I have a few moments before dinner so will publish this piece written to the prompt, “That Woman in the Mirror” at the writing retreat where I will be for the next three days.
That Woman in the Mirror
The woman in the mirror has a better sense of humor than I do. This is because she does not need to depart to go into the world. She controls what is behind her and in front of her. Her wounds are my wounds. Her wrinkles are the selfsame wrinkles that fail to respond to the expensive face cream my sister sent me for my birthday. A gentle hint that my apparent age reveals her age, 4 years older.
The woman in the mirror does not necessarily reflect my feelings. She sometimes freezes in surprise at my tears. Chides me to get a hold on myself. She steams over at times and refuses to confront me. She does not flinch at sprays of toothpaste or a misting over of hairspray. She grows younger as the layers thicken. The woman in the mirror chides me to refresh my lipstick, define my eyebrows, pluck hair chins. Slowly, slowly, she ages—turning into first my mother and then my Grandmother, whom I had thought I had left so far behind. That self-pitying look? Shame on her, I chide. Those ever-lowering breasts, that additional girth? I will never get like that, I think, and then I remember.
There is a mirror in my house where my Grandmother cannot find me—a full-length miracle mirror where the one looking back at me is a woman in her 40’s, just barely overweight. She is my grandmother, stretched out—lengthened and diminished in width. It is the sort of mirror that was once seen in fancy dress shops that encouraged women to buy and buy. Like The Hollywood shop from fifty years ago, now long abandoned, shuttered and replaced by a Radio Shack…but whose charms can still lull me into a luxurious feeling that all is well. I am as I should be.
I flip off the bathroom light and move to the bedroom to catch a last glimpse of me in that magical full-length mirror, then climb into bed to dream and dream those slender dreams that, if we are lucky, are the ones that remain in our memory long after the mirrors have cracked and crumbled, like other more recent memories that fade quickly to give way to the past.