Mirror Image This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 18, 2011
I have known her only a short while, but somehow I know she is my friend. It is not the kind of friendship I've had before – built on habit and isolation or fueled by fear and insecurity. No, this is a friendship that although new, feels as comfortable as a pair of old leather boots. Around her I am not afraid to be myself, but rather I am unguarded. I tell her everything about myself, but it's as if she already knows. She knows because it is also about her. She can truly understand what is going on inside of me, she understands my life, because she is going through it, too. Both of us are venturing away from what is considered normal, comfortable and familiar and are venturing toward the unknowns of adulthood and independence. But with this new staunch independence we are glad we have each other to hold on to.

It is strange for me, though, to have this new support because I am so used to going forward alone. It has always seemed to me that no matter how close I got to another person, they would never really understand how I felt. I knew this because none of my past friends shared my interests and none were willing to try the things I enjoyed. I always ended up conforming to their needs and standards because I felt what I did was unimportant – until I met her.

When I look at her I see myself looking back. Though her eyes are a different color, they see the world as mine do. The mouth may be a different shape, but it smiles at the same things mine does. Her ears are not the same, but they still delight in the same music. Her voice differs in pitch and intonation, but says the things I cannot put into words. When my hands reach out looking for something to cling to, her hands catch mine and cling back just as hard. She is my friend, my other self, my mirror image with a different face.
When I peer into the mirror, however, I do not see a carbon copy of myself. Her hands paint and draw, while mine write stories and essays. Her lips sing and play the harmonica, while mine just speak incessantly.

She wants to live beneath the ocean with the dolphins and orcas, but I want to spend my life among the stars in the sky. Still, together we make a solid image. It is as if with the strokes of her paintbrushes, she fills in all the holes my words leave behind. Then she sets my words to music, writing the most expressive songs.

I am apprehensive about having a friend like her, though, because a friendship like this involves opening up completely, exposing my heart and mind and soul. Doing this means trusting the person and with trust comes risk – risk of losing the friend, of being rejected, of getting hurt. I know what it's like to be hurt, betrayed and abandoned by a friend. But I think she is different. Of course, I have been wrong before. I have been sure that I've found a life-long friend, a soulmate, only to discover that my heart had huge blinders on, and the "friend" was actually a foe. No matter how much I pretend I don't care, I am afraid of getting hurt again.

Above all, I don't want to be reduced to hiding behind a vacant smile, so as not to offend anyone. I don't want to have to pretend I'm someone I'm not just to make people happy. I hate the awful, closed-in feeling I get when I can't be myself. But I am myself around her, and she doesn't seem to mind. She seems to like it. Still, out of habit probably, I sometimes catch myself guarding my words or actions around her. I know I can't do that if I want this to be a true friendship. But then the doubt creeps in. What if I'm wrong? What if she doesn't feel the same way? What if she's only putting up with me so as not to hurt my feelings? I've had these doubts before and have discovered they were well-founded.

Still, this time might be different. I must have faith in that. If I want this to work, I must open up, I must lay out my heart, mind and ego, and truly believe that she won't stomp all over them. I must believe that somewhere, someone is watching me and guiding me along. This must be true, because somehow in this great big universe of ours, somewhere between her sea and my sky, we found each other.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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