FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR
I try to concentrate somewhere in the past, but everything that comes to my mind is very remote, fragments of insignificant and meaningless things.
I make a mental effort to regroup ideas and bring them back to the mind to relive things I have done, the things I have not done, the things they have done to me and the things I have said, the things I did not say or the things they have told me.
I know that I am a professor of Philosophy and that I am currently through the Post-Socratic Period – skepticism, epicureanism, stoicism – in a public college and I also know that I hate inattentive and disinterested students. Who knows, perhaps, that this is not the reason for this ridiculous situation I am in?
Let’s see, Janus (this is the student’s name) deliberately – I believe – confused Marcus Aurelius, the sage with Marcus Aurelius, the emperor, who came to this world with a difference of two hundred years and a thousand different purposes! He heard the righteous outrages of me, who spent years on books or treatises, and had the guts to answer that “Philosophy is a science with which or without which the world continues as it is”.
A real rascal, this Janus. I should have killed him on the spot.
It’s like telling a gardener that his bed of roses looks like a garden of cabbages or to the organist at the Milan Cathedral that his interpretation of Pachelbel sounds like a drunken accordionist in the Latin Quarter.
But warlike intentions or verbal offenses apart, I would never dare to lay a hand on him – even though he deserved it – for cherishing my job in college even with the meager remuneration that is rightfully mine and the poor recognition of the society, the students and even the director or the Department.
Or would it be the dentist I dared to trouble on a Saturday after midnight, probably already dressed in pajamas, socks and cap, that for vengeance extracted a molar that had the health of a horse’s tooth for not properly diagnosing a simple (simple!?) neuralgia in the trigeminal nerve?
The pain ceased on Sunday after the pharmacist on duty prescribed something based on carbamazepine, which sounds like a kind of pizza flavor but proved to be a potent painkiller.
I had the urge to go to the dentist’s office to tear out his gullet and I only did not do it because the hole left by the extracted tooth was still bleeding a lot as I stirred and also by the pleas if my wife. In fact, I do not remember now that I ever have done justice against that scoundrel.
It may also be the seller of life insurance policies that bothered me at lunch time two or three times a week during the pasture itself or – worse – during the traditional and therapeutic siesta.
I once told him for the thousandth time that I would not get any life insurance, since I did not think I would die so soon and he – maybe trying to be funny – said “This, we can handle…”
I do not remember if I lost my temper with all this, but surely my homicidal instincts came to mind.
The night now comes at once, and my interlocutor in the parlor has already vanished like the rest of the shadows. Now, some dim yellowish light shines on the ceiling, serving as a reference and helping me locate the chair where I sit exhausted and disoriented.
I hear behind me a key whirring in a medieval lock and then two totally white ghosts invade my loneliness, now they are three, then they are four, and they grab me brutally and immobilize me like a paramilitary group would do to some criminal.
Two of them hold me energetically, one of them stretches my arm forcefully and discourages me from wrestling while the fourth man in white sticks a needle in my arm causing a piercing pain that makes me roar like a bull being castrated.
A slight glance at the parlor shows an odd scene in the twilight of the room: my interlocutor is also grappling with some men in white who finally let him free at the same time that my executioners drop me prostrated in the chair.
Finally, I understand that the parlor is nothing more than a huge mirror and that my interlocutor is me.
I hear voices that resound as if it they were strokes from a bell inside my skull – one said “Leave him there so that he can calm down. Tomorrow we can transfer him to a room”, and another voice replied “But I recommend that he be tied with leather straps as he can become dangerous again…”
It becomes a heavy silence and before my consciousness dies away I picture myself strangling my neighbor who used to practice lyrical singing on Sundays early in the morning.