Humans are both vain and insecure; in fact, two sides of the same coin. Perhaps because, too often, for me the latter outweighs the former, I don’t love looking into mirrors. I do, however, love reflections.
Some are shimmering, dancing: the light that bounces from lido water as one cuts through it; the way a sea is studded with diamonds in the distance. At home, clearing out an old chest, I found a miniature mirrorball. I have no idea where it came from, but as I placed it on the floor, intending to discard it later, the sun streamed through my window and threw bright yellow squares all across the room; the walls, the ceilings, the fireplace. I kept the mirrorball. Every time it is sunny, the room is lit up. It is stunningly beautiful and I appreciate it each time.
A little while ago in this column, I wrote about riding the night bus as, if not a cure for depression and insomnia, then a distraction, and to smuggle in some human contact in the form of the brief interaction with the driver. When the windows are black in the small hours of the morning, it is possible to see out of both sides of the bus at the same time; for neon signs that I have never noticed in daylight to catch my attention even if I am looking elsewhere. It’s dark, yet you see more.
Occasionally reflections are not so benign. I have a memory that makes me laugh out loud and, at the same time, burn with shame. About to turn the corner to meet a friend on a windswept day, I quickly crouched down to check my reflection in a car window – before realising someone was in the car, now looking askance at my looming face. This happened to a friend, too, when she was appraising her outfit in what she thought was an empty shop front, only to have a builder wave at her.
The thing about reflections is that, often, the clue is in the name. If I am looking at the surface of a lake, say, I often find myself in deep thought or concentration on the past, or the future, or all time in between. I’m not sure, but I get the feeling I am not unique in this. There is something captivating about this trick of light and science. Something transcendent.
Except for having to close the curtains to watch a television or laptop. That’s not transcendent. On reflection, that’s just annoying.