Peter Lagerquist

"Please turn again, at a slight angle. Looking into the camera. A bit more. That's nice, thanks."

The machine whirrs thrice in rapid succession, each punctuated by a ripple of flashes.

"I look better in the dark, actually" says Johan and steps back.

The woman behind the glass window smiles without turning from her screen. Through the pane, Johan watches himself coming together in pixels, smiling back.

He hears voices around him, muffled by glass, rising and ebbing. Another camera whirrs behind him, the flash bursting inaudibly. And again. He loosens his jacket.

The room is warm and bathed in a muted halogen glow—efficient and environmentally friendly. Pale, northern light from an overhead skylight glints off the fronds of a potted palm. The paneling is Scandinavian pine, sustainable regrowth.

"Just a while more now," she says, still fixed on the screen. "They've just installed this new technology, as you know. It takes a bit of getting used to." She leans closer, absently pursing her lips.

About his age, he thinks. Swathed in downy amber sweater that conceals a slight, attractive heftiness, just showing around the chin. Her eyes are golden brown and make him think of cloudberries. He wonders detachedly how she would look out of the sweater.

Don't be ashamed of your body.

"Could you confirm the details for me?" she asks, as lines begin to cascade through the panel.

As he reads, Johan considers his reflection in the glass. Everything seems to have drifted apart since the last time: hairline, ears, drooping chin. He remembers making papier maché in third grade and how the newsprint would float apart in the warm, swirling water. Time takes it toll, he thinks. The center cannot hold.

"This about right?"

A filigree of fine print has now settled like an ice crystal in the glass. He leans closer: a person entire, in new geometries.

After a while he feels a slight draft, and looks up to see the automatic doors at the end of the room opening and closing. People are leaving and others entering to take a number, the rhythmic exhalations registering, after a slight delay, as fine tremors in the potted office vegetation.

In second row he observes a man with a book in his lap, making notes with a pencil. The features could be anyone. Just then the man looks up and catches his eyes. A recognition passes between them.

Johan turns back to the attendant. "Younger," he says. "Let's go back, say ten years. Green eyes, maybe? More hair."

"Like this?" she replies and turns to him now, smiling. He looks at himself, as if for the first time, coming together in pixels.

Peter Lagerquist

Peter Lagerquist is a freelance journalist working in Israel and Palestine. Some of his favorite fiction writers are Michael Ondaatje, Italo Calvino, J.M. Coetzee, Milan Kundera, Jorge Luis Borges, and Willy Kyrklund, a Swedish travel lyricist whose "To Tabbas" has yet to be translated into English and should be, as a humanist antidote to Naipaul." Peter's native language is Swedish, and when he writes in English he feels "somewhat like an imposter, sometimes. Which can be an interesting point of departure."