‘What year is this, Mr G.?’ I asked, concealing my perplexity under a casual manner.
‘Forty-five, man. What do you mean?’ He went on, ‘We’ve won the war, FDR’s dead, Truman’s at the helm. There are great times ahead.’
‘And you, Jimmie, how old would you be?’
Oddly, uncertainly, he hesitated a moment, as if engaged in calculation.
‘Why, I guess I’m nineteen, Doc. I’ll be twenty next birthday.’
Looking at the grey-haired man before me, I had an impulse for which I have never forgiven myself—it was, or would have been, the height of cruelty had there been any possibility of Jimmie’s remembering it.
‘Here,’ I said, and thrust a mirror toward him. ‘Look in the mirror and tell me what you see. Is that a nineteen-year-old looking out from the mirror?’
He suddenly turned ashen and gripped the sides of the chair. ‘Jesus Christ,’ he whispered. ‘Christ, what’s going on? What’s happened to me? Is this a nightmare? Am I crazy? Is this a joke?’—and he became frantic, panicked.