“No Way.” It was a text from my wife. I stood at an auction house in Millbrook, New York, and I sent her a photo of a “mirror with woman”—that was not its name but that’s what I thought of it as—to get her thoughts. We had a sterile loft in Dumbo, just north of the Brooklyn Bridge. I thought it would be perfect for one of the narrow spaces between the tall windows currently occupied by a large black-and-white print of which I had long tired. Abhorred even. If one can abhor a photo of the Maine coast.
“Mirror with woman” was some type of sculpture. A naked woman appears to be emerging from a body of water. Some kind of glass. She looks up, searching. Her left arm is completely above the water, and her left hand seems to be gripping something unknown. Her right arm is still partially submerged, ripples surrounding the elbow, which is below the surface. Her right hand is more open than is her left, as if trying to catch or deflect something heading towards her.
It—she—was in a heavy, mahogany frame. Victorian, perhaps, with intricate and symmetric carvings.
“No way”? My wife’s text. So I called her. “Honey. It is the coolest thing. It’d be like she is pouring into the apartment. A mermaid trapped in the East River.”
“John. That thing is not coming anywhere near this apartment. Are you nuts?”
I said I really, really wanted it and she relented. “But,” she added, “If it looks like shit on the wall it’s going out. Just don’t pay too much for it.”
And I didn’t pay too much for it. I’d been to enough of these auctions to know that interest flags late and that’s when the good deals are to be found. And I found this one. $200. Plus a 15% buyer’s premium. Now it was in the back of the Outback, carefully packed.
* * *
It didn’t look like shit. Even Susan—that’d be “Honey” in the foregoing dialogue—came to like it. Perhaps more than I did. I’d catch her sitting on a stool in the kitchen and staring at it. At Her. She stopped denying her interest in “Her”—it did not take long before we realized this was no object but a being of suspect provenance—by the third or fourth time that I caught her staring.
Susan would interrupt me at times with her latest theory. But whatever the backstory it came down to a woman searching for something. Love. Life. A lost child. A lost love. Lost life.
* * *
I had to pee. It was about 4, 4:15. Leaving the bedroom I saw that one of us had, I thought, left a light on in the great room. But it was Susan. She’d taken a stool from the kitchen. It was a couple of feet away from Her and Susan was lost in Her. She didn’t notice my presence until I asked, nervously, “Honey?”
She shook. “Just lost in thought.” She was embarrassed and quickly replaced the stool and rushed past me to our bedroom. I turned off the great-room light, peed, and returned to bed. Susan was asleep. Or pretending to be.
It was the following Saturday when whatever happened happened. We were heading out to Jerry and Beth’s place in Sag Harbor. I had my overnight bag packed when Susan said in the bedroom, “I can’t go.”
Something was wrong. “I don’t know what it is. I just know that it is.”
As I dialed Jerry to tell him we couldn’t make it because something-had-come-up, she left. When I got to the great room she was standing in front of Her. Rubbing Her face gently. I heard a faint whisper: “I will help you.”
She collapsed. EMTs were on site within eight minutes of my 911 call, and Susan was in the ER twenty minutes later after we wailed through early-Saturday Brooklyn-traffic. The tests showed nothing. Doctors from a myriad of departments were called in, to consult about or to gawk at my wife. Her vitals were strong. Nothing elevated. Nothing depressed. The guess, and it was just that, was a temporary loss of oxygen.
Three hours after being rushed in, Susan awoke as if nothing had happened to her. Surprised when told where she was and how and why she got there, she just wanted to get home. She was discharged after promising to immediately call 911 if it happened again, even if she just felt faint. We haled a cab and were home about twenty minutes later. I didn’t notice until I looked to the window. Susan was smiling. She was staring at the mirror and she was smiling. And the mirror was a mirror. She was gone. And Susan was smiling.
Submitted for Miranda Kaye’s Prompt 112. June 19, 2019.