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Inside-Out

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She stares at me with small, almond-shaped hazel eyes. She presses forward against the pearly white sink so that I might plunge further into the depths of the twin pools. Peering meticulously, I trace a ring of blue, green, then brown, encircling to form her pupils. I push her gaze even deeper to prod painstakingly. Only there isn’t anything to grasp past the window to the soul. Instead, the window is tinted black and fastened closed.
I can’t see me in her. Her chapped lips flutter like broken wings at the thought. She’s an actress, speaking the dialogue and imitating the action, while I watch backstage with a grimace as the crowd applauds. The subtle twitch of her lips is but a branch swaying above a puff of air. I struggle to breathe while writhing within the crevices of a mountain. I know that I’m strong, but how can that matter when I’m suffocated by her?

Her arms are steady when she reaches forward to wash her rough, short-fingered hands. She scrubs for several minutes, working the soap into a lather of bubbles that makes the air pungent with a sweet scent. I laugh sadly at her efforts, the attempts to become me. Yet she seems reassured by the aroma, almost as though she believes it has somehow lessened the gap between us. She desperately wants to be beautiful, to show that I have an ember which might perhaps ignite into a spark.

Inside her bedroom, the pair of daggers glints at me again. I can’t help but be astounded by their absolute darkness. I can almost sense the hard crush of a foot smacking out my ember. It seems to me that her eyes ought to be pale blue like the sky, full of childish dreams and possibility.

She grasps the hard wood of a brush and runs its biting teeth through wisps of brown hair. The tangled mass seems electric, as though she’d rubbed a balloon over it all night. A frown creeps along her face as she struggles to tame the wild fuzz. Her stomach begins to coil into unruly knots. I know that she hears my screams rattle through her body like bones smacking against one another: Let me be free.

I know she can’t change herself, but I also won’t stop myself from believing that maybe if I speak a bit louder, rattle my chains a bit harder, or dream a bit bigger, she will begin to resemble me. I can merely watch her struggle before the glass, her eyes flickering over her physique as sorrow burns beneath her eyes in dark purple smudges. I shudder at the image of her as my tiny body folds in on itself like a ribbon, and she wraps her arms around a body much too large to embrace. I feel like a twig; she is the tree itself. She bites her lower-lip to taste metallic as she traces the length of her short, pale frame. Her fingers quickly grasp at her sweater, cold hands wrenching the fabric over her body. I beg her not to cover herself with these blankets. I want her to know that I’m here, coursing beneath the surface of her skin. I know she can hear me, even if she doesn’t listen.

I try to remind myself that, although she can’t look like me, she can still be me. Even when she speaks in a voice that is too low and confident to be mine, I catch my hesitance between breaths. When her chuckle isn’t my laugh, she attempts to sound out my happiness. Her heart beats and I can feel it reverberate within me as surely as it’s seen pulsing against her skin.

She reaches forward to press her palms against the mirror, and I realize that in this one instant she is me.




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