Friday, September 23, 2011



Jeff looked at himself in the mirror. Messy hair. Messy face. Messy life. He cringed. What brought him to the mirror this week was an itch at the end of his nose that wouldn't go away. It was all red and squishy and a slight sharp pain stung him every time he touched it. He took two fingers and squeezed until it pussed.

The rest of his face was spotted. He couldn't tell if it was dirt on his face or dirt on the mirror. The room behind him was a mess. His bed was a single mattress on the floor covered in t-shirts and jeans. Past due notices from the electricity company and the phone company carpeted his small apartment. Styrofoam containers and fast food bags covered his few pieces of furniture.  Finding his nightstand would require an archeological dig.

Jeff stuck his head under the faucet and let the cold water run through his hair. He felt something sting him in the back of the head. He tried to jerk out from the sink, but hit his head on the faucet, knocking it off the sink and spaying water everywhere. He hopped up and down holding his head and sharing a few unsanitary words with the yellowing walls around him.

He pulled his hands in front of his eyes to see if he was bleeding. He wasn't. In fact, his fingers looked immaculate. He turned his hands over and noticed that his fingernails were no longer too long, but perfectly cut and shaped to his fingers. The black line under them was gone and the palms of his hands were clean. He looked down at his clothes and saw a bright white shirt and pants, whiter than he's ever seen. His apartment looked wonderful too. The bed, still a single, was off the floor on its frame and neatly made. His floor was swept clean and his furniture was polished. The sink faucet was fixed and the sink was scrubbed white. his mirror was spotless and so was his reflection. No more pimple on the end of his nose. No more dirt on his face. His hair was neatly parted and the pain in the back of his head was gone. The only thing that wasn't perfect was the look on his face. The perfect looking man in the mirror was horrified.

All of a sudden, a voice spoke. It was a soft one and Jeff wasn't even sure he heard it, but he understood what was said.

"This is how I see you."

As the voice faded away, so did Jeff's perfection. His room returned to the trench warfare he's always known. His face lost its glow while the pimple regained its shine. His clothes tattered themselves to the t-shirt and torn jean shorts he was sleeping in and his hair re-rustled itself into chaos.

Jeff didn't know what to do. He just stood there and for the first time saw the depravity of life around him.

His eyes began to water. His fists clenched as he tried to keep control but he couldn't. He started moving without really watching where he was going. He left the apartment, went down the hall, then down the stairs, then down the street. Before he realized where he was going, he stood before a large white house with a little fence around it. Two cars parked in the driveway. A tire swing hung limp on a tree in the front.

He wiped away the tears and took a step up the walk. But just one. He couldn't do it. Just one step was all he could muster.

The front door opened. A briefcase fell to the ground and the papers inside fanned themselves out on the walk.


Shined black shoes ran down the walk and a father embraced his son for the first time in years. Tears flowed freely and knees buckled. Mom came running with her arms waving and her hair flying behind her. The three of them cried right there down on the walk, one step from the street.

Jeff tried to speak, but no words came out.

"Come inside, Son." Dad choked out. "We still have your room just the way you left it."

"Really?" Jeff asked.

"Well no..." Mom said. "I cleaned it up a little."

"Welcome home, Son."

"I'm sorry."


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