THE PARTY ON THE OTHER SIDE

Shards of an Old Beveled Mirror, Pete Lemieux, 2010

“Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than the love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.”

~ Derek Wolcott, Trinidadian poet, playwright, writer, and visual artist

Knowing I was in P-Town withdrawal, my friend Pete sent me a photo on my cell phone. When it arrived and I opened the message, I didn’t know what I was looking at until I read the accompanying note: shards of an old beveled mirror. I knew why he’d sent it—I love broken, shattered, abandoned stuff; it wasn’t intended to go any deeper than that.

But it kept bugging me. I felt like it meant something.

I looked at the picture again and again, trying to figure out why I felt so drawn to it, what it was trying to say. I’m in Danbury, CT, so the day I received it was miserable, gray and snowy with the promise of four more days of it and horribly plowed roads, of course. Where he was in Provincetown, Mass., it was a clear, warm day: in the photo, the sun glinted brightly off the shards of glass.

I figured it out.

A year ago, I read a short story called “The Party Over There” by Jennifer Rachel Baumer. It was one of those pieces that blew me away to the point where it still haunts me.

It has to do with a woman’s desperate desire to escape her life. At first, she takes solace in what she finds in her mirror. Then she realizes she can take it one step further—but it will require shattering that which has given her comfort. Forever. She has to give up what is safe and comfortable so she can take a risk and go forth into the unknown. Which might end up being worse.

Enter the cliché: the grass is always greener on the other side. I believe this phrase’s original intent was to remind us that we need to be happy with what we have. That life will not, couldn’t possibly, be any better if we go shakin’ the tree. Desire for something different is dangerous. So what if you’re a little unhappy? You should be glad things aren’t worse. Some people do, I’m sure, get up every day, look in the mirror, and say, ‘this, what I have, is truly awesome. I am so happy with my life I don’t want to change one thing.’ But what about those who get up and say, ‘this, what I have, is good enough. It’s convenient and safe. I can put up with some stuff I don’t like so I don’t have to deal with the pain of change.’ In this context, the grass is greener sounds like an excuse. I’m convinced, now, that this is what some people say when they’re just too afraid to make any kind of change. This is what they say to console themselves, to justify the fact that they’d rather sit around and stagnate.

But on the positive side, the grass is greener is a romantic notion: I could have a better life if I did X. This can inspire change. The grass is greener is really all about hopes and dreams. I mean, if we were that wise and could see the results of all of our risks before we take them—positive or negative—would we even think about shaking up the routine? Would we even bother examining our lives, would we even bother looking in the mirror and trying to change ourselves? Would we need mirrors at all?

Where’s the adventure in that?

I, for one, think all those shards look pretty in the sun.

~

If you’d like to read “The Party Over There” by Jennifer Rachel Baumer, you can find it in Ghost Writing: Haunted Tales by Contemporary Writers, edited by Richard Weingarten. Any lover of horror stories should have this anthology on his shelf: I’ve read many, many collections, and this one is by far the best because the stories in it totally break the mold. If you enjoy what I write, you’ll enjoy this collection. You can purchase it here.

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About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in countless magazines and anthologies. She has received three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies, is a co-editor for Read Short Fiction, and co-hosts the Dark Discussions Podcast. Her work Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole is a collection of ghost stories set in Disney Parks; her horror novel, Bad Apple, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She’s also a member of the New England Horror Writers Association. More info: www.kristipetersenschoonover.com

Posted on February 24, 2010, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hey-I too am in P-town withdrawal and cried when I read this and looked at Pete’s photo. You are an incredibly gifted writer. I feel so lucky to have met you. We HAVE to chat more. I, too lost my mom.( I read somewhere on here that you lost your mom) I feel as if we have so much in common. You are inspiring me to get back in touch with my creative side. Peace and Love-Gail

    • I am so excited this is getting you in touch. It’s really the best part of this — when you know you reached someone! And thanks for those compliments. You know what? I needed to hear those today. You’re the best. And yes, we’ll chat about the Mom thing. She died when I was 15.

      Speaking of inspiring, I really hadn’t blogged much until I went to Ptown. That place completely woke me up in ways I’d never imagined. Although, things have been so crazy over here I haven’t written much in awhile.

      Yeah, wasn’t that a cool photo? He used to send me tons of stuff like that all the time. I still have some cool video of empty chairs in the rain I want to write about.

  2. Hey again! I LOVE Pete’s photo. I need to tell him that ! Does he know its on here? I have read others blogs about P-town now. I am going to get back into some things that I love. I am not much of a writer but I am going to start beading again-Thanks to you!! We shall chat soon… Until then-Peace and Love. Gail Ps-I know how busy you are but I would lOVE to see more pics from P-town. You can email them? You rock!

    • That was just a pic he took with his cell phone, but he does have a “real” camera and showed me a bunch of photos he took once. He actually does have quite an eye and he enjoys doing it, so I don’t know why he didn’t pursue any of that. Beading! Cool! I’ve always wanted to do crafty stuff like that, but was never very good at it. Cross-stitch and Latch-hooking come to mind.

      Yes, I’ll e-mail photos this weekend. I’ve been backlogged on that for ages.

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