The Mirror, the Target

excerpt

When I was a boy, I spent hours in front of the mirror making faces. Not that I thought my face so handsome as never to tire looking at it; on the contrary, I could hardly bear it, that face of mine, and making faces gave me the chance to try out different ones, faces that appeared and were immediately replaced by other faces, so that I could believe I was a different person, many people of every kind, a host of individuals who one after the other became me, that is I became them, that is each of them became another of them, while as for me, it was as if I did not exist at all.

Sometimes, after trying three or four different faces, or ten perhaps, or twelve, I would decide that just one of these was the one I preferred, and I would try to make it come back, to arrange my features so as once again to set them in that face that had looked so good. I could not. Once a face had gone, there was no way of getting it back, of having it merge with my face again. In the attempt I would assume constantly changing faces, unknown, alien, hostile faces, which seemed to take me further and further from that lost face. Frightened, I would stop making faces, and my old everyday face would surface again, and I thought it duller than ever.

Italo Calvino
from Numbers in the Dark


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