Infinity People
I’m tracing an imaginary line between each framed family picture as I brush my hand gently along the wall, slowly advancing up each step in the stairway that leads to the bathroom. The loud sounds of socializing adults downstairs in the kitchen grows dimmer, their laughing voices bounce all around the excess of cozy surfaces in the home—lots of drywall and carpet—and become more and more indistinct the further I climb. Combined with the central air system roar, their voices coalesce to a soft drone once I reach the top of the stairs…straining to peer down the dark hallway that contains even darker doors into the bedrooms, and an upstairs guest bathroom. Being the only 11 year-old at the gathering, I had asked to be excused to the restroom. The husband and wife who lived there (church friends of my parents) told me it was upstairs and immediately to the left. I turn and feel for the light switch inside the only open door to my left. My hand touches a fuzzy surface, mixed with a smooth coldness. Turning on the light reveals the wallpaper to be done in synthetic crushed velvet and foil—all in gold hues. I sit staring into the bathroom before I enter, my hand still resting on the light switch. All the fixtures in the bathroom are fake tarnished brass. The counter tops are bone-colored fake marble, with those too-perfectly imperfect squiggle lines in them like blue cheese. Wall-to-wall carpet spans the entire floorspace, with giant furry brown throw rugs on top of them anyway…also covering the toilet seat and its tank, which hisses slightly. I hear the muffled laughter downstairs getting louder. More adults have arrived. I enter the bathroom and shut the door.

The light…

…is artificial golden. I look up and see a small chandelier hanging in the center of the ceiling. It’s more of a chandelier-ette, with simple, five-sided glass prisms dripping off its dark, curly-cue metal skeleton, which cradles a small core of flame-shaped amber and white bubs at its center. The toilet paper is pink, with the overhanging edge hiding in the back of the roll. I look over and see across from the toilet is a rectangular, frosted glass shower door with a brass-colored frame. I know from experience that the door will make a loud, echo-y “clunk? sound when opened or closed.

It isn’t until I turn and stand in front of the bathroom sink counter—the top of which reaches only to the middle of my chest—and look in the mirror, that I notice the back of my hair a few feet behind me, and then the edge of my face looking back at me again, and another, and yet another. I turn around. There’s another large mirror on the wall directly across from the one behind the sink, on a pair of sliding closet doors, which both have a thin fake brass trim. I turn back and look at the sink mirror. I reach up for the light switch to make the room brighter. By turning the dimmer switch on the chandelier all the way up, I can see clearly enough to make out “infinity people.?

The muffled laughter from the adults downstairs gets even more boisterous. They must be preparing to make the fondue.

I’d first seen the “infinity people? mirror trick a year earlier, while playing in vast, empty bathrooms in brand new suburban homes that were still on the market. The first time we stumbled into one, I remember my friend Tim raising his arms in front of it and saying “Loooooook…infinity people!? Growing up, we always lived in areas that were being freshly developed from the ground up. My friends and I would explore block after block of streets lined with unmonitored “open houses? that were in various stages of completion. The totally finished ones were always likely to possess an “infinity people? set of opposing bathroom mirrors. We were always excited to find them, and would spend lots of time trying to dupe the “clone hallway? optical illusion they created.

I raise one arm. The mirrors reflect a million of my arms raising all at once, an army of “me?s alternately facing each other in a line that stretches as far as I can see, backwards and forwards. Is the one way at the end a little slower than the ones up front? Can’t tell. When I turn, all of the “me?s turn, in an alternating every-other-one fashion. I reach up and turn the dimmer on the chandelier even brighter. It increases the effect. No matter where I move my head and point of view, I can never see the end of the snake tail-like “horizon points? shifting far in front and in back of me, as usual. Both ends curve slightly off into one corner and gradually “stretch? just before they become too infinitesimal to see (a strange attractor to the illusion that we as children could never quite figure out). I suddenly remember that the back of my head always looks different than I imagine…disappointing. I turn again. And again. I begin to spin faster and faster, watching the millions of “me?s follow suit. I keep trying to catch one of them falling out of line or slipping up, but they don’t. I grasp one of the counter drawers, accidentally jolting it’s sculpted fake wood front open and rattling the contents as I halt to a stop, almost falling. A flashlight! Two of them! One is big and silver, with a red plastic end that has “TruValue? wrapped around it in black text. The other is very small, made of black and yellow rubber. What would it be like if I shined one of the flashlights into the infinity mirror? I dim the lights.

Shining the light beam straight into one end of one mirror sends a line of light that splits back-and-forth and interconnects with even more reflections of flashlights at intricate intervals. This whole line becomes amber as it reaches farther into the distance. It even curves slightly! Angling the beam explodes the effect and creates an interconnected spiderweb of light refracting all over the room. I can change the web drastically in size and pattern with even the slightest movement. Shaking the light sends a shimmering water-scape scurrying over every imaginable surface in the room…or, rooms. What if I use both flashlights? I grab the other one. I hold both flashlights on my head and point the beams out in front of me like headlights. One beam is skinner than the other. I began to spin around again, catching glimpses of myself and the beams in rapid motion. One side, the other, then the other…a million sides all at once…a million “me?s in a fluctuating blob of light beams, warping, spinning, faster and faster and faster. It looks like an endless line of space fighters choreographically striking each other again and again with their lightsabers. Or—if I watch long enough—a line of a million rooms all rotating perfectly on their own axis, like giant clock parts.

I hear even more laughter from deep downstairs.

I’m dizzy. What if I could blink the light switch next to me on and off as well? If only I had a real strobe light. What if I can spin and flick the light switch on and off…if only I could attach the flashlights to my head somehow then I could have free hands. Ahhh…I can wrap that hand towel around my head, and tuck the flashlights inside it!

I reach over and yank the towel off the ring holder, which causes it to snap back on it’s hinge and bang the wall loudly.

“Mark?? I hear my father yelling from the foot of the stairs on the first level, “Are you coming down? Deacon Pfeiffer is telling the funny..heh heh…the funniest…well you just gotta hear it son!?

I stop what I’m doing and look at the door with wide eyes and a dropped mouth. “I’ll be right there!? I eventually shout back.

I hastily wrap the towel around my head, tucking the flashlights under the top, one pointing in front of me and one behind. I begin spinning wildly again. I use each hand as it passes the light switch to alternately slap it off and on…off and on. Faster…faster… I begin to alternately open and close each eye as well, to make that slightly altered perspective thing happen. Combined with the light switch flipping, it’s better than a strobe light! Faster…faster…

“Mark?? I hear a voice again from the bottom of the stairs. It’s my mother this time. “We hear a lot of noise up there. Are you alright??

“I’m fine!? I yell shakily without stopping, “I’ll be right down!?

Faster…faster…faster…I feel dizzier and dizzier. I slow down and turn my head up in mid-stumble and see one of the flashlight beams catching the prisms of the chandelier (which is turned off). I stop in the darkness, panting, rotating my head to manipulate the flashlight beam on the prism. The light, combined with the mirrors, is bouncing in even more directions within the refractions of the chandelier prisms—ten million-fold! Tireless, I start to spin, and flick the light switch on and off more rapidly, and blink each eye even more, tilting my head upwards to hit the chandelier as I spin now. Faster…faster…faster. The effect is amazing! Faster… faster…faster. I’m reaching unknowable speeds! Faster than the speed of sound! Faster…faster…faster…

*knock* *knock* There’s an abrupt tapping at the bathroom door.

“Mark?? It’s my mother again, right outside the door this time. I don’t stop, listening as I spin.

“Mark, are you coming down?? she says, “Pastor Jacobs just arrived. His son Darrell is here and he wants to meet you!?