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The Man in the Mirror

BY JOEL HUNT

It has been years, but even now I go to the bathroom every once in a while just to see myself in the mirror. I’ve never told my story to anyone since no one would ever believe it. But keeping an experience like this cooped up within me for fifty years is getting to me, so I’ve decided to write it down and tell my lawyer to reveal it to my family after my death, which is very near.

Fifty years ago, on my twenty-fifth birthday, I was the happiest man on the planet. I had everything going for me, I had a fantastic job, the car of my dreams, and a mansion fit for a king. But I had a secret, a very dark one too. My meteoric rise should have been proof enough, but sometimes people think as foolishly as they are smart and that is one of the great ironies of life. Anyway, everyone thought that I was a genius when the truth was that I was a mediocre person, with an evil mind.

When I had still been in college I had saved a man’s life by taking him to my house and taking care of him till he recovered. This, in itself, was not strange but the condition in which I had found him and his feeble voice begging me not to take him to a hospital, should have warned me that something wasn’t right. The man was lying in an open sewage outlet with bruises all over his face and cuts on his body. His clothes struck me as being misfits for the locality in which he was lying. His hair was well cut, he was wearing a well-fitting black Armani suit, and looked and spoke as if he came from an extremely affluent and upper-class family.

Seeing him lying in a sewage outlet, I stopped my car and dragged him into it. At first I thought he was almost dead, but when I got him into the car, he opened his eyes and told me feebly not to take him to a hospital. His tone was such that you could not argue with him, even in that condition. So I did the next best thing and took him home. After taking care of him for about a month, he told me who he was and when he came, the truth could not have been more shocking. The man whose life I had saved was none other than the dreaded Mafiosi Leonardo Gotti! He had been deceived by his half-brother Alessandro , beaten and left to die; and since I had saved Leo’s life, he owed me everything according to the Mafia’s Code of Honor. Seeing such an opportunity, I asked him to make me one of the richest and most powerful men in the city, to which he gladly agreed. In time Leonardo Gotti got his revenge and gained his rightful position in the Cosa Nostra by killing Alessandro Gotti. Leonardo kept his promise and that was why I felt like the king of the world at twenty-five.

Then one morning, the day after my twenty-fifth birthday, when I went to the bathroom for a wash and looked in the mirror, I got the shock of my life. It was not me but an old haggard man that was staring back! Terrified, I ran from one mirror to another, but in every mirror that I looked into, I saw my own face. How could this be? I was so afraid I didn’t go back to the bathroom.

That same day, when I was returning from a walk, I felt someone was walking next to me and when I turned to look – there he was! The same old man! It was driving me crazy. I saw him in my sleep as well. I didn’t know what to do; I couldn’t tell anyone, I had no friends or family (Mr. Gotti had requested me to stay away from people on a personal level). The next day when I was driving back from work, I saw him again. This time he was sitting in the back seat. I stopped the car, turned around and asked him in a state of near-madness who he was and what he wanted.

“Can’t you recognize me? Look at yourself and then you’ll know who I am,” he replied.

I stopped for a minute and thought, oh my God! It was me! That was my future!

“But what are you doing here?” I asked.

“I’ve come to take you away from the life you’re living. Come with me.”

I was frightened, but I went. The old man took me to the houses of each person whom Mr. Gotti had destroyed.

“But why me? I didn’t do anything!” I pleaded.

Yes, you did. You saved Gotti’s life and then joined him. You’re becoming more and more like him and if you don’t stop now, this will be your end,” and saying this he showed me a strange vision of a man being murdered by the people with whom he was walking. I mustered some courage and went up to the man who had been shot, and it was my own face that I looked into!

“No! I want to live!” I screamed.

“Then leave this country and start a new life where Mr. Gotti won’t be able to touch you!” he shouted and then he was gone.

After this terrible experience I rushed home and did exactly what the old man had ordered. I sold everything, gave the money I had to the families of Gotti’s victims and before Gotti knew what had happened, I flew off to another continent and started a new life. I heard that Gotti and his men tried to look for me, but they failed. I succeeded in making a decent living and in time became very rich and respectable too. I had changed.

Fifty, years ago, yes, all this had happened fifty years ago. Today is the day after my seventy-fifth birthday and I know my time has come. You might wonder why I chose to tell my story at all and why I didn’t take it to the grave with me. I’ll tell you why, because when I woke up this morning and went to the bathroom, I didn’t see the old man that I was. Instead I saw a youthful, happy-looking man of twenty-five who smiled and mouthed the words “Thank you” to me. It’s never too late to change, and I can bet my life on that!

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This is so good a story. I want to greet and congratulate the author for writing such a good story.                                                                                                                                                                              - Mahesh Kumar   2/21/08

 

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