I see it. Myself. In the reflection of this plain mirror that hangs on the peeling blue walls of my bathroom. But not quite myself, not yet. It’s the me seen through rose-tinted glasses. My hair, a curtain of dark brown brushing just past my shoulders. My face, round yet satisfied, with a bright sparkle in my warm chocolate eyes. My lips, moving as smooth as honey as I whisper a forbidden secret. I’m standing, surrounded by family and friends. A cloak as dark as the midnight sky billows behind me; a cap the same tint sits atop my head, and I’m clutching a bound scroll--I’ve graduated. Golden rays streak across the crimson sky; a radiant smile etches across my face as the sun slowly sinks below the horizon. I feel happy--happier than I’ve ever been my entire life. With a twinkle in my eye and a laugh like the sound of tinkling bells, I toss my graduation hat into the sky and lean into the embrace of my friends and family.
I see it. I blink, and the graduate-me is gone. In place, a young woman appears in the mirror. Hair, long and dark, cascading down her shoulders like a waterfall. Face, slightly round and rosy. And the eyes--the same dark brown eyes that twinkled at her graduation--just as bright, brimming with just as much joy. She stands next to a man, his arm wrapped around her shoulders and beaming down at something in her arms. A small bundle, and inside it--a baby. The woman gently rocks the baby in her arms; she’s whispering to it. She plants a feathery kiss on the newborn’s forehead, and turns to smile up at the man. They gaze into each other’s eyes, and turn to look at me. They are happy, satisfied, in love; I feel their joy radiating through the glass and into my soul. I feel a warm feeling in my chest--like a spark. The spark sizzles down to my arms, my fingers, my toes... a wildfire of hope and longing. A longing for the illusion in the glass to be real, and for a second, I feel a sliver of hope--hope that I can become that woman smiling at me through the mirror, that I can be a part of this rose-tinted future. I see it.
I slowly lift my shaking hands and brush my fingers across the reflection in the mirror, longing to be sucked into this reality. In an instant, the figures disappear. The man is gone. The baby is gone. The woman that was me...gone. I’m jarred back to reality by the new reflection in the mirror--me. As I am. My stature, short--or petite, as some prefer to say. My dark brown hair, slightly frizzy and dry from the swimming pool and old highlights. My face, round and tanned from the sun, with some lingering traces of childhood puppy fat. My lips, a little dry and cracked. My eyes, a dull, dark brown, ridden with the emotional burden that comes with insecurities and self-expectations that are too high. My broad swimmer’s shoulders, my small chin and jawline…. and the biggest flaw of all, the battle raging inside me, forcing me to choose between two vastly different paths. I look up into the mirror, into my reflection. For the briefest moment, I think I see a shadow of the graduate and young woman in my desired reality. They wink, but then they’re gone. And I see myself again. Alone.
I see it. I feel it--the sweet agony dripping from an illusion of the perfection that I will never reach.