This week’s prompt from my Florida writers’ group is to write a story, fewer than five hundred words, for STROLL, a local publication.
A friend I met sixty-five years ago in high school will soon celebrate his eightieth birthday, as I will shortly afterwards. We stood up for each other at our weddings, and I did that again at his second wedding, a few years after his first wife passed. He named his first son after me. I have two daughters, neither of whom is named for him, but they love him dearly.
A long-since retired art teacher, he is a painter of some renown, with water-colours hanging in the homes of several distinguished collectors, including the recently-crowned King Charles III. Likewise retired, I am the author of eighteen books of fiction, with worldwide sales numbering…I don’t know, in the hundreds? Maybe? Anyway, both of us garner numerous hits on various search-engines.
My friend was always a personable and handsome man, and he knew it. In our younger years, it used to be said of him that he never met a looking-glass he didn’t like. Mutual friends would joke that he’d never be alone as long as he could find a mirror. When we’d stroll downtown together, I’d laughingly reproach him for constantly checking his reflection in storefront windows.
“It’s never going to get any better,” I’d chide. “Gravity wins!”
He’d flash his trademark crooked smile. “Yeah, but we don’t have to let it pull us down, right?” And he’d steal another quick glance at the window.
I met my friend for coffee at The Forum the other day, and as I was parking, I saw him waiting on the sidewalk for me, studying his image in the restaurant’s plate-glass window. Indeed, I saw myself growing larger in that same reflection as I walked over to join him.
Clapping an arm around his stooped shoulders, I crooned an off-key variation on a Carly Simon hit from days gone by—You’re so vain, you prob’ly think you look amazing…
Leaning into me, he chuckled ruefully. “Yeah, once upon a time, I guess. But d’you know what I was thinking just now, watching you come up behind me?”
“Let me guess,” I ventured. “You were probably hoping this weird-looking old guy approaching you would spring for coffee today.”
“Not a bad idea,” he laughed. “But no, I was actually thinking how happy I am to see you. The day is coming when one of us will be staring at a reflection like this, and the other one won’t be there.”
“There’s a happy thought,” I said. But, alas, I knew it to be true.
For several moments, both of us examined our images in the glass—slightly bent, frailer than we’d like, each leaning a little on the other. When we turned to hug one another, it was a long hug. A moist-eyed hug.
And then we went for coffee. My treat.