Once Narcissus decided to step back from his spring. The place had simply grown too popular of late. If you could barely see your reflection in the water anymore for the crowds peering at their own over your shoulders, why stay? Where did this collection of mugging, chattering parvenus intent on calling attention to themselves come from, anyhow? What absolute frights most of them were! Was this what passed for appeal today, these gauche attempts to hide, no doubt, some nagging inner flaw by making a noisy spectacle of yourself? Did they think the way to rival his classic beauty was to put their ill-favored psyches on full display? For imitation to be the sincerest form of flattery, it at least had to be worthy of serious notice, didn’t it? Pop idols fresh from rehab or on the way back to it, rookie athletes staggering beneath their weight in contract gold, peroxide blondes tarting up their two-year-olds for the latest “Lil’ Miss Pedo-Bait Pageant,” CEOs with their shirts open to the last button for the annual office party, hosts of prideful pastors on a rant, sweating pols doing the same, decrepit former “statesmen” longing for power again and other reviving titillations, Tweet-kings striking “Il Duce” poses or grabbing at the privates of anyone in range with both hands (to keep from falling, they explained)—all these and so many more coarse slaves to self-flattery were here, waving their selfie sticks in every direction. That was the moment Narcissus made his decision to step back from the water. Or rather tried to step back. For as much as he strained, the counterpress of his uninvited companions proved stronger. As did the annoyed impatience with which they voiced their displeasure at the sudden distraction from gazing at their own reflections caused by his efforts. “Who the hell do you think you are?!” was how most put it. Or simply, “Hey, down in front, jerk!” Barely able to keep his balance anymore against the pressure at his back, Narcissus feared he might tumble headlong into his own reflection and drown. Worse, would anybody even notice if he did? Would it be as if he’d never been here at all, rooted to this spot in admiration of his own glory? What a hideous prospect! One last look at his peerless features might be all there was time for now. But when he searched desperately for that familiar face into which he might at least take a graceful swan dive that did his name proud, it was nowhere to be seen! Nowhere! Just row upon row of hollow-eyed masks grinning back at themselves.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans