M i r r o r s
by Rosie Gailor
and, oh, it’s wonderful: to be drowning whilst walking down the street, to feel the air trapped in my lungs, unable to escape, bloating my stomach and trying to remind me to breathe — but I won’t; the water that’s logged in my mind forbids me, blurting my vision and dampening my hair. surreal, almost, that I’m so visibly disintegrating and ebbing away without anyone blinking an eye — hands pruning, waves crashing, eyes stinging…and no one notices. it’s empowering, my suffering being so overlooked. it’s independent, it’s nonchalant, it’s the twenty-first century.
and yes what a feeling, to be overwhelmed and suffocating, from the comfort of my own living room: sitting perfectly still, holding an empty mug, staring out of the window and wondering what it would feel like to jump. my limbs stay crossed-legged, the muscles spasming in protest of the thought. “how dare you?” they ask me, in morse-code, “we work perfectly. we walk, we dance, we run, we warm your chest when you lie in bed, with your arms curled around us like you love us. do you not love us?” and they pull themselves up so my chin rests on them and I say, “yes. I do love you. but do you love me enough to jump?” the wind blows its siren song, luring my curtains outside, taunting me. half-in, half-out. my legs do not love me at all. “we love you too much,” they argue. my arms agree with them in a caress, and the wind begins to sing. “let yourself be held by me,” it whispers, “let yourself fall into my arms. let me carry you, safely to the ground or sky. over the mountains, over the seas. let yourself be carried by me.” and I want to jump, but my arms hold my legs that little bit tighter.
oh! what a sight to behold when I look in the mirror and see something that isn’t myself. liberation. a blur of colors and shapes; circles and tubes and ovals, pointed toes and fingers and white underwear that I never wear outside the comfort of my home. home: a small apartment with no bathtub, with a mirror in every room, to check my suffering wasn’t falling out of place. it was useful until I stopped recognizing myself. “who’s that woman?” my eyes would ask. “it can’t be you. look at her. it’s nothing like the image of you I have in my head.” and my mind would chime in: “the woman in the mirror isn’t much like what I have up here at all. it can’t be her. they’re nothing alike.” dnd so I began to avoid the mirrors; first by closing my eyes, then by turning the mirrors around, covering their unsightly backs with scarves and fabric, and eventually hiding them all underneath my bed — hanging up paintings in muted colors instead. now the woman in the mirror only speaks to me at night, when my eyes are closed and my mind is too tired to argue. “it is you in here,” she’d say, “no matter how much you don’t want it to be.” and she’d climb out of the mirrors and pinch parts of her body in front of me: her arms, her thighs, her stomach, her breasts. it would hurt. she’d make sure to do it hard. little bruises began to form on my body where she had pinched herself… “make me you!” she’d shout, “make me you!” so I tried, and I tried, and I really, really tried, but somehow there was always a game of spot the difference. “no,” my eyes would say, “that can’t be you. simply not.” and they’d study what they saw in the mirror, hating it, judging it, sizing it up and agreeing with my mind that, “absolutely, in no way, is that you. it can’t be.”
looking back, it’s easy to see that the wind and she were in cahoots, and it was her calling me to the edge, not the wind at all. I began to keep the window shut and the curtains drawn, always leaving lights on so her reflection was harder to see in the window panes. but I could hear her, and I could feel her, pinching, scratching, stretching, claw marks appearing on my skin every night, red raw, bruises growing on my flesh, deeper each time. I began to light candles, like my mother used to do, to watch the flame burn into my eyes so I couldn’t see. I’d watch the pool of wax around the bottom of a burnt-out candle; what does that feel? abandoned? used? or complete? to be unmolded, untouched, free, until it is privy to the fidgeting hands of dinner guests who pick it apart and crush it. that wax feels nothing but pain: hot, blinding pain that consumes and erodes it, hands that peel and crush it, and tear it apart until it’s good for nothing. but still I burn candles. I watch the fire free the wax and then I throw it from high places. bridges, buildings, even fast cars. they get the send-off I’m too placid to give myself. for whose arms would throw me if not my own?
Rosie Gailor is a former digital editor and current PhD student in London. Her work can be found in Unthology 9, Williwaw Anthology, Noble/Gas Qrtrly, and The Stockholm Review of Literature. You can find her on twitter: @rosiebmg.