As I awoke from my sleep in the middle of the night
I found myself being led by a stranger
Down the longest of passageways
With doors on either side of us

We walked silently on.

After what seemed like an hour
She stopped us
And gestured towards the nearest door handle
Inviting me to step inside.

I cautiously opened the door
And was instantly transported
To a moment I had hoped never to be reminded of again.

A time that I had locked up so tightly and sentenced to the depths
Never to be seen or revisited.

A deep imposing despair ran through my entire body
As I witnessed again one of the very darkest moments of my life
That time I went hurtling over the
Self-imposed boundaries established by a life lived with character and integrity
And plummeted head-first over the precipice

That instant I had snapped and lost it
In retaliation to something that had been said or done
I couldn’t even remember what it had been

But I recognized that moment.

And I recalled stumbling back,
Dazed from the near knockout blow
I had landed on myself
As the thought “That’s not me! That’s not me!”
Pulsated desperately
Through my mind and body and soul.

But it had been too late to take it back.
And all I could weakly defend myself with was
a desperately whispered: I am not that person!

“Hold that thought!”
The words echoed in my ears.
“Breathe in deeply
Then exhale ever so slowly
Eyes firmly on that moment.
What do you think of that person right there
Who isn’t anything like you imagined you would ever be?

Tears started to fall
But I could say nothing
The horror of being faced with that moment
Of my very worst self
Working its way through every pore of my body
I could taste my own disgust mixed with remorse

“Hold on to it!
Don’t let that moment go just yet.”

She gently closed the door, looked at me
And smiled a deep smile
That seemed to rip me in half
And waited until I was ready to move on.
Her voice once again broke the silence:

“What if that one screenshot moment, that one act,
that sentence screamed in such a startling demonic and guttural voice,
that throbbing fist, that typed out sentence

What if that thing represented in that one horrific
Out-of-control lightning instant of a fraction of a moment
Was the very person you would be defined as
For the rest of your life
By all of those you love the most
Your friends, your family, your spouse, your child?

What if for the rest of your days on earth they could only experience you
Through the lens of that interaction?
From now on, you are your absolute very worst self.”

I was devastated by the weight of that idea…

Her point made, I turned to go
But she called my name
With the gentlest of voices
As she reached out to grab the handle
Of the door on the other side of the corridor.

And so, hesitantly, I followed her inside.
This room was empty, except for a full-length mirror
In the middle of the room.

I stepped in front of it to take a look at this monster I had become
Only to see that it wasn’t my very worst self, staring back at me.

Instead I found myself staring at a procession of all of the people I hated or despised the most
Those I had dismissed, rejected and ignored or given up on so very long ago.

As person after person looked out at me and smiled
It slowly started to sink in…

What if their defining moment for me echoes theirs?
And all this time I had been holding on to an
Unchangeable immoveable snapshot of the person they descended to
At their very worst moment?

What if there was another version of them on the other side of this mirror
Desperately trying to find the energy to mouth one more time, “That isn’t me!”

= = = = = = = = = =

[For another poem, titled ‘The Fish’, click here]