First thing I want to settle, before I tell you this story: I was not drunk. I was drinking, yes, and I’d admit that I shouldn’t have been driving… which I was not… but its not like there were pink elephants on parade or anything like that. I was just convivially warm.
So, I left the party at Deb and Brian’s place, they’ve got a big suite in the next building, I guess it was a little after midnight. I’d been up since six in the morning, and I’d had enough fun for the night. I had some drinks but not too many, had a few laughs some friends, and sang some carols, and I was ready to hit the hay.
And before you ask, I don’t know why Deb and Brian didn’t invite you. The place was pretty crowded, and by the time I noticed you weren’t there, it was kind of late to ask. If it’s really bugging you, you can ask them yourself.
It was a pretty warm night… heck, the whole winter so far has been pretty nice. I walked across the parking lot between the buildings, and took the elevator up to my floor. Didn’t see anyone, but that wasn’t particularly strange, right after midnight. Anyone who wasn’t out partying was already home, and most of the party types would stay out a couple of hours more. If I hadn’t been working that day, I likely would have stayed at the party longer. But my point is, I was feeling pretty good about life in general, and nothing on the way home from the party changed that.
You’ve been to my apartment, right? No? Really? It’s on the fifth floor, at the front of the building, so I get two sets of windows in the living room, and in the summer I’ve got a great view of the river because it kind of curls around the building. In the winter, I guess it’s still a great view of the river, but it’s all frozen and bleak, and I don’t stare at it as much. There’s a little hall from the living room to the front door, and right where it opens up to the living room there’s an archway leading to the kitchen. On the one side of the hall, about half-way along, there’s the door to the bedroom, and on the other, the kitchen side, there’s the door to the storage closet right inside the front door, and then there’s the door to the bathroom a little further along than the bedroom door.
I let myself in and turned on the light in the little vestibule. Hung up my jacket, took off my boots, then stepped on a blotch of snow and soaked my sock, because you always do that, right? I was tired, but I decided I was going to have a big glass of juice before I got ready for bed. Rehydrate, you know? Keep any hangover at bay.
I went down the hall, and the only light in the place was from that one fixture in the front, but it’s a short hall, so that wasn’t a big deal. I glanced into the bedroom as I passed, as you do, didn’t see anything but the bed and my bookshelf, and a little glow coming through the windows, city lights reflecting off the clouds. The usual scene. Normal.
Since I looked in the bedroom, I looked in the bathroom, too. No window in there of course, so what I saw, in the little bit of light coming down the hall, was the sink and medicine cabinet. It was all so close to normal, I almost kept going, but like I said, I wasn’t drunk, so I realized what I was seeing and stopped.
The medicine cabinet is really old school, just like the rest of the apartment. It’s set into the wall, and the door is a mirror with a white wooden frame around it. What I saw was the white frame around a perfectly black space. I mean, it was dark in there, just whatever light was reflecting off me and the hallway, so the white of the sink and the frame looked dim yellow, and the blue towel on the bar beside the sink was sort of purple.
But I could see all that, so what I should have seen in the mirror was… well, me. I should have seen my head and chest, relatively bright and twice as far away from me as I was from the sink. But there was nothing at all, just absolute blackness.
I didn’t see it for long, though. Just long enough to register. While I was standing there, the reflection swung into place, and that was even weirder. Now, I know what you’re thinking; the front of the medicine cabinet was ajar, and somehow creaked back into place, but that’s not it. First, if that was what had happened, I would have seen my toothbrush and a bottle of aspirin instead of a square of pure black, and I wouldn’t have seen the frame as a square, either. It would have been distorted by perspective.
Also, the hinges are on the right side, so the door opens up against the wall. If it had been open, and then shut by itself… which would have been pretty strange anyway… what I would have seen was my reflection sort of slide in from the left. That’s not what happened. The reflection came up, like it had been lying flat inside the wall, and someone was lifting it into place. And even then, it wasn’t like I saw ceiling first, and then I popped out of the bottom of the frame. No, it was the whole reflection I was expecting to see, me framed in the door to the hallway, complete. It was just that the whole scene was at a funny angle until it clicked into place.
That’s pretty much it, too. I stood there for a second, waving at my own reflection and making sudden movements, like I was in a cartoon or that old Marx Brothers movie, trying to make sure that it was really a reflection and not just someone made up to look like me. After a minute, I reached into the bathroom and switched on the light, and nothing changed.
Well… actually, there was something else, although it’s just a feeling. When I walked into the apartment, I wasn’t feeling anything strange. I was a little drunk… a little drunk… and sort of generally content, but I wasn’t picking up on any funny vibe, the way you sometimes do. Once I saw that reflection flipping up, though, the whole atmosphere was filled with a sense of… what should I call it? Not menace…
I guess embarrassment is about right. Just waves of it, almost palpable, the sort of feeling you’d get walking past a butler who just ripped a big taco fart while handing his boss a brandy. I’d seen something I shouldn’t have seen, and whatever was responsible was feeling like a huge idiot for the screw-up. There definitely wasn’t any feeling that I’d pay a price for seeing it, either. It wasn’t on me.
Which is cool, because I really like that apartment, and I’d hate to have to move out. I still get that feeling sometimes, that sense that someone somewhere nearby is still blushing, but I try to act like I don’t notice. After all, everything is the way I expect it to be almost all the time, and I appreciate the effort that must be going into that.
Sometimes I do catch other little discrepancies; most of the time I can’t say for certain, or I’m pretty sure it’s just my imagination, but every once in a while I spot something that’s not right. If you turn around carefully, there’s a shadow just over there that’s not quite lined up with the light.
“Occasional Lapses in Service” ©2016 Dirck de Lint