I remember the day I realized that the person staring back at me in the mirror was not my reflection as I was, but as I would be.
The day before my seventh birthday I looked into the bathroom mirror after gathering my toothbrush and toothpaste, and there I was, wearing a shirt that I didn’t recognize and a conical paper hat which read Happy Birthday.
With my mouth slightly agape, I stared for a full minute before I finally began to brush. Prior to that I hadn’t paid that much attention to my reflection, and even when I’d looked in the mirror I’d only been tall enough to see my face. On that day, I couldn’t look away.
A thousand times throughout the day I stared in every reflective surface I passed, studying that boy that was me but not me. All day long I saw the long-sleeved shirt with a picture of a skateboarder, even though I wore a short-sleeved shirt with a picture of a baseball.
The next morning I’d leaped out of bed and raced to the mirror. I knew that my hair stuck up in every direction; I could look down and see my race car pajamas, but the boy in the mirror had smooth hair, freshly combed, and was wearing his, my, Sunday best.
My heart hammered in my chest.
“Drew? Are you awake?”
“Yeah, Dad!” I called, still staring in the mirror.
“Well, come on down! Your mom and I have a surprise for you!”
My strange discovery had been no match for a birthday surprise.
I hustled downstairs and was greeted with hugs and shouts of, “Happy Birthday!”
“Sit down, sit down,” my mom directed.
I sat at the table and she’d placed two boxes in front of me. One was a long, heavy package. The other was smaller, rectangular and light. I opened the heavy one first.
“A new skateboard! Awesome! Can I try it?”
My parents grinned.
“After breakfast,” my dad replied.
After hugging the skateboard and then resting it on my lap, I began to tear the paper off the second present. Once the paper had been removed, I peeled the tape off one end of the box and lifted the lid.
For several silent seconds I stared at the long-sleeved shirt with a picture of a skateboarder on the front. The same one I’d seen in the mirror the day before.
“It’s not as exciting, but we wanted you to have it for your party today,” Mom explained.
“Thanks,” I said softly, but still didn’t touch the shirt.
“Don’t you like it?” Dad asked. “Why don’t you try it on?”
“Oh, yeah, right.”
With shaking fingers, I’d peeled off my pajama shirt and replaced it with my birthday present. After smoothing my hands over the picture, I’d looked up and checked my reflection in the glass of the sliding door. The boy staring back at me wore a white collared shirt and a tie.
“And I made your favorite breakfast!” My mom placed a plate of pancakes, which had been smothered in butter and syrup, on the table in front of me.
I dove into my meal and, in the excitement of the day, forgot about the boy in the mirror, for a little while anyway.
Over the years I grew accustomed to this strange truth in my life. I began to love knowing what I would wear each morning without having to give it a second thought. Nothing else unusual ever happened so in time it became routine, mundane even, until one day I shuffled into the bathroom of my one bedroom apartment, looked into the mirror, and no one was there…
*Thanks to Babak Ghaemian, extraordinary photographer and wonderfully creative person, for the idea for this story. It looks like this will be part one of a short series. Tune in next week to see what happens…
What do you think will happen to him? Why do you think he can’t see the reflection of his future self?