Once, while in a small room, I looked upon the refection of a man sitting behind me. He was taking his coffee alone, and had his head down. As I looked at him in the mirror that contained only him, and the background of an otherwise empty room, I saw he was staring into the black circular disk that was the surface of his untouched coffee.
He surrounded the cup and drew upon its warmth. The vessel moved in his hands, and the black disk held fast within. His shoulders commanded the muscles in his arms, which in turn told his hands what his brain intended them to do.
I watched, lost, pulled away from myself, and completely entranced with his motion, and my own cathartic impression of his private and most personal moment. I was stealing from him. Plucking his seconds out of the air from above and taking what wasn’t mine, like stealing sleep from a dog for the pleasure of waking it.
The mirror made it safe, keeping me far from his person so I could comfortably practice my selfish voyeurism. The man kept at it, as if in time with a silent sonata unwinding in his head. His face was long, and composed of small strait lines that compressed upon themselves, his skin like pale wrinkled parchment.
Within the rhythm of his movement I could sense a timed flaw, one that gave away his age, or possible failing health. It was subtle, easy to miss if a person wasn’t investing the time to observe. This bump in his equilibrium began to stand out as I kept time with its occurrence. It soon stood out for me like a scratch on a record. It was a pop within the smooth flow of time and motion. An interference that took away from the canvas like a misplaced brushstroke or a dropped hair embedded in paint.
I looked down, and away, a rush of shame swelling up in me, like I had pried too far, or seen too much by looking to long and hard at something I shouldn’t be. My subconscious had forgotten about the safety of the mirror, and pulled me back into myself. I blushed with displaced shame and defensively moved my eyes around the small room in a skittish manner. I was filled with a feeling of reduction and selfish conviction. The man was oblivious.
For a few seconds I turned around to look at him without the use of the mirror, almost as if I sensed he didn’t exist, like I needed to affirm he really was there. He was. When my eyes fell on him he stopped moving and it broke the moment in half, snapping it apart, and ruining it. I looked away and picked up my own cup to take in the tepid over-creamed coffee that warranted my attendance. The man was looking at me I could feel his eyes rubbing against the back of my head and over my shoulders. I arched my spine and pushed my feet firmly into the soles of my shoes.
I blinked a few times and realized I was looking at nothing. I saw nothing at all as I had completely receded deep into myself. My eyes were open but they were not seeing. It took me some time to refocus, and when I looked back into the mirror. The old man was gone. His coffee cup left behind.