Friday, January 9, 2009


I stood alone in a crowd of people. Tiny glass lanterns hung from the high ceiling, throwing a dim auburn glow throughout the room. A woman somewhere close was guffawing loudly at the comedian on stage. Bald, with thin wire glasses and a great bushy beard, he was poking fun at Southerners--a right I granted to him solely because he was raised in Roswell, Georgia, the neighboring town to where I spent the first seventeen years of my life.

The woman's bellowing laughter was strange and alien, perhaps a little too loud to be appropriate in a room that small. I glanced around me uneasily, wanting to hush her, save her from the embarrassed stares that were sure to come. It settled upon me slowly, like a fine layer of dust coats the black veneer of a grand piano, that the noise was emanating from the depths of my chest.

So this is what it used to sound like when I laughed real laughs, without force or pretense? I considered. How long it must have been since I last really laughed to forget the sound of my own voice!

I woke up this morning exhausted, eyes glued shut from sleeping in my contacts, body sore from another restless night of running after him in my dreams. I grabbed the billowy blue towel that my mom gave me for Christmas off the hook attached to the back of my bedroom door and stumbled through the dark of the apartment.

Butters circled at my feet, blinking up at me in the sudden flood of yellow light as I flipped on the switch of the overhead lamp in the narrow kitchen. I started a pot of coffee and staggered forward towards the bathroom. I focused on the floor, stepping carefully to avoid the floorboards that groaned in protest whenever my feet found them.

I caught a flash of something in my peripheral vision--a figure moved in the corner of the room, lingering near my roommate's bedroom door. A scream ached in my throat, muffled though as I slapped my hand to my mouth. A stranger was standing in my apartment, looking at me, equally startled--her hand to her mouth in surprise.

I deliberated quickly, still trying to clear the crusty glue from that clouded my vision while I scanned the room for an object to defend myself with. I scrutinized her face, looking for malicious intent and found her doing the same.

As the fog of waking up slowly dissipated, realization crept up from behind and engulfed me in its cold embrace. I was looking at myself. It was my reflection in the big framed mirror that fills the wall between my roommate's room and the bathroom.

I had been avoiding mirrors, not wanting to see what others seemed to take pleasure in reminding me of. "You look tired." The dark grayish-purple circles that rimmed my eyes, sunken and without feeling. "You've lost weight." The bones that were beginning to slightly protrude from my hips, bones I haven't seen since college. "You're look stressed." My lips in a permanent grimace. My shoulders pulled up and forward. My brow furrowed. "Are you okay?"

Angry at the mirror for giving me such a fright, for exposing what I was becoming to me, I walked into the bathroom to shower, attempting to wash away the memories of last night's dreams and the haunting image of my reflection.

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