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  • Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear
  • Elizabeth Perry (bio)

What can such an announcement mean? That sentence of warning shifts in its meaning as you read it, and then afterwards you feel a kind of amnesia—a blank spot—what the mirror blocked out of your view. You find that you’ve already forgotten how to see the objects.

Answer me quickly: are objects closer in the mirror?

And if he is one of those objects, right now he seems far away.

He has come around the back of the car. What does he look like in this small oval, this dust-spotted chrome frame? The white print of the warning runs across his knees, his belt, his chest. Does the warning mean that he’s farther away still, or closer than you had expected?

“Don’t you want to get out?”

His chest looks smaller in the rear-view mirror.

I give you these characters, this car, and this warning, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” I may have already deceived you.

“Don’t you want to get out?”

“In a minute,” you say, becoming the woman in the car.

Your name is Janet. Your hair is thick and stands out from your head in great black waves. You are wearing very dark brown stockings. And a green dress. Like a tree, you wonder? Yes, very much like a tree.

How can a tree go dancing?

(You have a minute to consider this. “In a minute,” you said and he seems to have granted you that.)

So you think of the wind on a warm summer night. Feel the damp green heat. Think of branches, stirring the air. Move in the wind; hold the wind to you. Think of great strength and an embrace that can encompass a part of the sky, that enormous dark sky. How tall you are, how wild, how strong. Now, get out of the car.

It’s winter in Iowa, and you tighten your white scarf before throwing it back over your shoulders. You pull your gray winter coat closer. Tall and wild and strong is suddenly hunched and tight and tentative as you cross the street with him, holding his arm.

“Watch your step,” he says.

Ice on the driveway. Ice on the steps. Ice in the drinks inside, when you get there.

“You’ll be fine,” he says.

You feel the burn of cold night air turning to the stuffed warmth of unwinding woolens in a hallway. Stamp the snow off your boots and some falls against your stockinged foot. Balance yourself into those sharp new shoes. Smile. Sniff. Thaw. [End Page 346]

Their voices and music rise and curl around the corner to meet you. Laughter teases and subsides, intertwining with woodsmoke and perfume and the odor of bodies. “I’d love a drink.” Stretch your arms down in front of you and look at the closely fitting sleeves and then read the backs of your hands. “Yes, I’d love a drink.” (Maybe watch your step meant only the walking. You mustn’t assume too much about him.)

No one is dancing here, after all, though the room is darkened, and the furniture seems pushed apart.

And the people seem pushed apart. From the hall you imagined them close to each other, gesturing, leaning toward one another in intimacy. You cool toward the room. This was not the party you’d wanted.

Could I make it another party for you? It may be too late for that. We’ve established this one together, with my words and your reading. We couldn’t ever undo it completely. The cancellation would not change your feeling of being cheated. You’d merely distrust me further, and you are already irritated by the way I keep interrupting.

He says nothing, but places the drink in your hand. Curling your fingers around the cool plastic, you feel the bubbles in the tonic bursting against the thin sides of the glass. You look into the ice cubes for pictures or portents. Nothing reveals itself. He is looking at you, and you may wonder if you are being ridiculous.

“How long do we...

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pp. 346-349
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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