A stranger recently remarked that I was a "good man." I was immediately taken aback, and a feeling of shock flooded my being. Not at the word "good" (obviously not; I'm nothing short of a saint), but at the genuineness with which he had called me a "man". "Good boy" or "good kid" somehow seemed more appropriate adjectives to use. I had never before pictured myself as a man; I had never felt I was one. In my eyes, I was just a helpless, insecure teenager; still am.
When I got home, I looked at myself in the mirror. I hardly recognised the creature that occupied the frame before me; it somehow couldn’t be me. A distinct band of hair below his nostrils had become prominently visible—an excuse for a moustache. His chest was broad(er); his jaw prominent; his cheeks outlined; and he had lost all traces of that roundness that one associates with the child. Yet it was his eyes that gave his true self away: wide-eyed, full of curiosity and fear, insecurity and desire.
I contemplated all this with a growing sense of alarm. It was as if my body had kept up with the flow of time while my mind and soul—more specifically, my sense of identity—were stuck in a kind of ‘time capsule’. It was struggling to keep up with the persona of an adult, but somewhere, it had lagged behind. I was somehow so young, so imperfect, and so insecure. Then, beside my confused and helpless reflection, another ‘me’ emerged. I did not make him appear intentionally; he had appeared of his own accord. But he was different from me. He was my picture of a true ‘man.’ He stood inside the frame with an ease I had never known, exuding an aura of confidence and stability. He looked at me with a gleam in his eyes and a twitch of a smile. There was a certain, very subtle sense of amusement with which he regarded my baffled and uncertain expression, as if he could read every single one of my frenzied thoughts. Yet there was no malice in his eyes; instead, there was a sense of benevolence mixed with solemnity and genuineness.
After a gap of a few minutes, or maybe it was a few months, or maybe even a few years, I found that I was also getting transformed internally. The child was slowly fading away from the mirror. The man began to occupy the space more emphatically. He was becoming me; rather, I was becoming him. It was as if my heart was becoming enlarged to occupy the space in my chest. My brain broadened to fill the space within my skull. My presence had become so strong, so emphatic, so assertive. I now knew where I was and what I was doing—what to do and what not to. Yet the helpless, wide-eyed, desirous child often returns in the mirror. Such as when I wake up from a dreadful nightmare, my heart throbbing. Or when I get furiously angry. Or when I look through the glass window to view something that lures my churning insides so vulnerable to temptation.
Often, he battles against the man, yearning to push him out of the mirror. But nowadays, it is usually the man that triumphs. That is because I consciously support him.