Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Copper Mirror

I woke last night from a dream.

In the dream there was a garden, and in the dream I saw my father. But my father was not in the garden, my father was in the kitchen cooking something over the stove, which had been in our house since I was born. Only the stove had gas burners on top instead of electric, which I thought was good.

Beside him there was a cardboard barrel of unstripped scraps of wire, and he was using his blue handled Klein strippers to take the insulation off of the wire. When the wire was bare my father would drop the copper into the large spaghetti pot that was simmering over a medium high flame. My father let the scraps of insulation of all colors fall to the floor at his feet. After stripping one wire he would drop it into the pot and then take another wire from the pile in front of him and begin to strip it. There were all colors on the counter in front of him, and he appeared to select them at random. Occasionally he would take my mother’s pasta spoon and stir the copper in the pot. He looked down at the wire as he stripped it.

About halfway through each pile he would look up at me and begin to tell me a story about something someone had done or said at work and how stupid it had been. For some reason every one of his stories came back to the same question; he wanted to know if I understood how a mirror worked. I told him yes and he would toss his head back slightly and grin. His grin would turn into a light chuckle and he would smile to himself as he striped the final wire in the pile. That wire was always green. Then he would begin to take more copper from the barrel, bending down deeper each time to grab more. He would smile to himself and begin the process again, only acknowledging me after he had stripped half of the wire in the pile on the counter.
Finally I began to grow tired of watching him work like this, but I could sense that he was enjoying my company and wanted me to stay in the room with him. He started to tell me a story about something Benny had said to him, and how he responded. I realized that in this story he was not talking about something stupid someone else had done, he was telling me about something stupid he had done, and how his friend had brought it to his attention, so that he would not get in trouble. He looked up at me and I could see the gravity in his face. “That is why I have been telling you stories, and that is why I have been asking you about mirrors. Do you understand how this works?”

No, I answered in complete honesty. With that he smiled once again and picked the last wire off the counter. I could see that this time the last wire was light blue in color. He stirred his brew one more time and put oven mitts on his hand. He smiled into the pot, turned off the gas, and grabbed the two stainless steel handles. He lifted the pot and turned to look at me. He carried the pot halfway to where I was standing and poured it out on the linoleum floor. The contents fell out like ice water in slow motion and formed a metallic silver pool on the floor. The pool came into contact with some of the insulation that had piled up on the floor and as soon as the pool came into contact with any of the wire all of that wire eviscerated like a vapor and created a hissing sound that reminded me of a whisper in an auditorium. My father looked into the puddle at his feet and then up at me. “Watch. Listen. Learn.” was all he said. I looked into the puddle and saw my reflection. And then I woke up.

I don’t know if that dream has any connection to what I’m about to tell you, but I felt like it was important when I woke up, and I thought you were the only person who would listen.