Last weekend, I visited a new deli for the first time, and inside I saw two vampires. They were young-looking, tall, thin and pale, and spoke only in whispers that the server heard. The two vampires leaned across the counter and whispered their orders into the server’s ear. Then the pale ones backed away and waited. Well-defined Rays of morning sun struck the floor behind them, just out of reach.
I placed my order as the non-undead tend to do – out loud and without drama. “I’ll have a buttered and toasted sesame seed bagel please,” I said, stepping back to wait next to the two vampires.
The small deli was loud with sounds of the Sunday breakfast crowd. The boys waited in silence, and they made no eye contact, not even with each other. They dressed alike. Black shoes with thick soles, black pants, and navy blue jackets vests, with white long-sleeve shirts, as if members of an unholy but crisply dressed gang. Or perhaps as workers in the same local store on the strip mall.
Not only did the two boys wait in silence, but they did so almost without movement. They seemed immune to the urgency that the rest of the deli found contagious. The vampires showed the patience of much older souls. I was not as patient, and my inner voyeur became intrigued with a large mirror on the wall across from the vampires. I stared at the reflections of people eating at the tables behind me.
I heard random laughter, but very few diners seemed to enjoy their breakfasts. Through the mirror, I observed food served and eaten with a sense of urgency and obligation that I found increasingly disturbing. Everybody seemed to eat as if food were something to get out of the way so they could get on with their day.
I saw a lot of things in the mirror, but what I didn’t see was a reflection of the two vampire boys in the middle of the room. I began to pace, not so much from impatience, but for alternative views of the room through the mirror. No matter what angle, the boys gave off no reflection. This is the truth. The two were literally invisible to the mirror.
A server shouted out two numbers together and placed two bags and two drinks on the counter without looking up. The two vampires walked up to the counter, and gathered their food and drinks without acknowledging the server or anyone else in the room. The mirror gave no reflection as they passed.
I watched them leave, the first boy pushed open the door, and as he did, he tapped his sunglasses with a pale finger. The glasses slid from his white forehead to the bridge of his nose. The second boy did likewise, and the two vampires walked out of the deli and into the morning sun. The undead go unnoticed, even in a busy deli, I thought.
As proof that I wasn’t seeing things – or that I was seeing things, I stepped in front of the mirror and saw only diners and tables. Even I wasn’t there. I moved closer and still saw only a room full of people having breakfast. The longer I looked into the mirror, the more I began to compare reflected images with the people behind me, until I noticed something amazing.
The people at the tables behind me didn’t match their reflections. In the mirror, I clearly saw a blonde girl wearing a red fleece jacket, tan shorts, and shoes with neon green trim. According to her reflection, she was about ten feet behind me, but when I turned around, not only was she not there, but in her place was a baby stroller.
There was one more thing left to try. I walked up to the face of the mirror and was about to reach out to touch the glass, when I noticed that the mirror was not a mirror at all, but an opening to another dining section of the deli. I had assumed that the deli was using the mirror to make the small dining space appear larger to customers. In reality, the deli had two identical dining areas separated by a wall with the middle section of the wall removed.
The reflections I’d been staring at were not reflections, but the customers on the other side of the opening. I was seconds away from the humiliation of reaching out to touch glass that wasn’t there, and poking the back of a stranger’s bald head instead. I’m thankful for small miracles.
In case anybody had seen my actions and wondered what institution I’d just escaped from, I pretended to be perfectly sane and simply looking for someone on the other side. Actually, that was not far from the truth. I had looked at two from the other side. Besides, these deli people would believe in vampires before they’d believe in vanishing mirrors. The server yelled my number.
I stood on the sidewalk feeling the burn of the sun on my face. I slid my sunglasses out of my shirt pocket and put them on, wondering what the two pale ones were thinking as they waited in silence for their orders. Were they reliving the perversities of the previous night’s activities? What orders the server really hear in their whispers? Was she one of them too? What was in those bags, or would I really want to know? And what was up with that mirror?
You can’t convince me that those two boys weren’t real. I know what I saw and I know what I didn’t see. I saw them, and I didn’t see their reflections. After not having seen my own reflection, I will for the rest of my life know what it feels like to be one of them, at least for a time. I walked down the street with a coolness not in me before my deli experience earlier that morning.
As I walked, I ripped open the bag and almost littered, but decided to stuff the paper into my pocket. I grabbed the bagel, and bit into both slices at once. I felt driven to feed by lust, not obligation. I ate that sesame bagel because I wanted to, not because I had to, and I savored every bite.
Hot butter oozed from between the bread slices and ran down my chin. I didn’t use a napkin until I had walked maybe 20 or 30 feet. And I didn’t floss until late that afternoon.