Once upon a time there was a poet who wanted to make his brains into money.
He was a good poet.
He was devoted to his profession, to the craft of his field, with his whole being.
He was well educated, or at least, well read; and he had a fine imagination, and could be eloquent - when writing - but he didn't know how to talk to people; he was shy, and he always had the feeling that people were relating their words to something that he didn't understand.
As he was a real poet, it of course means that he must work at menial jobs - restaurant work, clerk jobs, messenger jobs.
There is no way a true poet can earn money by his work.
One day he looked around - and he saw all these morons, these vulgar, criminal, immoral, stupid, dull, all these idiots - all of whom can earn a living!
And he figured there must be some way a person of his intelligence could figure out so as not to have to work at these ridiculous jobs.
So he borrowed a black leotard from dancer friend, and got a heavy black piece of cloth which he put over his head like a monk's cowl, and he got an oval piece of glass, just a little larger than a face, which he put in front of his face under the cowl; but it was not regular glass, it was what's called one-way glass; that is, it was the kind of glass that when you look through it one way it's clear, transparent glass, but when you look at the other side it's a mirror; he put this glass in front of his face so that he could see out, but anyone who looked at him saw only his own reflection.
He went to a Greenwich Village nightclub and got a job as an oracle.
He had a little table in the nightclub, and he'd sit there, and people would come and ask him questions of the sort one asks an oracle, about the future, and he'd just say anything that came into his head.
He'd make up nonsense, speak gibberish, quote lines of other people's poetry, and he had a good imagination so he'd make up little fantasies, stories, and people seemed to like it.
He discovered that when he had his mirror on he lost his shyness.
He could talk to people easily.
Some people even took him seriously, but he just laughed at them, and never pretended to be anything other than an entertainer.
After a while, he found he was earning a good living at the nightclub.
There was a girl, a striptease dancer, who also worked at the nightclub.
She worked under black light.
But only her costume was luminous, she wasn't, and as there was no other light, as she did her dance, as one by one her clothes dropped off, she disappeared.
Only her clothes were luminous, so when the last bra or panty dropped, she was invisible, and the stage was left littered with luminous blotches of clothing.
That was her act.
They fall in love.
But the poet when he doesn't have his mirror on is still his same old shy self. He doesn't know how to approach the girl, and doesn't know that she's also interested in him.
One evening (it's the middle of the week, business is slow) he sees the girl walking across the empty dance floor towards him, and she's holding something behind her back, so he can't see what it is.
She sits down at his table, and ....
Wow! Here she is!
And he has his costume on, his mirror on, so suddenly he can talk!
He's just about to express himself, to express his love - when the girl says, "Look! I don't want my fortune told. I don't want to know about myself. I want to know about you!"
And at that point she took from behind her back an oval mirror from her dressing table, just a little larger than a face, and she held it up in front of his face-mirror, and said, "What do you see?"
Excuse me, my reader, but I must digress a moment to explain what he would see: You know when you stand between two mirrors, or when you sit in a barber chair, there seems to be a passageway in the mirrors; but if you ever stop to notice, you'll observe that, though you can see perhaps six or seven levels in, you can never see to the end of the passageway; always your own first reflection gets in the way, and if you try to bend out of the way the whole passage bends out of the mirror frame.
But in this case he would see out of the glass and see a mirror, but the mirror would "see", so to speak, only a mirror, which would in turn see a mirror, et cetera.
There would be nothing in between the mirrors to block the view so he would see the passageway going straight out to infinity.
So to recap the situation: The girl whom he loves is sitting in front of him, and he has his mirror on, so he can speak, and he is just about to express his love when the striptease dancer says, "What do you see?" And at that moment the girl vanishes, the nightclub vanishes, and the man sees a passage to infinity.
He doesn't say anything.
The girl takes the mirror way, and says, "Say something!"
But the man doesn't say a word.
She tugs at his sleeve, and says, "Don't just sit there, say _something_."
But he doesn't move.
And for seventeen years he hasn't moved.
He still sits, exactly in that same position, a catatonic in a mental hospital - he's fed though a tube, and is incontinent, and has completely lost contact with the outside world.
But the doctors and nurses can tell - from changes in his facial expression, and from the words he mutters just inaudibly, so that they can never quite make out what he's saying - they can tell that he's leading an active life in his mind, in a dreamworld he is having experiences....
And in this world of his dreams, in the life he leads inside his head - all the rest of the people are wearing mirrors over their faces, and only he doesn't have one.
He feels very much like an outsider because of this, and he tries to find out, he questions people - why doesn't he have a mirror over his face like the rest of them?
But people either give him very phony answers and try to con him, or they pretend they didn't know what he's talking about.
And because of this he finds he has to get very menial jobs, like dishwashing jobs, clerk jobs, or messenger jobs.
As this "whole world" is, after all, just his imagination, as it's just his dream - why - anything can happen.
I mean there are any number of ways this story might end.
For instance: After working all dream at some awful job, he takes his whole paycheck and goes to the drug addicts' den.
(No real drug, of course, just what he imagines a drug addicts' den is, for in a dream whatever you might think a drug addicts' den is like - that's the way it really is.)
But other people at the drug addicts' den, when they got high, oh! they danced, and sang, and laughed, and had a wonderful time; but he never did, he would find a comfortable chair and just sit.
And as the years went by, he became adjusted to his world. Actually, he forced out of his consciousness the knowledge which he has, that he is actually different from the rest of them, that he doesn't have a mirror over his face. Whenever anyone made any allusion to this fact, he would pretend not to hear, or he would pretend that they were talking about something else. And as the years go by, he grows to think of himself as "normal." You know, everyone's a little neurotic, everybody has problems. But he grew to think of himself as just another ordinary human being - although there are times when he does suspect, there are times when he does think that it's just a little peculiar that a person would go out and spend his whole paycheck at the drug addicts' den, I mean - just to sit.
But there is another way this story might end, for instance: He meets a girl, and the girl also doesn't have a mirror over her face, and of course they recognize each other immediately - that is, that neither of them have mirrors in front of their faces.
And she tells him (she's been in "this world" longer than he) that he doesn't have to work at these awful jobs, and that she can show him how to get by ....
"Come to my house," she says. (Their relationship from the first becomes like a broher-and-sister relationship rather than a sexual one.)
And so they walk out of town down to the edge of the ocean, and they walk down the beach for maybe a mile to a very pleasant grove of palm trees, and in the center of the grove there is a small tent.
"See!" she says, "I live here. I don't have to pay any rent. I go swimming every morning. It's healthy living in the sun. It's wonderful."
"Well, yes," says the man, "It's great - but how do you eat?"
"I'm just about to fix lunch now. Why don't you stay and have lunch with me."
And so she spreads a blanket out on the sand, and gets two tin pie plates, and goes down to the edge of the ocean, and he watches her down there, gathering things from the surf and placing them in the pie tins.
She returns and puts the plates down on the blanket and they sit down cross-legged on the sand and she begins to eat.
He looks down at his plate and there in the center is a little pile of pebbles, little pebbles worm round and smooth by the ocean.
He picked one up and examined it - it was really just a stone.
He put one of them in his mouth, and made a little face, gulped - and swallowed it.
She said, "It's a little difficult at first, but you get used to it after a while."
There is another way this story could end, but that ending's pornographic, and I don't write those kinds of things.
Pornography has no place whatsoever in literature.