It was the end of a life, and the end of a world

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His eyes, for the first time, became the master of their own destiny: They
began to open; they sought out the woman in the mirror. Her face had begun
to change. It no longer laughed. It did not smile. Instead it had an expression
of sadness, of despair, and of terror, as she gazed out at him through a
window. But she also had a smile, a smile of triumph. And it was the same
smile that had smiled on the day he was born. He no longer recognized it, for
it was a different face. A sad, tragic face. A woman wearing a black
stocking who had suffered many long, deep, exhausting, and life changing
sufferings. This woman’s eyes were wet, as were their lips. “It’s over,”
he muttered, to himself, as they gazed back at him.

“It’s over,” he repeated, after a few moments; but no longer in a maudlin
fashion, but a cold, hard, uncompromising sort of a voice. “Do you think
it will ever be over? Will I ever see it end? I can’t help it; I
can’t help that this is the last day of all. It’s the end of a life, and
the end of a world.”

And as he turned his head away, he caught a glimpse of a little girl running
down the street. She seemed to be wearing white, though on closer inspection
he saw that she was dressed in black.

* * *

A young woman on her way to work came to a sudden stop in front of the
shop, a half-smoked cigarette in her hand, with a look of grim determination
on her face. She got down on her knees to light the cigarette with her thumb-
nail. The shop front was painted the same shade of red as her dress. She
looked up, through the glass, and saw someone in the doorway. She dropped the
cigarette into an ashtray and quickly darted into the store.

From the corner of his eye, the young man saw her come back out of the store
and stand looking out of the window. He got down off the stool and started
to go out. To his right, he saw movement. He was about to turn and raise
his hands when he saw she had disappeared.

He stood there, in the cold, looking around the shop window. She had
vanished, but her footprints were still unmistakable on the floor. He turned
towards the door and started to go.

*

In the corner of the room, a girl was sitting at a very small table,
her back to the wall. On her left hand, there was a glass of milk. On her
right, her empty hand rested on the table top.

Her whole body was trembling. From time to time, her lips moved silently. From
time to time, she shivered. Her lips trembled. Her body shivered.

She was holding a cigarette in her right hand, with the end burning in her
left. The ashtray with the burnt end of the cigarette was only two paces away
from her right hand, but two paces apart. She was sitting at the table, looking
at something on the wall—something black. It wasn’t her own reflection.

And her body was shaking again. Her eyes were closed. A tear dropped the
edge of her right hand, onto the ashtray. Then, she opened her eyes. A bright,
cold, white, tear-filled stare:

She looked up. She saw him. He was standing in front of her, in the middle
of the shop. She didn’t see him until he was only a hand’s distance away.
He didn’t recognize her, though he had seen her before.

His eyes were filled with pain and pity. His face was pale. His eyes filled
with tears.

As he looked at her, she didn’t know that she was holding her left hand
between her two front teeth. She wasn’t even aware of it. Her eyes were
wide open and filled with terror. They were wide open, her eyes.

But they were no longer filled with tears of despair, with desperation,
with an anguished, despairing look in their depths, and with a look that said,
‘It’s over now,’ and with a look that she knew to be a look of triumph,
because it was the look of her reflection.

What she saw in his eyes were not pity and compassion; what she saw were
fear and despair. Fear of death, in all its forms; fear of dying, in all its
forms; fear of suffering, in all its forms—and fear of losing everything,
of losing her future, her happiness, her life, her happiness.

As he looked at her, he felt as if she already was in Hell. He felt as if
she was already there, in Hell, where her soul would be in Hell forever.

But he was in Hell, too. But he had always been there. And Hell had never
been as dark, as lonely, as tragic, as it had been then.

But, she was in Hell. And she knew she was waiting, in Hell; waiting for
death, waiting for suffering, waiting for pain, waiting for the end.

As she looked at him, she thought about her mother, her grandmother, her
aunts, her uncles, her cousins. She wanted to cry, but her eyes were dry.
Her lips quivered almost imperceptibly. Tears welled up in her eyes as she
watched the tears in his eyes.

As she looked at him, she hated herself. And she hated him.

She despised herself for being the cause of it all.

She hated herself, but she didn’t hate him.

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