The Mirror / Зеркало

“Your backyard, and the dining room, and the voice of your elders chatting at the light of a dim candle: they’re gone now.”

The Mirror (2016) Tribute to Andrei Tarkovsky and Yuri Norstein

I’m sorry, boy; I let you down. I betrayed the promises I made you long ago when time seemed boundless and all the choices were there for you to make them. I smashed half of your dreams and the other half went lost. They’re gone like yellow leaves on a rainfall. Sorry because I know you were expecting something different, something better, maybe a little more normal, but I chose for you, I lived for you. All you were once is gone now.

I shattered all of your toys, one by one, pitilessly. I gave away all your books; Grammars, Sputniks, and Misha magazines: They’re gone. I smashed your old projector and tore the filmstrips to pieces. I cursed the stories you watched and read; Snegurochka, the little horses, and the bogatyrs: They’re all gone. I burnt your mom’s passport and ripped apart her diploma from the Pushkin Institute in Moscow. I tore to pieces her winter coats and cut open the stuffed bear she brought you from Leningrad. I melted down the 38 model-planes that you so carefully assembled on your kitchen table, at the light of a poor lamp. I gave back to the sea all your shells; your entire collection of multi-colored shells is lost forever. There’s nothing left but poetry and sadness on your childhood bookshelves.

I forgot how it felt to have a home; your backyard, and the dining room, and the voice of your elders chatting at the light of a dim candle: they’re gone now. I removed your family photos and the paintings you stared at for so long. I muted the sounds of the languages you wanted to learn. I washed away from our memories the bittersweet melody of the words mama, babushka, and dedushka. I deleted the joyful music of your name’s diminutive. I erased all of your grandpa’s stories: the whales he never met, the polar bears he never saw, and the treasures he couldn’t find.

I forgot about the scent of rain, and the white hens, and their soaked chicks. I forgot how it felt to wait for the first May rainfall, so you could eat ripe mangoes. I forgot how beautifully simple it was for us to roll down the grassy hills at your uncle’s farm. I forgot how it felt to run naked and laughing in your backyard. I can’t recall how pure your body was, untouched by life and age. I can’t remember anything: neither the flavor of the saltwater nor the sweetness of grandma’s rice pudding.

I can’t remember your girlfriend’s first kiss. I can’t remember her face, nor her name, nor when you met each other. She’s not her anymore. She’s no one. She’s gone. I forgot the name of your classmates –even your closest friends–, and I erased the name of your bullies –even the worst torturers. I washed away every memory and every dream and every confession. I erased everything you once stood by.

Then, in a magnificent finale, I erased your homeland: Cuba. It was Sunday and when the plane took off, the jet engines blew away everything; your whole life fell apart, carpeting the airport runway. I just left us with nothing but this little shack by the sea. You’re a homeless kid now: No mom, no grandma, no friends, no Baikonur, no nothing!

I’m sorry, boy; you had no chance. I chose for you. I lived for you. I absorbed each and every one of your options and consumed them in my fire. They’re ashes now: fragments of memories nurturing phantom trees on the forest of all that could have been.