He walked in with his wife, to the carved basin. It gleamed reflective black, half-formed heads and arms, and the collection of rain-strewn roses, blotted notes, flags, the motley remembrances lined the base.
His wife took out her camera.
He lifted his hair from his eyes. A fine spring wind smelling of last night's rain drew the petals on the flowers, the wettened papers, the flags into sudden motion, then left them quiet again, an abstract tableau against the omnipresent black marble.
The shuttered sound reflected back at him. His wife was taking pictures. He grew oddly annoyed, a feeling as sudden as the wind bringing the damp objects to life.
"What are you taking pictures of?" he asked. The question came sharper than he had wanted it to. His wife looked at him with a mild surprise.
"The wall. What else?"
He nodded, not wanting to pursue. He was angry now. More than annoyed. He walked off, keeping a distance from the muffled mirror, his interrupted reflection warped around the carved names. There was barely anyone else there. It was early. A man and a teenage girl stood at the far corner. The man was touching the wall. The girl was back further, staring at the man.
He heard another shuttered click, saw another bound of photographic light from his wife's damned camera. His hands involuntarily clenched, and he felt a reddened angry heat build around his neck, stretching to somewhere just below his cheekbones.
Suddenly the girl was looking at his wife and her camera. The girl's eyes were narrowed, discerning. Searching. He stared at the ground, embarrassed. He continued walking on, and his wife took another picture. He flicked a look backwards and almost spoke…his wife was crouched down, taking a picture of one of the dime-store flags pressed against the uncertain mirror, that never gave any single detail yet gave a myriad of hidden details; ones that he would never have noticed otherwise.
He stopped looking at his wife. He hadn't protested the camera in the car, hadn't protested the camera as they walked into the basin, as they first beheld the mirror and the names, the statues and dampened rough-hewn memorials. But now he wished he had. The girl was still staring, her eyes narrower still, and it dawned upon him that the girl realized his wife wasn't photographing anything in particular. Only everything. Only the spectacle.
He walked on. The man the girl was with pushed himself away from the wall. There were tears in the man's eyes, and he wiped his face with the back of his hand. The man coughed.
The shuttered click came again, and he didn't turn back to his wife this time. He stared at the man and the girl. And then the girl caught his eyes with her narrowed eyes. She started walking, her form outlined only in its incomplete form along the black panes, the names interrupting her body, her face as it approached. He felt his face redden, not with anger, but with embarrassment.
"You're with her." the girl said. Wasn't a question. She didn't even have to motion. The man she was with started walking too, his eyes clear now.
He nodded. "She's my wife."
"Do you know anyone…?" This was a question, and her arm swept out as if an audience lay at her feet. And what a goddamned big audience.
"No." He admitted. It felt like a sin.
"Neither do I. But I could have. My father lost three brothers. They're all here. Only here. No bodies you know, nothing. They're here. My uncles I never knew." She explained.
His wife took another picture.
He had no idea what to say. The man was coming closer. The wind smelled of fresh rain, and the flags and the notes and the flowers made whispering observations he couldn't attend to, because he couldn't understand.
"It's a mirror for a reason I think." she said softly
He looked at her.
"An incomplete one I mean. They-" she motioned at the names "They want us to look at ourselves. It's the only memorial for them. What good would it do if we stood here and saw their faces? Then there's always someone else, you know, always someone else, a stone with eyes and a believable alibi. But it's a mirror because you see the names, then you see yourself. Because it is you. You. Me. My father-" she paused again "Even your wife. They died. They're all here. And so are we. We're in the mirror too, with them, who we can't see. And the ones left living are always the ones left to blame, and the ones left to fix it."
Her father was there then, and he had his hand on her shoulder.
"Leave him alone. It's not his fault." Her father said.
"No." he said. "No, no, it's okay. It's okay." He was going to cry. It wasn't a spectacle. The names, the mirror. And his goddamned wife took another picture. She was photographing the spectacle of it. He wanted to tell her to go home and take a picture of her reflection. It would amount to the same.
"My brother," the father paused "My oldest brother said once that you only learn after you do something godawful stupid and then look at yourself for it."
The girl looked at her father.
"That's why I come here. That's why everyone should. I don't think there should be cameras. You can't get the full reflection in a picture. You can't get yourself, behind the names." The father went on. The girl continued looking at him.
"Let's go." She said softly.
The father nodded, and they walked off. He watched them go. They were entwined with his sudden distorted thoughts, the girl who had never known, the father who had probably been too young to fully understand, yet they knew enough to come and look at themselves, behind the blameless quiet dead, above the memorials to a goddamned mistake and a goddamned shame and then there was his wife, taking photographs the way one would of a circus tent, or some other foolish thing set up for amusement.
He walked to his wife. He took the camera from her and opened the back, taking the film out and throwing it on the ground. He pressed it hard with his shoe.
His wife glared at him. "What the hell did you do that for?" she demanded. Her voice was angry and surprised. He didn't care. He would later of course, and he would apologize. He loved his wife. But right now the red of anger and mingling embarrassment had gone over his cheekbones, made his eyes dark. He grabbed his wife's shoulders and made her face the wall completely. Their reflections were wavy, interrupted. A small rainy breeze brushed against his face and the flags moved. They were still whispering.
"Look at it." He said. "It's a mirror."
His wife burst into tears.