Instagram: The Diabolical Mirror

2.

I wonder if I’ve become a kind of Max Cady figure for her. Perhaps I am representative of old misdeeds and have turned up, winking and flashing like a bad penny.

I saw the tissue of her Instagram as being something like a lid that she’s fashioned to clamp down on top of all the demons that came barrelling out when she fell in love with me. 

Perhaps I carry the image of a girl she wants to forget; who told constant lies, actually stole money from me while I was supporting her through university, threw tantrums (some of them violent), threatened to throw herself off the balcony, cut herself with knives in the heat of arguments, induced the neighbours to call the police, and looked ugly in the mirror when she cried. That girl is hidden, suffocated, drowned.

In one of our final conversations, I told her how much I loved her and how much she was hurting me.

“There is nothing I can do to change that now,” she said, flat and rhythmic, like she was reciting a mantra, or praying. “I’m putting it behind me.”

“But I’m suffering.”

Again, the refrain:

“There’s nothing I can do about that now. I am putting it behind me.”

Those sentences don’t return as a dissipated echo. They come up like a wall; rear back like a fist.

And there I sat, stalking her on Insta while listening to Whitney Houston and suddenly I’m saved, roaring up from the cold floor of the cavern, moments from impact, by an updraft of laughter at what a desperately ridiculous person I am.

I’m awake, but this vision might just as well be a dream. I’m hurtling through the dirty grey light of an empty landscape, and it’s part of one perpetual dawn – or dusk – I don’t know which, but it doesn’t matter. The windscreen is so clear as to be an optical illusion. The motor roars high and smooth.

There is nothing but a future, enclosed in the black seam of the horizon where sky meets land, somewhere at the interminable end of the black snake of road.

This seam is also an optical illusion, but my primal self believes in it, and as a result of the speed or the horizon, there is the flicker of some kind of guttering impulse that I suspect is hope.

I have come to believe that hope is an instinct.  

**

Later that morning, I caught up with a friend of mine. He is thirty-one, the same age as Y -. I went to his wedding a year ago and his wife has just given birth to their first child. We sat on a bench in the park and had a coffee for the first time in months.

I started rambling, recounting this stuff, half-crazy from lack of sleep. Then, I remembered myself. He listened politely, despite the fact he had actually gone through a legitimate transformation. And, despite my vanity, I was far more interested in the birth of his child.

He invited me to go back to his apartment to meet his son. It was a newborn baby; those things all look like undercooked loaves of bread. Liam’s wife was in the shower and the baby was in its bassinet.

“Would you like to hold him?” asked Liam.

“No.”

Then, I thought, ‘Come on Jarrod, you know to support the head. What’s it going to do? Burn you?’ Liam lifted his son into my arms and I held the baby, feeling like a janitor surprised by an audience, pinned beneath the spotlight.

There were no tears, and at the sound of my voice, the child rolled his head around, questing with eyes the colour of a stainless-steel mirror. He zoned in on my face, expression blank and open as a flower.

And then, I thought, ‘What the hell have I been doing with my life? How can I have got this wrong, time after time?’

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