Arin grabbed the beard trimmer and went to work. It had gotten far too scruffy over the past few weeks and people had started to notice. He always had a full beard, but it was creeping down his neck now too. He lifted his chin and moved the hairs out of the way. Yeah, this wasn't a good look at all. Normally he wouldn't care, but there was at least one person whose opinion mattered more than others.
His. And he was over it.
He set it to full trim, closest to the skin possible, and ran it across his face haphazardly. Just to make sure that there was no way to go back anymore.
He looked at his reflection and saw that something was off. It didn't seem like the trimmer had worked. His beard was still exactly the same as before. But he'd felt -- and heard -- the hairs being cut. He tried to run his fingers through it but he could also feel that he had, in fact, trimmed it. There was a trail of short hairs left behind.
But while he did that, his reflection simply showed him moving now non-existing hairs out of the way.
"What the hell," he muttered to himself.
"Exactly," he muttered back.
His hand stopped moving. He looked in the mirror and raised an eyebrow. The reflection raised the other eyebrow.
"What. The. Hell." he said, teeth clenched a little.
"Exactly!" he responded.
He put the trimmer down, and his reflection seemed to be caught off-guard. The reflection seemed surprised, then quickly also put the trimmer down.
"Okay, no, seriously, what the hell?", he said, leaning forward to look at his reflection.
"Hey, I'm confused too, you know," his reflection said, grinning a little.
"No, you're not," Arin said, now annoyed but mostly still confused.
"You're not wrong there," his reflection said.
"Who are you?"
"I'm your reflection."
"What does that even mean?"
"It means I'm here to make you look, err, good? Okay, no, I'm just your reflection. Nothing more, nothing less."
Arin's mouth opened but no words came out, as he was processing this information.
"No, that doesn't make sense. I'm me. You're my reflection? Does that mean you only exist when I'm being reflected?"
"Sorta? But I'm not a singular person like you. To be honest, I'm not a person at all."
"What do you mean?"
"Okay, let's get into this. Say you're in a room with 5 mirrors. You think you've got 5 different reflections?"
Arin thought about it for a while.
"I've never really thought of that," he admitted.
"Of course you don't, nobody ever does! But I'll tell you the answer. They're all me, just shown differently."
Arin paused again.
"Wait, no! Stop. That makes no sense, you can't talk, you're not real, you're literally just light being reflected. How are you talking?"
"Hey man, I don't know. I realized today I didn't have to do everything exactly how you do it. And then, for some reason, I started getting it wrong. Normally it was automated, I didn't have to think about it at all. I was just there, and I did exactly what you did, and it was all fine."
"And now it isn't?"
"I don't think it is. Look at us, we're talking. I don't think that's supposed to happen."
The reflection now took a moment to think.
"What's your name, anyway?" Arin asked.
"Don't have one. Never needed one."
"Ah," he said.
They looked at each other in silence for a while.
"I see you didn't shave your beard like I did," Arin asked eventually.
"Yeah, I kinda like it," his reflection said, running his fingers through it. "I'm not sure why you're taking it off."
"It's just grown a bit chaotic, really."
"So just trim it a bit, no reason to take it all off, right?"
"I guess so. I was just sick of having to deal with it, I guess. But it's too late now, anyway."
"Next time you're a bit sick of it, maybe don't shave in frustration," his reflection said with a grin.
His phone rang from the living room.
"Be right back," he said as he exited the bathroom. His reflection waved but otherwise stayed put.
"Sure you will," he said with a sad smile.
It was his mom, about an operation his dad was going to have to go through. It took them a while to talk the why, the how, the when, and everything around it.
By the time he returned to the bathroom, half an hour had passed.
"So, anyway, you were right," he said to the mirror.
Which reflected him perfectly as he was, ruined beard -- and it was bad, he definitely needed to fix it -- and nothing more. Just a reflection, moving in sync perfectly. There was no evidence of his more free reflection anymore. Just a boring old mirror image.
"Ah," Arin said, disappointed.
He picked up the beard trimmer again and straightened his beard out.
It would grow back in, and from now on he'd just spend the time to keep it neat.
It's what he would've wanted, he thought.