Wipe The Mirror
October 24, 2020
By: Vaishu Koduri
I couldn’t bring myself to wipe the mirror. What was waiting for me when I did? A confirmation of the truth I have always known? The truth that refuses to wipe itself from my skin, my bones, my soul. The truth that twists in agony when I ask it for its name, the truth that does not waver when my hand waves above. I could not shoo it away like the other lingering thoughts that sat in my head. It stayed, the elusive beast hurling itself between the folds of brain matter that pleaded it to reveal itself. It didn’t. It wouldn’t.
Against my better judgment, which screamed in glorious anticipation of a change, I dragged two of my fingers, the fickle instruments of torture, across the glass, slowly as to avoid any semblance of surprise. The long-awaited screech wasn’t much of a screech, it was a lowly cry of sympathy, it knew I would be disappointed. While the rest remained a blurry illusion, I saw my lips as clear as day. More puffy and red than I remembered, they contorted into an awkward smile, a means to tell me that perhaps this time, they were real. The smile continued its expansion across my face as I moved my hand towards it.
I felt nothing. I could see them, they were visible in my line of sight, but my fingers lied to me. Their deceit had failed me again. The lips back, flipping again to their usual linear frame. I couldn’t comprehend why I saw nothing or felt nothing. It was blank, cool to the touch, but I could not feel the mouth that had given me so much to say.
I tried again, this time reaching for an understanding that the rest of me was somehow still there. I wiped the glass, slowly tracing the dark contour of my face, or at least where I thought it was. Turns out I had missed, aimed a little too high and to the right of where I had always been picturing it. It figures that I would be crooked. Again I lifted my hand from the glass and felt- rather tried to feel, my skin. I felt nothing. Each mile's deep crevasse and every breathtaking mountain I had seen from afar before had simply faded into nothingness when I touched my face. When the soft part of my fingers made an attempt to caress the face it had so thoroughly hated, that it had so fondly wanted to rid of every humanizing imperfection. I was out of touch. I felt bare, exposed, as though the very thing shielding me from insecurity had been stripped from my body. The layer that had heard and absorbed the verbal abuse I had received from those around me. It stored in the form of white pus, ready to explode and become a scar, a permanent reminder that I would never be able to escape the taunts that encircle my every thought and reaction. This layer was gone. Now it was my conscience they would hurt. It was me, beyond the surface, they could pick. The underneath, the hidden, the vulnerable, the protected, the sheltered could become the new shield. What if this shield had disappeared too? Who would I be then?
The last of the steam was beginning to clear. The only part of my face I had left to reveal stared directly at me, though I could not see it. It was a sense of divine irony that my eyes remained the object of my fearful fixation, yet they were not visible. I reached out again, the heel of my palm ready to drag itself anxiously across the glass. My fingers were no longer in control, they had cheated me out of myself, fooled me an experience the others had. What was this for them? They wiped the mirror, knowing damn well who would be staring back at them. They wouldn’t, couldn’t imagine that maybe it would be another face that greeted their action. They wouldn’t embed themselves in this puddle of misconstrued agony because they were certain.
I’m distracted. I knew the Goliath in front of me, and I was by no means a David. I was a combination of messily arranged flesh and bones, and it was a feat of precise engineering. My task was simple: wipe the mirror. Wipe the mirror and I got my face for the day. I received my momentary identity. Wipe the mirror.
My hand approached the glass again, swifter than I imagined. Much swifter than I imagined. I had shattered the mirror. I was supposed to wipe the mirror. It’s funny that I missed my eyes. The crack in the mirror was closer to my ears than it was my eyes. They were still there, the last of the fog was fading. I rooted myself in immense worry, ready to confront those dreadful eyes. I wondered if they would cry when they saw themselves, they were quite fragile. More fragile than the glass, at least. When there was no more fog, no more steam, I still couldn’t see. I had been blinded. I moved my hand again towards where I guessed my eye sockets would be, this time, I felt them. They were there, every lash in its fine complexity, the hooded lid, and the little pools of tears collecting beneath them. Looking back at the mirror, something was now visible.
A crimson red outline of where my eyes ought to be.
This short story is about body dysmorphia, it is an emotional journey that takes place in a singular moment in time. Body Dysmorphia is characterized by a preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in one’s appearance, which is unnoticeable to others or only slightly noticeable. It is a condition that affects an estimated 2% of the general population and can lead to more serious consequences like depression, severe anxiety, and/or suicide. The story reflects the pain and uncertainty an individual faces as a result of their emotions. The repetition of “wipe the mirror” represents the solemn frequency of the character’s anger and confusion by showing the difficulty of doing a task that others might not even consider. The first person view of the story pulls each reader into the place of the character, allowing them to visualize the scene for themselves and trace the reflections of their own appearance.