The two men were standing by the big mirror in the locker room. The older one was on the way to a workout; the younger one was drenched in sweat.
The older one was wearing a light blue tee shirt on top of a grey tee shirt. He stood slightly off balance and tilted his head as if he wanted to look up at the younger man even though they were the same height.
The younger man was observing himself in the mirror while he listened, politely, to the older man.
“…and that’s the vow I took,” the older man said. I would be an ordinary person and I would live an extraordinary life.”
“That’s the vow I made.”
The young man nodded.
The older man continued, his eyes fixed intently on the younger man’s face. “I would be an ordinary person and live an extraordinary life. But somehow I just got lost in the ordinariness.”
“Uh-huh.” The younger man briefly looked over at the older man. He bobbed his head in sympathy, then returned his eyes to the mirror and continued the inspection of his own face.
“I just didn’t see it coming.” The older man said, shaking his head at the thought. “It just came over me and over me and after a while everything was ordinary and it wasn‘t just me – that would be fine, that was the plan – but my whole life was turning out ordinary.” The older man moved his face forward, closer to the younger man, and looked even more intently into his face.
“Oh.” The young man had found a hair on his eyebrow that wasn’t to his liking and he craned forward to see it more clearly.
“And if I hadn’t done something…,” it seemed as if he was building up to a big point, but he paused and let the suspense dissipate, “well, you know how it is….”
If the younger man knew, it was not obvious. He was trying to pull the hair out of his eyebrow but he was having difficulty getting a good grip. He had screwed up one eye and titled his head so that side of his face was closest to the mirror.
“… I’d have just gone on that way. Flat out ordinary. Nothing special.” The older man shook his head again, ruing the possibility.
“So whaddid you do?” the younger man said. He had scrunched up his face to get at the hair so it seemed as if he were grimacing at the older man’s story.
The older man ignored the question. “I am still baffled by it. It was like a big gray fog of ordinariness had totally covered me over and everything I did was gray just gray like I was inside a cotton ball.”
The younger man picked up a Q-tip and he began to explore his right ear – the ear furthest from the older man.
The older man continued. “I was lost, Mezzi. Really, I was lost.”
Mezzi turned to his full face to the older man, Q-tip now sticking out of his ear like an antenna. “So what did you do?”
The older man smiled in a rueful way, tipping his head to one side again. “I just decided that it couldn’t be. I wouldn’t let it. My life wasn’t meant to be ordinary and I wasn’t going to settle for that.”
Mezzi appeared to have lost track of the fact that he had a Q-tip sticking from his right ear. He inserted another one in his left ear.
The older man noticed, “Mezzi. You have got a Q-tip in your ear.”
“Huh? Oh yeah. Lots of sweat. Everywhere. In my ears. Every time…. So how’d you do it?’
“You sweat in your ears? I never heard of that.”
“Ha Ha. Not in the ears. But its runs in there. Every time. Drives me crazy.”
“Don’t you wear a headband? That’s what I would do. I would wear a headband for sure. I think that would fix the issue. I bet it would.”
“I just use these guys.” Mezzi extracted one Q-tip and then the other. He inspected each carefully and then pitched them one after another towards the hole in the counter in front of the mirror. The first went through nicely but the second hit the edge and stuck there, hanging by a sticky bit of ear wax.
The older man looked at the hanging Q-tip.
“So what’d you do?” Mezzi said, “How did you make it extraordinary??
But the older man was turning away. He didn’t say another word. He just walked away, slightly hunched.
“Hey,” Mezzi called after him, “How did you make it extraordinary? I really want to know?”
The older man just kept walking.
“I am serious”, Mezzi said, “I want to know. I really want to know. How’d it become extraordinary?”
The older man didn’t answer.
Mezzi stared after him for a few seconds. Then he turned back to inspecting his face in the mirror.
Ordinary Life originally appeared in The Citron Review