Superman in the Mirror

A Short Story by Fr. Jonathan Atchley

Looking intently into the mirror, he deftly wields a razor to shear his ugly mug.  Of course, the razor is made of Kryptonite.

I smirk at my own grizzled visage, then grimace as the blade nicks my chin.  The crime I am about to commit rejects the laws of land.  Or so the logic goes.

No one shaves anymore.  We, the civilized, living well in the 22nd century, are exonerated by the privilege of technology and practicality.  We have accommodated ourselves to chemical and optical laser depilation rather than submit to the barbarity of razors and blades.  A kind of paradigm for everything we do nowadays.  I grimace over another involuntary nick, suppressing the fear of being somehow discovered, reported and chastened over my intended crime.  My hand jitters.  Not good for a surgeon.  

I set the razor down, look at myself again, seriously gazing into the aging face of who I have become.  I smile.  No one of consequence will know—at least, no one that could report me before the fact.  Even after the fact, to catch me they must find me, and far as I know, no one is even looking.  Yet.  

A chime sounds followed by a soft feminine voice that announces my only patient has arrived.  I shuffle off to a reception chamber and greet “Ms. Smith.”   Names are never real, though the people behind them are.  For that I am grateful.  If she chooses anonymity, I support her right to choose.  

A few minutes of witty repartee steels my nerves and distances her from understandable fear.  We had already discussed risks of the procedure, though few of them will be mitigated, even in our technologically gifted self-awareness.  She is a mother seeking to negate the condition of pregnancy that is socially and culturally disgracing her.  She is here to negate her freedom.  

You are ready? I ask.  She nods nervously, looking up at me in trust and we begin to labor together.  My hands do not betray me, though my care and concern for this unique symbiosis of mother and child might.  If I act with a conscience clear and uncluttered, why do I worry about being caught someday?  Perhaps it would be a relief from the strain of acting “illegally and unconscionably.”  What’s that line classic from Macbeth’s soliloquy: “if it were done, when ‘tis done, t’were well it were done quickly.”  

Time passes.  The woman is exhausted, though she is at peace now that the “procedure” is over.  The abortion was a failure.  Her legal rights have been abrogated.  And both of us smile as co-conspirators–secret collaborators, Superman and Lois Lane, sharing a secret never to disclose it, knowing well the dire consequences that would defame us.  I have nothing but respect for her, this rare woman who decided against social pressure to terminate her pregnancy.  How do these people find their way to my door?  The woman leaves, weak but fortified in spirit, knowing she has avoided “collateral damage” by giving birth to a squirmy, spirited little boy.  She nods gratefully, leaves quietly, and fades into blissful anonymity.  Likely I will never see her again.  Nor will her son.  No matter.  Soon he too will disappear, absorbed like a drop of water by a willing, if illegal, adopted home and family.  

Time passes.  The woman is exhausted, though she is at peace now that the “procedure” is over.  The abortion was a failure.

I act against the state, running my “un-abortion” mill, reversing the social trend that women habitually, almost naturally accept as preferable in these days of personal comfort and social status.  Why should I be concerned about falling from social grace?  I can live with my crimes of setting loose unmoored children into an unfriendly world where they are not particularly desired—and, God willing, none shall be the wiser!  

I pause to wonder how this baby will be passed by hand and under cover with extreme diligence—as though he were an illegal narcotic–until he reaches a caring and receptive home.  

Oh, it’s already time for my lunch date with friends!  Reaching for my walking cane, I wink at the mirror at an anonymous super-hero/criminal still gazing, then don my hat as we slip silently out of our sane and solitary citadel into a big metropolis of buzzing, blooming confusion.  

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