He would look in the mirror often, that had been the deal.
“You will look yourself in the mirror until you’re not surprised by what you see.”
After a few weeks of trying, he made a schedule. He planned his mornings so that they would be the same, but it still surprised him to look at himself. He ate the same breakfast, he slept the same hours, and after a long while, he even bought copies of his clothes so he would dress the exact same.
And yet, it was surprising. The brightness of the hair, and its straight and short presence on a face trying to be round. Cutting it short enough that it looked the same whether it was combed or not didn’t help, it still looked oddly unique, and sometimes foreign.
He took pictures but it wasn’t the same thing.
What he saw in the images were momentary grasps of things that did not look like what he saw in the mirror. It was the same person, yes, but his existence wasn’t there. So often he looked happy when he wasn’t, sad when he was fine, pained when he was just tired.
His reflection showed him the truth of it, but at the same time, it manipulated him. Every time, he was uglier or handsomer than he expected, looked better or worse than he expected. And every time it would impact on him, making him smile or frown, no matter how much effort he put into keeping his expression stoic. The inside of his eyes would emote, there was no controlling that.
What even was that? He didn’t notice that in other people.
After one year of trying, he went back to her, his master. Desperate to understand and pass the challenge, yearning for the slightest of clues that would allow him to understand what was so special about one’s reflection.
“I can’t,” said the one-eyed man. “I am always surprised by what I see, for I never expect it. Teach me how not to be surprised.”
The old wise woman looked over him with greyed eyes, seeing more than she should, and she scoffed.
“Accept it,” she said. “Do not expect anything, simply accept what you see, and you will not be surprised. For I promise you that in this world, there are things far more beyond your knowledge, beyond your control…than how you look. To yourself and others. That is something all of us know, but that you still need to learn.”
And the man understood.
Different clothes again inhabited his closet, and facial hair was again allowed to grow. Sleeping schedule relaxed and so did his morning routine adapt better to each day’s demands.
And every day he would look in the mirror still. Deeply and interested.
And no matter what he looked like, he would nod in acknowledgement and say: