The telling mirror

Submitted into Contest #101 in response to: Write a story that involves a reflection in a mirror.... view prompt


Coming of Age Contemporary People of Color

The mirror had grey specks that had settled after swirling in the morning sun. And a few smudges of fingers that imprinted nothing but their desperation; the same desperation that stared back at her. The morning light was now long gone and along with it any premise that today might be different.

The day was a monochrome of virtual meetings and emails. Everything had been accomplished by the taps of fingers that elucidated sense as they ran across letters and numbers. They didn’t seem connected to any other part of her, the words not imprinting on her synapses as they appeared on the screen. She had moved twice: once to make herself a bowl of cereal and once to pee. She used to get up more often to make the twenty-yard journey to the kitchen to get water and decided to obviate the trip by springing for a water fountain- like the ones you had in clinic waiting rooms, where you press down on the blue nozzle to get cold water and the other nozzle stays untouched.

Time for her last meeting of the day: click, open, mute - her fingers worked with the deftness of an expert flutist. Video on (unfortunately). She mumbled a few words to register her presence on the call before collapsing into her vacuous apartment. The space that shrieked silence at her. She had moved here after her roommate and best friend of seven years had decided to move in with her boyfriend. She had long wondered what it would be like to live alone and hadn’t expected to find out while the whole world was locked away in their apartments for over a year.

A movement on the screen caught her attention and it took her a minute to realize it was her tile on the screen. She spent most meetings staring at herself in her virtual mirror, eyeing with dismay the puffiness on her cheeks and the skin sagging behind her chin. Her forehead resembled an un-ironed dress more and more everyday, or perhaps it was the optical illusion of her webcam that seemed to keep her wanting. She figured if she found herself looking acceptable, she’d spend a lot less time looking at herself.

Back to the disturbance on the screen; somehow a moth had found itself into her apartment that no human had ventured into in some time. It fluttered neurotically as it perched on her life - first the bed, then the dresser, and then her yoga mat that laid unfurled from two weeks ago when she had last promised herself she would be on it everyday. She contemplated turning off her video to go fight the good fight against the moth but pictured getting asked something just when she went off camera. The best way to avoid attention was to be a bobblehead on camera and feign attention.

After what seemed like eternity, the meeting ended with a wave from each screen tile like the Brady Bunch. As much as the meetings seemed endless, she was now faced with the possibility of time and impossibility of doing all that she wanted to with it. Faced with this enormity, lately, she had been choosing mundanity. The trite trifecta of Takeout, TV shows, and Twitter. Hang on; was the moth still around? She looked around for the winged intruder, scouring her chair strewn with unfolded laundry and the plant that looked worse for the wear of existing in her room. She finally spotted it on her mirror in the corner of her room. It had been a long time since she had made it to that corner; full-length mirrors were only useful when she was in danger of being seen full-length in public. Nothing below her waist had been displayed for public viewing in quite some time.

The moth beckoned her to the corner, having colonized it as its own. The sauciness of the situation enthralled her; that a space she had so fully occupied without reprieve could be so casually under siege. She made her way over, clumsily tripping over a basket full of unfinished crochet yarns; yet another hobby she had failed to routinize. Just as she reached the mirror, the moth un-perched and glided effortlessly out of her slightly cracked window. She stood there astounded by the abandonment for a few seconds, before realizing she was staring back at herself. Her right arm lifted in front of her to flatten her hair. The ravage of her unfocused tendrils smirked at her. Gone were the days she would spend thirty minutes every evening ironing out her corkscrew hair. Three months ago, she had thrown out her straightening iron in a desperate coup so that she might learn to embrace her frizzy curls rather than erase their existence. It wasn’t going too well.

And then without registering the intent or rationale, she dropped down her senescent sweatpants and shirked off her nubby t-shirt. She was mesmerized by what was gawking back at her. Tufts of black peaked out nestled between her bra strap and her arms, matching the lazy protrusions from her underwear resembling a tarantula's legs. She moved her gaze to her torso where the sight of her stomach distended with loneliness sprung hot tears that seeped down her globular cheeks. As unlovable as she felt, the evidence was staring back at her, unrelenting, all-knowing.

It shamed her to think this way, to feel so sorry for herself. All over her instagram feed were women of all shapes screaming body positivity at her. “Love yourself as you are; it begins with self-love; if you don’t love yourself who will; you’re beautiful at any size”. But it wasn’t that simple. Even those posters showed women with luscious, glossy hair, cheekbones that seemed to angle up at the sun, eyes that sparkled atop petite noses. She had always felt her face was too round, her eyes too small and her nose too big. She never saw someone who looked like her that got what they wanted and accepted as they were. It felt like a trick. The world yelled to her that she didn’t belong. And now, in the cringing silence of her life, she couldn’t pretend not to hear it.

July 09, 2021 15:23

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