Fiction from Soramimi Hanarejima
After we switch reflections to see what that’s like, you leave the bathroom. I follow you into the kitchen where you fix us a snack. I guess you’re hungry and assume we’ll switch back later in the afternoon. We don’t. But that’s fine. I’m not particularly attached to my reflection and having yours instead is a refreshing change.
A week later, it still is. And makes for a nice surprise this afternoon when I see your reflection in the café window to my left, sitting in front an identical ceramic cup and little table—seemingly outside in the afternoon sun, which gives her the air of a habitual sidewalk coffee drinker. This is the best case scenario, her as a subtle and unobtrusive presence. With little risk of attracting unwanted attention. Much better than the odds in places that put mirrors and multiple people in close proximity. Wary of such spaces, I try to use out-of-the-way or single-occupancy restrooms (one of the draws of this café) and avoid restaurants with mirror-paneled walls.
As she and I now lift coffee cups to our own lips, it’s like I’m seeing into another world where you’re living my life, these two worlds connected wherever a reflective surface allows light to move between them. This makes me want to tell your reflection that she doesn’t have to copy all my movements; that she can just go about her day in the other world. But I worry that she’ll be out of practice and won’t imitate you properly when we switch back—whenever that will be; or that she’ll disappear into the other world, go someplace within it that bathroom mirrors won’t show me, leaving me to go around this world with a mirror in search of her.
I take a gulp of coffee, then put the cup down and think maybe it’s you who will vanish, whisked away by wizards to fight a war in a magical kingdom you’ve always secretly been heir to—leaving me with your reflection, to bear distant witness to how the years change your appearance; to show your adoptive parents what you look like in that faraway land, the three of us peering into your reflection’s eyes, searching for a glint of happiness, their shoulders pressed to mine as we learn toward the bathroom mirror—as you hoped we would when you planned the reflection swap; knowing that you would one day take up the responsibilities required by your ancestral homeland, you made this trade to leave part of yourself in this world—maybe a disturbing part for me as your reflection remains young while I age, because time passes differently where you are, sticking me with a constant reminder of our youth (except during the couple weeks I see a fox in the mirror when you must keep yourself disguised deep within enchanted woods). Only years later will I suspect that you took my reflection as a keepsake of what you had in this world: acceptance, belonging, understanding, compassion—connection. Everything that has existed between us. What everyone searches for but we somehow found and you must hold on to the memory of.
And what if you don’t vanish, but still we don’t—can’t switch back? Will there be days when I don’t want to look in the mirror and avert my gaze from anything remotely reflective? Maybe after some argument or a major decision I/you don’t agree with. My heart wincing when I unwittingly catch a glimpse of her on the window of a passing car. The connection between us yanking at my heartstrings with a painful force previously unknown to me. Evidence of our bond’s strength, of how the image of you on silvered glass has the power to comfort and hurt like nothing else—a revelation that the fundamental nature of our relationship has long since been determined, and there is now only how it plays out. Here, that means simply sharing these idle minutes with your reflection, the latest of many tethers to you—wherever you are.
Soramimi Hanarejima is the author of Visits to the Confabulatorium, a fanciful story collection that Jack Cheng said, “captures moonlight in Ziploc bags.” Soramimi’s recent work can be found in [PANK], Every Day Fiction, Fiction Kitchen Berlin and Tahoma Literary Review.