Timeline of a Mirror

February 27, 2012
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“Mirrors are questions
Whose answers we desire
In good lighting”

His pupils dilate, drinking in as much of himself as those dark eyes can swallow. The crying stops, and sounds of pain and distress are gradually replaced with the silence of wonder and thought. His sausage of a finger reaches out towards the mirror, and his image reciprocates in unison, causing the two fingertips to intersect at the divide between reality and reflection. The curved ridges that emerge and crunch together in the middle of his forehead tell me that he is thinking. He knows that these figures standing before us are…different. He doesn’t act so amazed, so intrigued, in the presence of real people. I wonder what small detail has infiltrated his mind, telling him there is something missing. Telling him that the little boy he has his eyes locked on is really just a product of cunning light, and her dance that bends and wields everything our eyes think that they know. But maybe that deceiving detail is indefinite, possibly even nonexistent. Like when the pictures and shapes are concrete and vivid in front of your eyes, but somehow you still know that you’re dreaming.

“I dare you to open it.” The door towered over us, intimidating yet alluring in it’s grandeur. Hannah claimed she had done this a thousand times before, but when the moment came for her stories to materialize, she groped and fumbled with excuses as to why we shouldn’t enter the house. “Well.. they might be home, and we’d blow our cover if they saw us come in. Let’s go around back and peek through the window to make sure they’re not sitting in the living room.” Naturally, I followed her lead, because that’s how things worked with us. In the kitchen, she was the one who knew how to work the electronic egg beaters, so she was the Master Chef and I was her Sous. She was the one whose parents could afford to buy her new fancy spy gizmo’s featured in the catalogs, so on our secret missions, she was always in charge. Hannah reached into her messenger bag and whipped out a pair of night-vision goggles, despite the fact that it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon. It didn’t matter whether their actual purpose was effective or not, the fact that they looked hi-tech and important was enough to send a pang of jealously ricocheting through my body. I asked for the same pair from my parents, but instead was given a small pad of paper and a pocket-mirror to equip me on my excursions. I remembered the scene from Harriet the Spy when she hid behind a barrel of fruit in the market, and used her own oval mirror to see what was going on in the street behind her. I fingered the smooth plastic resting in my pocket, and brought out the make-shift spy gadget, slightly embarrassed by it’s simplicity. I held it out in front of me, pretending to look around the corner of the fence but really staring blankly back at my own blue reflection.

“S***, another one.” The rosy lump had crept up out of my skin last night, giving no warning or notice before staking his claim comfortably between my two eyebrows. “The sneaky bastard…” I thought, as I looked in the mirror, inspecting the blemish at 10-times it’s actual size. In a desperate attempt to cover up my new-born monstrosity of a pimple, I smeared some cover-up on my face and rushed out the door, already running late for school.

I was still sitting in first period when my morning coffee started to make it’s presence known in my bladder. I wondered if the caffeine would still take effect, seeing as it was practically trickling straight through my mouth and out the other end. Either way, I couldn’t hold it any longer, so I got up quietly and made my way to the bathroom. When I opened the door, my seemingly detrimental state of urine buildup was temporarily forgotten as my eyes were drawn to the mirror above the sink. In my haste earlier this morning, I hadn’t realized that I used bronzer instead of cover up, and was sporting something similar to a chocolate smudge in place of my zit. In an impulsive act of horror and embarrassment, I rushed back to the class room seeking a beauty product that would fix my mistake. The hot yellow liquid still sloshed around in my bladder as I sprinted across the quad, but I was too preoccupied to notice.

I opened the door slowly to minimize the announcement of my arrival, but my heaving breast and fast-paced breathing was enough to draw curious eyes from all around the room. I hurried back to my seat, eyes pointed towards the ground trying to hide my brown bindi from public view. I turned to ask my friend if I could borrow some foundation, only to find her bent hunchbacked over her cosmetics mirror, squeezing the last of the beige substance out of it’s bottle and massaging it onto her own exposed flaws.

She glances into the review mirror, and I see the edges of her thin lips purse and turn downward as she briefly catches a glimpse of her own face, before adjusting the mirror to a more comfortable eye level. We continue to drive, and she doesn’t know it, but I am evaluating her through the corner of my eye. Valleys and creases draw doodles on her face, and folds of soft skin cascade down from under her chin, like dripping cake-batter suspended in mid air. But I know this is not what my grandmother saw in her reflection. My art teacher told me that the story conveyed by a picture is sometimes more important than the visual itself. The wrinkles do not bother her because they look ugly, but because each one is a symbol of the many years that have gone by, and the few that she has left to live.

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