draw


When I was a teenager, I found I had an undeveloped talent for graphite pencil and ink drawing. At that impressionable age I wanted to be a marine and so I drew pictures of soldiers in battle. But as much as I tried, I could not draw a woman, the female figure or, more importantly, the feminine face . . . the gentler, more graceful lines escaped me.

Years later, I took out a piece of paper and drew some preliminary sketches of our daughter when she was a toddler, but I never completed them. Occasionally, my wife urged me to again take up drawing, but I never seemed to find the time.

Now our toddler is a grown woman and living far away, and my wife departed this life several years ago. I have the time but not the inclination to begin living again.

One morning in the dawning hours, I awoke from a dream. In the dream I stood in a hot, hot shower, absorbing the heat. When I finally stepped out and toweled off, steam clouded the air of the small room. I stepped to the mirror to wipe it clear of the foggy mist.

Something stopped me; a flaw in the mirror? A shadow produced by billowing steam? A curve appeared in the opaque surface and without thought my hand rose, my finger tracing a gentle line across the surface . . . and then another, her cheek, a brow, her nose, the graceful way she combed her locks over her forehead, her long neck reaching to receive the sweep of her hair at the nape.

I caught the tilt of her head, and the slow quizzical smile on her lips that so often mocked me, and loved me at the same time. There on the surface of the mirror I accomplished what I had believed I was unable to do. I had drawn her, and she smiled back at me!

And then inside my head she spoke. “Why are you withering inside? Why have you quit living, now wallowing in your solitude? You have so much to offer. You cannot continue like this. Embrace life. You owe it to yourself; to what we became together

. . . you owe it to me.”

Was she really there? Or was she just in my head? No, not my head, she is in my heart she will reside there as long as I am alive. If I quit, that part of her dies with me!

I stared at the drawing in the mirror, and listened to her words in my heart, “Write, draw, whatever inspires you. Love me through your expression ... don’t remain alone. Please do not withdraw and become one dimensional ... don’t retreat into what you were becoming when we came together. You were so alone, and I showed you how to love. Oh please, do not throw away my most precious gift to you.

“Love again! Don’t lose the depth we found together. I will always be within you. To love another will not deny your love for me, it will enrich you and her . . . and me.”

The bathroom cooled as I stood there, the mist subsiding. The steam on the mirror was turning to droplets of water. The drawing slowly began to fade, its grace, its beauty dissolving before my eyes . . . disappearing into tears that meandered slowly downward.

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