By J. D. Doherty

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He knelt by the pool, gazing at its calm surface. Why? Why did the man staring back at
him seem so much better than he was? How was it that appearances could so easily deceive? He
ran a hand along his cheek, his mirror image copying the motion.

Everything was so much easier, so much better, when only the surface was visible. In that
world, he was nearly perfect. Young, handsome, confident, wealthy. It was all apparent with just
one glance—one quick look was all that was needed to characterize a person. They would see a
charming smile, a trustworthy face, and if they never saw him again, that was all he would ever
be to them.

Why couldn’t he be all that?

The complexity inside him corrupted all of it. His reflection was a lie. A glorious,
tantalizing lie that taunted him every morning in the mirror. It drew people in, pulled them
toward him. And they stayed for a while, hoping that the man underneath was like the man on
the surface.

But after a time, they all disappeared. Some quietly, vanishing in the night. Others loudly,
screaming and slamming the door in his face. But the how didn’t matter; it was all for the
same reason. He wasn’t what he appeared to be, could never be what they saw on the outside.

There was that hint of a smile he always seemed to wear. It was on his reflection’s face.
His two dimensional self looked content—happy, even. And there was that gleam in his eye,
like he had a marvelous secret and was just waiting to share it.

But none of the secrets he had were worth sharing. Admitting them to others only drove
them away. Yet no matter how terrible he felt, his face still showed the same expression,
still drew people to him like a magnet. Sometimes he tried to tell people, tried to warn them,
but none of them ever believed him until they were leaving.

And now his reflection seemed to taunt him, using his own abilities to try to pull him in.
What had he done to deserve such a cruel irony? He spent more time with his reflection
than he spent with anyone else, staring like Narcissus into a pool of water. Yet he didn’t
love his image; he hated it. Loathed its very existence.

He reached down and touched the surface of the water. The ripples distorted his
reflection, ruining his casual smile. That was closer to the truth, but it didn’t go far

Pulling his eyes away, he ran his gaze over his backyard. That was perfect, too. Inviting,
well kept, artfully arranged, expensive. But what good was money when everyone he
tried to share with, wanted to share it with, ran from him? It was nothing. He’d trade it
all—the mansion, the cars, the swimming pool—would fling it away in a heartbeat if only
he could be the person he saw in his reflection.

He grimaced, remembering the night before. His beautiful face and charming wit had
earned him yet another invitation to a party. Everyone asked him to come, put him at
the top of their lists, but it did him little good. Part of him wondered if it was just their
way of torturing him. They knew he’d win people over, only to scare them away. Did
they enjoy the little performance as he desperately tried to keep them from leaving?
Was it truly schadenfreude as they watched the newcomers gather around him, laugh
at his jokes, admire his looks? Follow him home, be awed by his money, by his

And then…then they would look deeper. Look past what the mirror showed. How could
he be so hurtful? He didn’t want to be. He didn’t try to be. It made him hate himself. Far
more than any of his former friends did.

For a while he tried his best to make his job his life. He was a master at business
relationships, because all they ever saw was the outside, the superficial. The men were
captured by his trustworthy smile, his confident handshake, his casual jokes. The women
were captivated by his looks, charmed by his manner, impressed by his professional
conduct. All of them yearned to know him better, know him personally, but he kept
them at arm’s length, even though he got more scribbled phone numbers stuffed in his
pocket than he could at any bar.

Early on he had been naïve enough to think that perhaps his business associates would be
different. Thought if he met them in that way they would better understand when he let
them get closer. What a fool he’d been. Not only had he lost friends, he’d lost business

And love…he winced. Had he ever truly had a lover? Sex, certainly. As much and as often
as he wanted, with women so beautiful they could have stepped out of a magazine. But that
was nothing like love. It kept his body satisfied, but his mind still suffered, his soul still
ached. If he even had one.

The water was still again, and the perfection had returned to his image. Even now, with
creases of pain around its eyes and its lips pressed tight together, it remained enticing.

He leaned farther out, letting his reflection grow to show him from the waist up. He felt
as if he were about to fall in, but he didn’t move. What did it matter if he did? What did
anything matter anymore? He bent down until his face nearly touched the water’s surface,
staring into his own eyes.

“I hate you,” the words pulled themselves out of his throat.

He shifted his weight, falling into the pool and annihilating his reflection. Shattering it
into a thousand pieces.

J. D. Doherty