by Marina Popescu [Romania]
translated from Romanian by William Oxley & Iulia Vieru [MTTLC student]
edited by Robert Fenhagen
The man opened his closet, where reigned order and tidiness.
Impeccable shirts hung on expensive hangers, and suits slept in their coat covers.
On the right, black, shiny shoes were lined on (special) shelves, and on the inside face of the door, there was a mirror.
The man stood in front of it, wearing only underpants and a vest, scrutinizing the collection of shirts. It was quite difficult for him to decide on an appropriate one for such an important meeting. The general manager of Best Technologies was a pedantic guy who always put a high price on a label. Armani, Hugo Boss – what on earth should he choose for the meeting with that arrogant prick?
The man watched his reflection in the mirror. He thought that maybe he would get an idea from the sight of his own face. Because now we are supposed to dress according to our nature, match personality with clothes, right? Or the clothes to personality? This is what he couldn’t quite remember, but he had kept hearing these ideas on various TV shows lately. He smiled to himself and looked straight in his own eyes. It had been a long time since he had looked at himself in a mirror. He didn’t have the time for it. But now that he did, he couldn’t quite stop staring at his face.
“Everything is OK as long as personality doesn’t become an accessory.”
He continued to look at himself in the mirror. There was something that determined him to stay still, even though he knew he was going to be late for the big meeting.
The shirt… what shirt should I wear? I’m thinking of the light orange one, Cavalli… it’s elegant and orange is very trendy this year…
“Don’t let personality become an accessory.”
Again? Those words again?
He looked behind him, through the mirror. No one.
What has got into me? I’m standing still in front of the mirror, looking and smiling to myself and thinking about personality and clothes… it’s like I’m a woman.
Apparently, I’ve gone mad.
“Personality as an accessory.
It’s trendy to be nice, sociable, open, polite and hypocritical. Love is very trendy this season, ladies and gentlemen. But not any kind of love. THE LOVE OF MONEY!”
These words came from him; “Him” from the mirror. For “him” from this side of it hadn’t said a word. However, the other one had. And as he had said them, his face had contorted in irony.
For the first time in a long time, he was talking to himself (he had not done that since childhood). And he liked this talk. He was unloading a burden he had carried for too long, and was now passing it to the man in the mirror.
“Here you go, friend, you carry it. And who did you say you were? My conscience? Great, excellent, I’m glad you finally showed up. It was about time. I haven’t seen you in years. Although, on the other hand, you should be ashamed of yourself. I should start questioning you, demand that you tell me where you have been for so long. But I won’t, I’m so happy you’re here that I forgive your absence and betrayal. Who? The Best Technologies general manager? To hell with him, let him wait! He’s nothing but a profiteer, a scumbag! How do you think he became a general manager?”
“Well… the same way you did, of course.”
“See? You and I know better about general managers, and power, and financial empires…”
“And trampling bodies…”
“Bodies you say? That’s nothing. A dead man is dead, he can’t feel a thing, whether you trample him or run him over with a tank. We’re talking here about trampling living people, and their values, principles, rights and their souls.”
“And you did so with many?”
“Many! You don’t think I made a list. I didn’t have the time, I was too busy with business, but, do you know what, my mirror friend?!”
“Given the fact that we’re so close, I wonder what information you might have…”
“I will tell you something that even you didn’t know. Something we are just discovering.”
”Yes, yes. Listen. I crushed myself the worst–I subjected them to myself, but my ambitions subdued me.
I forgot about my family and friends, but also about myself. I locked away all of my beautiful thoughts, noble purposes, hopes and dear memories, and only by chance did I find them again.”
Applauds. The man in the mirror applauded and smiles meaningfully.
“Then, this means that you’re ready”, he said.
“Of course. Try it. You know the phone will be ringing soon.”
The mobile phone on the coffee table started to ring and vibrate. The color display said: ”Reception”. Annoyed, he answered.
“Hello, Mr Smith. This is Jenny, your personal assistant. I wanted to remind you that your meeting with the general manager from Best Technologies is in 15 minutes. Have you encountered any traffic difficulties? Should I send the helicopter to pick you up from somewhere?”
The woman had rattled off these words at an amazing speed. She was the super-efficient type of assistant, well-briefed and able to work for more than 14 hours a day.
“Helicopter?” Mr Smith managed to say.
“Yes. Is there something wrong? Are you not Mr Smith? Have I got the wrong number?”
“Yes, Jenny… this is Mr Smith. I just don’t need the helicopter because…”
“Perfect. Then that means you’re already very close to the building. I will take your coffee to the office. Ms Helen has informed me that the general manager has just arrived.”
”No, no, Jenny, hold on. I’m still at home.”
”At home? Mr Smith, so something has happened? How come you’re still at home? I called to wake you up exactly an hour ago, so you can’t blame me for the delay and…”
“No, Jenny, of course it’s not your fault…”
“I try my best in everything, to be efficient, and not let any detail slip away…”
“Jenny, listen to me. You are, undoubtedly, a professional. But I’m not coming in today. I can’t come. I’m busy.”
“How is that possible? The general manager is here, waiting to talk to you about the joint project of the research departments. Please, Mr Smith … I’ll tell him you’ll be late, that you’re stuck in traffic… if I send you the helicopter now, you’ll be here in 30 minutes…”
“Jenny! I am not coming today! I’m BUSY! I’m looking at myself in the mirror, Jenny, do you understand?”
But Mr Smith had switched off his phone, tired of his assistant’s urgent voice.
He continued to look at himself in the mirror. And this time, he talked at the same time as the man in the mirror.
“I knew you wouldn’t understand, Jenny. And even a few minutes ago, I would have agreed with you.”