He wiggles his toes anxiously; he knew he wouldn’t sleep tonight. His hazel eyes scan the foreign hotel room; an American in France, how typical. The sun had already faded and the night life of Paris was abuzz. Richard sat up on the bed, taking a deep breath. In the mirror of the bathroom he could see his silhouette: His lean frame, even some beads of sweat that traced his body. He knew there would not be any air conditioning, yet he still hasn’t adjusted. He moved his head to peer at the open window, the curtains move slightly from the breeze.
A sigh left his lips, as his hand moved to the nightstand; he didn’t reach for the lamp, or his glasses. Instead he grabbed his cell phone, the single device that has been torturing him his entire trip. He closed his eyes, but his fingers already knew the way to the text, the text that broke his heart. He opened his eyes, and like a recurring night terror, he read the lines of the text message from Wendy, his best friend of ten years, and first love.
I’m not looking for a commitment. He read, he knew what was said, he even predicted it. But he asked anyway; he kept reading. I don’t have those feelings to you, but I really care about you. I hope we can stay just friends, Richard.
The last line made him laugh, but not in amusement. A little known fact about the Ph.D.-to-be scholar and excellent University of Florida psychology major Richard Michaels is he has been in love with his best friend, Wendy Chambers, since grade school. And they did date briefly, much to Richard’s delight. It ended less than a year on those exact words; Wendy just wanted to be friends. After reading the text message again he muttered “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
He rose from the bed and placed the cell phone back on the night stand. He looked back at the window; maybe tonight he’ll cut loose and experience the night life of Paris for himself, instead of reading it in a book. He walked to the bathroom and turned on the light. He sniffed the air and he looked around confused. Why does it smell of freshly drawn bath water? Richard looked into the tub… There was bath water in the tub. He didn’t remember drawing a bath; he showered yesterday and only answered a few e-mails with professors today, a very relaxed and lazy day for the young scholar.
Richard looked into the mirror and could only stare at himself. Yet the face that stared back was not the expression he was giving. His own face stared back at him, with a stern look like a disappointed father about to read the riot act to his disobedient son. Richard could only stare at himself, he felt his jaw dropped but still his reflection did not mimic, it kept that look.
“Richard,” he heard his voice call. It was his voice but it was not from his mouth. It was his reflection speaking to him! “Richard, why must you torture yourself over her?”
“Oh no,” he muttered, “I’ve gone mad from grief and stress, the strain caused my brain to separate from reality, with possible acute dementia.”
“Put the Freud down, Richard and relax.”
“Relax? You aren’t real and I’m talking to you. Therefor I’m going crazy.”
“If you’re going crazy, are you really going to go crazy over some girl?”
Richard looked away from the mirror, but he was right. He raised an eyebrow and looked at himself again.
“Wait a minute; you’re my id, aren’t you?”
“It’s only been five minutes and you caught on? Impressive, Richard,” his reflection teased. “You yourself have purposed to your professors that you can bridge the conscious and unconscious mind by sheer will. Well, here I am.”
“Why are you so angry looking? I mean, why do I look so angry?” Richard asked, touching his own face.
“Because you’re all heartbroken over some girl who never loved you.”
Richard looked away again. He felt his own hazel eyes staring at himself. He made himself look back at the stern and relentless reflection.
“Think about it, Richard. If Wendy must be the catalyst for your experiment to work, then so be it. Look inside your suitcase, with those pictures.”
“How do you know…? Never mind.”
Richard knew better than to argue with his own unconscious. He finds it strange that with him moving into the next room, he could still see his reflection staring. Richard pulled out a small bundle of photos from his suitcase. He went back to the bathroom and smiled at bundle. He affectionately called them the W.A.R files (Wendy And Richard). As he smiled he looked back up at the reflection.
“You should stop smiling now and think about these photographs, Richard.”
Richard didn’t understand and pulled out the first photo. It was of Richard and Wendy when they were dating at 16, their first date at the carnival. It was nighttime, so the orange lights of the rides were a blazed in the background. He was chubbier back then, with a shaved head and no glasses, dressed in a Slipknot T-shirt and blue jeans. In his arms was his ultimate prize: Wendy. Her long auburn hair flowed like fine silk, her bright green eyes lit red from the flash. Richard’s smile got bigger as he stared; in her arms was the giant green teddy bear he won her, whom she named Anderson after her grandfather. He looked up, tears threatening his eyes.
“Good times,” he choked.
His reflection gently shook his head, “Only for you. You are forgetting the Johari window.”
Richard took a quick, deep breath and braced himself. He knew his unconscious was about to crash this beautiful memory.
“I know the window,” Richard told himself, “The window shows what is known to the self, to others and what is unknown to the self and others. So what is unknown to me?”
The reflection points to the picture. “When did you date Wendy?”
“When we were 16.”
“How long did you try to date her before?”
“We were best friends since we were 12. I found romantic feelings for her when we were 13, so about three years.”
The reflection gave a smirk, Richard’s eyes widen. He didn’t like where this was going, and he subconsciously knew where he was going.
“What were the events that led to you dating Wendy, our first love?”
Richard shook his head; he understood where his unconscious was leading. He tried to look away but he felt his eyes stare harder on him; he flinched under his own gaze. Finally, Richard looked back at himself.
“Her father died, she was moving to a different city, her first love was in a different state…” his voice trailed off. He could see his reflection nodding. Richard spoke again with sudden realization, “She never loved me that way.”
“Oh look, a shade under a decade. Took you that long to realize it?”
Richard ignored his own comment, “She merely dated me because I was on the thing constant in her life. She saw me as something familiar in a time of unfamiliarity, so she clung to me simply out of psuedosurivual.”
“And she got familiarized with her new surroundings, found a way to get back with Casey and left you in a collective thought.”
“For Freud’s sake, Richard, think!”
“I-I don’t understand.”
His reflection rolled his eyes. “And they say the conscious mind is the intelligent level… When you think of her, she is the one you think about. Not a time period, not a group, it is fully her. When she thinks about you it is a collective mindset: You’re from her hometown, you went to high school together, you are one of her old guy friends. She never thinks of you alone, only with a collection of other memories.”
Richard yelled and slammed his hand against the sink.
“Watch it, that’s a good sink. They don’t make them like that in America.”
Richard looked back at his reflection, his eyes filled with anger. “Why are you telling me all this?”
“Because it’s time you stop swelling on a girl who doesn’t love you and get your Ph.D. and run the psychology department like you wanted all along! You are speaking to your id, your own unconscious mind. You proved that your theory of sheer will was right. Now all you have to do is administer a few tests and record your feelings and you will be at the top of every psychology journal, every psychology case study, hell you’ll even have every sex craved grad student at the mercy of your other “experiments”.”
Richard smiled. He did have a theory on sexuality and culture that he personally wanted to administer. Maybe he was right. Maybe dwelling on Wendy has stopped him from performing at his potential. After all, that’s the whole reason he came to France, just to take pictures and put them on Facebook and make Wendy jealous. But then he looked back at the pictures. The smiles that beamed back at him, his own, true and just, and Wendy’s… whether for the time or for love, she was smiling. That was all that mattered to him. Richard looked back up at his reflection.
“All the psychology, all the philosophy… None of it matters when it’s the matter of the heart.”
Richard walked back out of the bathroom. He stared out of the window. Should he continue his running after a woman who will never love him back or start living the live he knows he was made for? From the bathroom he heard him speak.
“You should take a bath. I think Jim Morrison died of a broken heart.”