The Mirror of Dorian Gray
Sarah Anderson* Flash Fiction by Karen Wojcik Berner
My three-year-old and his teddy bear leap onto my bed, dangerously close to my head, and jolt me out of a deep sleep. Soon, my bladder reminds me that I am awake and must move. The morning routine begins. I rinse my eyes and look in the mirror to see what alien life form I resemble with my bed head. Something sparkles in the mirror. I don’t remember adorning myself with glitter, so I look again.
Oh, Lord, it’s a gray hair.
This cannot be. I'm only in my early (very early) thirties. I check my head again and confirm the sad fact. I grab to pluck it out, then remember my mom telling me that her mother said to never pluck a gray hair out because it will return thricefold. That can't be true, so I tempt fate.
Over the next few days, the scenario repeats itself. Look in the mirror. Pluck it out. Claim temporary victory over the aging process. I ask my husband if he notices any gray. He says no. I ask friends and relatives who reply the same. Yet, every time I glance in the bathroom mirror, I see more. Only I, while looking in my mirror of Dorian Gray, am painfully aware of how I am aging day after day.
For those of you who don't remember, The Picture of Dorian Gray is Oscar Wilde’s book about a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. In return, only his portrait ages. Now, I have no plans to sell my soul for anything. My common sense tells me that growing old is inevitable and that with age comes a wisdom and serenity that escapes most of us at this age, which is certainly something to welcome and even to celebrate.
Then my vanity takes over, followed closely by fear. Plain and simple, I am scared of getting old. I saw how it incapacitated my grandparents. Time is flying by so quickly these days that before I know it, my son will be getting married, and I’ll be checking out retirement communities. That realization is painful enough without having to face a daily affirmation of my mortality courtesy of my bathroom mirror. No, I will not accept this gray hair. I choose to do battle with these intruders.
Another few weeks go by. I have mastered grabbing the gray hair with one hand and executing a quick pull. It is swift, clean, and efficient. This technique allows only the gray one to be yanked, instead of sacrificing two or three precious brown strands.
They are coming fast and furious now. So much so that when I go for a haircut, I tell my stylist I'm thinking of coloring my hair to cover all of the gray. She fluffs it around and says she doesn't think that's necessary. I must be hallucinating. When I return home, I look in the mirror and, sure enough, there they are glistening away in the bathroom light, taunting me.
My friend Annie comes over, and I tell her my sad tale. She asks to see the mirror. I take her into the bathroom. She lets out a yelp, but instead of being frightened by my decaying reflection, says “Good God, it’s bright in here. No wonder you can see every gray on your head.”
Can this be? I quickly replace them as soon as she leaves and smile at all of the brown hair reflected in the mirror.
I have won.
Copyright ©2014 by Karen Wojcik Berner. All rights reserved.
*To read more of Sarah's story, click here. She is the co-protagonist of my first novel, A Whisper to a Scream, and of the digital short "A Bibliophile Christmas."