Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

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Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Vessel

Karina looked in the mirror and wondered when she got old. It wasn’t yesterday. It wasn’t that morning. When, then? Yesterday she was walking the dog, briskly, feeling the morning sun on her face, a knitted hat keeping the tangle of her hair under control while it kept her ears warm. She had gone out to the Mortons’ dinner party with Ralph, feeling sleek and sexy in her black satin cocktail dress. This morning she had lain in a bath of mango-scented mousse and read a few chapters in a novel, and had not felt old. Even seeing her reflected nakedness in the big bathroom mirror had not convinced her otherwise.

But here in the Simon’s dressing room, squeezed into an outfit meant for a girl a third her age, she suddenly realized she had made a mistake. She wasn’t 25 anymore; she couldn’t pretend that she was. Her hair, naturally curly, looked like a witch’s thatch, the skin on her arms was loose, and her breasts sagged. Where was the flat stomach she had always prided herself on maintaining? An old woman stared back at her from the mirror, skin pouched under the eyes, jowls instead of a smooth jaw line, and her neck a mess of ropey wattles. Her eyes filled with tears and she changed back into her own clothes, sniffling.

“What’s the matter, Kar?” asked Ralph as she emerged from the dressing room. “Are you crying?”

Karina handed the clothes to the clerk and took her husband’s arm. “Let’s get out of here,” she said quietly. “I don’t belong in this place.”

“Want to get a coffee?” asked Ralph. Karina nodded and sniffled again.

Later in the coffee shop, over their lattes, she told her husband about her experience in the dressing room. “I don’t know if it was the light in there or if I’ve been deluding myself for years now,” she mused, “but I suddenly realized that my body has gotten old. I still feel good, but I look awful.”

“No you don’t,” soothed her husband. “You’re beautiful!”

Karina smiled. “You say that because you love me,” she said. “It’s sweet, but not realistic.”

Ralph sighed. “Don’t be so down on yourself,” he admonished. “All those flaws you think you saw: you’re the only one who sees them. You’re being overly critical of the vessel housing your spirit. It’s inevitable that our bodies are going to age. Human beings have built-in obsolescence. But no one really notices it. They’re seeing your soul shine through your eyes, hearing the love in your voice. Your body, how you choose to clothe it, isn't really important. It’s you we love, I love.”

Karina looked up from her coffee, eyes bright, and smiled.

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