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Venus Doesn’t Glitter

by Earl Carrender


A blue planet labeled "Venus"

Earl is a Graduate student in the M.F.A. program at Butler University. His work has appeared in The Fioretti, BENT and on the Bilerico Project.

 
It is said that a mirror cannot lie. This mirror, secured by a wood frame, hung across the entire length of one wall. It reflected the empty room—the empty chair bought second-hand, the grey carpet stained with red wine, the T.V. blank and mute. The mirror reflected the open door that led out to the patio and the street beyond.

Two teenage boys on the street below were working on the engine of an old four-door Ford, found on road dead. The Christmas tree stood in the corner of the room, long strands of white light sparkling round it. Three gifts wrapped neatly lay beneath.

Snow blanketed the patio floor and the banister near where a man, dressed in loose-fitting flannel, stood smoking a cigarette, the light from the end of the cigarette flickering as he inhaled deeply, the smoke rising from his lungs and released into the frigid air. He paced back and forth, paused to lean over the banister and tossed the cigarette to the ground the flame extinguished, the ash lay black upon the fresh white snow. He paused, again, to stare up a moment at the crescent moon hanging bright before him. Above the moon stood Venus, far away though shining brightest; Jupiter at her side; two bright eyes shining above the frowning moon.

Some say this was the light that led the Magi to the Christ child.

Some say Venus could never be true; given in marriage to a lame god she could never love disfigured as he was. Beside him Venus could not shine.

Who said love is blind?

The room, reflected in the mirror, was empty and like the moon seemed perfectly still. Red pillows lay on the floor before the T.V. A small oak breakfast table with two small matching chairs sat beneath the mirror. On the table there lay an employee ID card bearing the man’s face, his name—Raphael Jones—and his place of employment. Beneath the ID card lay a paperback copy of Lorca’s Poet in New York, Frederico’s dark, Andalusian features and heavy-lidded eyes immersed in burnt sienna.

The mirror once more reflected the semi-dark and semi-empty room, empty because it once more was void of life; semi-empty because once more it contained only furnishings. But Raphael returned, scratching his back, and glanced at the clock that had just struck twelve. He descended the stairs, disappeared from the mirror’s reflection, his body lowered slowly from view and was then gone. Again, for one brief moment, the mirror reflected the empty room until Raphael ascended the stairs once more.

But he was no longer alone. Another man—wearing a light blue sweater under a black leather jacket, gloves and fashionable jeans—ascended the stairs behind him. The man removed his leather jacket and lay it down on the chair that Raphael bought second hand. The man sat on the leather sofa as Raphael walked across the room and disappeared from the mirror’s reflection.

The man glanced over and looked at his own reflection. He looked and saw the hair with a will of its own and turning gray, the eyes distorted behind wire-rimmed glasses. He looked and saw the loose-fitting blue sweater, fit loosely to cover the weight that had appeared, been lost with some effort then reappeared the last few years. He looked and saw the deep lines that creased his brow, damp with perspiration. He looked and saw the scar gotten from a bike fall when he was twelve years old. He looked and saw the stained smile from years of smoking, a habit begun at fourteen. He looked and saw the endless circles with no beginning and no end under his eyes. He looked and saw Raphael reappear beside him, offering a glass of red wine.

The two men turned, their twin image reflected in the dark glass, and sat once more on the black leather sofa. Each man sipped slowly from the glass in his hand then set the glass on the table. They each sat back, pressing their bodies deep into the recesses of the black leather sofa. The two men sat side by side on the black leather sofa, two silhouettes nearly indistinguishable in the light, lips parted in conversation and nervous laughter. Raphael stared out, eyes cast at the open door that led to the patio. It was snowing again, sparkling white against the black sky and the glare of the street light. The man sat beside him, stared into the distance of Raphael’s eyes and smiled. Raphael returned the man’s smile and then his kiss.

Raphael looked at the man and saw what he had been looking for. Raphael looked and saw what he wanted to see.

The man looked at Raphael and saw what he had been looking for. The man looked and saw what he needed to see.

Who said love is blind?

Raphael turned off the computer then turned off the TV. He leaned over in the near darkness and pulled the man closer to him. They kissed, their arms round each other locked in the eternal knot. They stood and stumbled over clothes tossed on the floor, stained with red wine and walked to the bedroom, passed the mirror, eyes cast down.

Soon, the light of the moon and stars began to dim as the sun rose casting shadows in the empty room and on the ground below where the snow sparkled frozen and white like hope, like innocence, like death. The moon, the stars and Venus faded as Jupiter left her side and the sky turned violet and blue. Dawn—mother of the four winds, bearer of new beginnings—came in through the window like she lost the keys.

Red pillows lay on the floor before the TV. A small oak breakfast table with two small matching chairs sat beneath the mirror. On the table there lay an employee ID card and beneath the ID card lay a paperback copy of Lorca’s Poet in New York, Frederico’s dark, Andalusian features and heavy-lidded eyes immersed in burnt sienna. The computer sat on the glass table. The clock ticked away the time.

After they woke, as they dressed, they avoided each other. They stumbled over clothes tossed upon the floor stained with red wine; their fingers stumbled to fasten fashionable jeans and a leather jacket casually discarded the night before. Raphael stood and watched as the man descended the steps and disappeared from view. He stood and let the man walk away. Like the one before him. And the one before him. And the one before him.

Walk away…

No matter who he is he is never the one.

Who said love is blind?

Raphael stood in the empty room alone again. He looked and faced the man in the mirror. He looked and saw the weight he bore for twenty-seven years. He looked and felt as old as the other man appeared. He looked and saw ages before him. He looked and saw himself at seventeen when he knew the truth. He looked and saw dark, Andalusian features. He looked and saw heavy-lidded eyes immersed in burnt sienna. He looked and saw a man disfigured, beside whom no one could shine.

Raphael walked away. He walked across the empty room.

The mirror reflected the empty room.
The empty chair bought second-hand.
The grey carpet stained with red wine.
The TV blank and mute
It is said that a mirror cannot lie.


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