11:15, 5 Dec 2014
As she perched nervously on the edge of the stool, and started to raise her head to look in the vanity mirror, she almost laughed at herself and her foolishness. It was not as if she never looked in a mirror, she did so all the time. And yet...and yet, as she let her mind flick through the notes of her memory, she realised that the mirror was a functional tool and little else.
Her mind visually skimmed her interactions with the reflective surfaces in her life, and yes, she rarely looked away when a mirror came into view, but that was not the same as looking, really looking. She used a mirror to check for a rogue lock of hair and to brush it from her face. She checked a mirror to find a smudge of mascara that needed wiping from under her eye. A mirror let her find a stray eyelash that sat on her cheek.
Of course, there were more than fleeting glances; in the morning she applied her war-paint to face the enemy of the day, and spent sometimes a full quarter-hour looking at her own reflection, but again, this was different. She was looking at each individual element to see what she needed to add, the sweep of colour across her lids, the twist of black on her eyelashes, the smoothing of foundation on her skin, and finally the slick of red across her lips. Each time she looked in the mirror it was to see less of herself, to take away the truth and bury it underneath a publicly acceptable faÃ§ade.
If the make-up was not enough of an amulet of strength against the world, then there was always her hair to strengthen her daily defense. Washed and blow dried daily, primped, sprayed and smoothed to within an inch of its life, her chestnut mane was a sleek and shiny helmet against the world.
So then, if the mirror was nothing to fear, then what was she so afraid of now? It was sheer force of will that made her raise her head, and open her eyes at her reflection. It was easy to start with, the face was painted, the hair was artfully draped over her shoulders, but for once she wasn't there to look at these, she was there to look at herself, her true reflection. Slowly, she pulled her hair back from her face into a careless ponytail. Step 1 complete. Next, she took the creams and lotions from the vanity and began removing her make-up in slow gentle sweeps. As she glanced down at the used cotton pads, she saw her safety blanket being Dismantled and disposed of. Finally the last of the products were removed from her skin, and she could look up and see her true self.
For months the burning question, Who am I? had been stalking her thoughts. Dissecting her habits and routines, calling into question every moment that normally brought her pleasure. There it sat, like an unwelcome guest in the centre of her mind, mocking her with its simple and cruel presence. Since its arrival, everything she said and did, every though and every plan seemed ridiculous and futile. And now, staring into her own eyes, the eyes that should have reflected back the woman she was, she saw nothing.
She sat back on the stool, devastated. What did she really think was going to happen? Five minutes of quiet reflection looking in a mirror and it would all just work itself out? Useless, worthless and feckless. That was all she was and would ever be if she stayed this cowed, frightened creature.
For what seemed like hours, but could not have been more than minutes, she raged. She screamed and sobbed and tore at her hair, her face, teeth tearing at her lips until they poured blood from her chin. Her mind went to the darkest places, imagined every end, a blade at her wrists, a gun in her mouth, a jump from a bridge. She saw her body, bruised, bleeding, broken. She glimpsed into the nothingness that would follow.
And then, she looked up again at herself in the mirror. Her expression wild, her face bloodied, but her eyes...different. The fear was gone, the emptiness away. Somehow, by facing down the worst of her thoughts, by staring right into the pit of the abyss and giving in, she had survived. Slowly, she began to smile. A real smile, one for herself only, not one for anyone else. Her reflection looked back and seemed to say to her, yes, that's right, you know who you are now.
She knew right then that her life would never be the same again.