By Kip Knott
He hated to see himself growing old. To most people, he was still essentially a non-entity. But he was beginning to notice that he was becoming less than invisible, almost smoke-like, wispy even, nearly an apparition.
The day after his sixtieth birthday, he began spending long periods of time in front of the full-length mirror next to his bed, looking for any sign of himself reflecting back. If he noticed the subtlest patch of anything other than the eclectic decorations his wife had used to style their bedroom—lush Persian carpets, Rococo furniture, and Arts and Crafts wallpaper—he would shake himself vigorously as if trying to cast off the hint of a mortal coil.
Eventually, he began to venture down into the crowded subway during rush hour and drift carefully between people just to see if anyone would notice anything other than a slight rustling of their clothing. Just last week he was horrified when a beautiful woman with hair the color of autumn sugar maples stared right at him before puffing her cheeks and blowing as if to dissipate a cloud of cigarette smoke that had settled in front of her. Shaken by the incident, he fled back home and spent the day splashing in his pool with the hopes that the water would wash away whatever imperfections were clinging to his aging body.
The next day, after waking at the break of dawn just as he did every morning, he showered, padded downstairs for his usual cup of French press and croissant, and then silently ascended the stairs to surprise his wife as a he often did by whispering “Yes?” into her ear, and then gently climbing on top of her and slipping himself inside when she replied “Yes.” This was her favorite way to wake up, and normally she would stretch her arms out from her sides as if flying because she was unsure of where exactly to place them around her unseen lover. But this time, she lifted her hands and began to run her fingers through his wavy locks and caress his neck as he arched his back with every thrust. For a moment, he became completely enraptured with the sensation of her fingers untangling the strands of his hair, the heat of her soft palms on the nape of his neck.
When he realized what such precise touches meant, however, he recoiled, fell prostrate at her feet, and lay there for a time like a blanket kicked off during the night. He did not move a muscle when his wife reached down to console him by stroking his smoke-gray face.
“You see me?”
“I see you.”
“Do you still love me?”
In the brief pause before the words “I still love you” slipped from his wife’s lips, he saw himself clearly in the mirror and recognized nothing.
Kip Knott is a writer, photographer, teacher, and part-time art dealer living in Delaware, Ohio. His debut collection of stories, Some Birds Nest in Broken Branches (Alien Buddha Press), is available on Amazon. His writing has appeared in Beloit Fiction Journal, HAD, Jellyfish Review, MoonPark Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review.