She stands before me. No smile graces her lips. Her face is as slack and unmoving as death: first young, then aged, the years morphing through a kaleidoscopic march of time to go around and come around again. But her eyes shine with unwavering life. It anchors my gaze. My curiosity sticks to it like glue.
What does she want? There’s a question lying somewhere behind the irises, deep down, resting on the bottom of the black pools of the pupils. I can almost see it there, some pearlescent sheen reflecting the beacon light of my interest.
Then a familiar voice brushes my mind, a faraway breath whispering, “Who am I? Do you dare?”
I study her face again. Nothing in her expression has changed, but the gauntlet has been laid. Something hitches in my chest: a fluttering. A desperate little bird clings to the cage bars of my ribs seeking a hasty escape. Is it excitement? Anticipation? Fear?
A deep breath releases the bird in a sigh and I briefly watch it go before returning to my quest. I do want to swim. Those black waters seem calmer now, more inviting. Less dangerous. I dip a toe meaning only to test but the water swallows me and down I go like a stone, my curiosity lending its weight as I plummet.
I search for the question I know is there. I am diving for pearls after all. The answer shines like a flashlight guiding my way. And there is the pearl. I see it just as the answer-light swallows it and it’s gone. Then the pearl-answer-light swallows the darkness, every last drop, as if parched from an unfathomable thirst. I rise to the surface without so much as a twitch as the depths and the surface have risen and descended to meet each other: to become one. I find it all right where it began.
I’m standing in front of the mirror again. My reflection still gazes serenely back at me. The question is satisfied. We aren’t quite the strangers we were. But this time we smile.