The Woman in the Mirror

First published in Cigale Literary Magazine, Summer 2012

Her scarf lay along the desk which contained three books and held a large, oval mirror. The days passed and various things would place themselves in front of her mirror: a vase of flowers, her day’s left-over work, a laptop, an occasional sweater, and now and then, on mornings when she could afford the minutes, she’d sit in front of her mirror and check the reflection that stared back at her. Sometimes the reflection blinked, sometimes it smiled, sometimes it frowned, but most the time, it looked back at her with a stern resignation of indifference.

One morning, she sat in front of her mirror brushing her hair before the day began. Suddenly, she caught sight of something moving very quickly, a sight that disturbed the image of familiarity in the mirror, softly, undeniably, as if the glass suddenly quivered, and she lost focus of the images nearest her. She looked closer into the mirror. Nothing. She turned around and searched her room. Her gaze was returned by her bed, which stood neatly made and serious, as if shrugging and saying, “It wasn’t us. There’s nothing over here.”

The next morning, as she sat at her usual throne, the disturbance appeared once more. As before, it was a sudden flicker, a momentary movement, as if the entire distance and image of the light and the glass and the objects of the reflection shook, disappeared and reappeared again, like waves lapping on the shore. She rubbed her eyes and pressed her face to the mirror, so close that the tip of her nose touched the hard surface and her breath warmed the cold glass. When the condensation from her breathing disappeared, she caught the shadow of something dark moving behind her. She could hear her breathing —which slowed and then hastened again— and her heart beats matched the panic in her breath. Was there something in her room she had not noticed before? She looked back in the mirror. Nothing. She turned around. Again, nothing. Everything placed in order as before. Her ears heard static, and she realized it was nothing but the blood flowing from her fluttered heart to her terrified brain. She put on her coat and ran out of her room, shutting the door loudly behind her. She did not turn around.

That night, she returned to her house and quietly walked up the stairs and looked at her bedroom door. She wanted to knock, as if to ask, “Whatever is in there, you, you who keeps appearing in my mirror! Leave this room. I need some sleep tonight, and I deserve to stay in my own bed, don’t you think?” Instead, she placed her head near the door to listen for sounds. The silence of the other side was only interrupted by the steady beating of the pulse in her own ears, pressed and wedged against the wood. Slowly, she opened the door and peered in. A dark bed, desk, and mirror greeted her. She turned on her light. Everything was as it had been before. Nothing was unusual.

Before bed, she sat in front of her mirror again, brushing her air. It was then that the image came to her directly. It stared at her, violently made a face of horror, placed its hand over its mouth as if to scream, and nothing came out. The image was clear, and out of terror of the foreign thing, she picked the mirror up and slammed it against the hardwood floor of her room. The thick glass fell with a scream and broke into seven distinct pieces, lying neatly on her floor, the pieces next to one another. She slowly inched herself up, her hands holding the wall behind her and looked down. This time, the image in the mirror was real. It was undeniable. She put her hand to her mouth. The image put its hand to its mouth. She touched her nose. The image touched its nose. She smiled. The image smiled back. And as she gazed at it again with an eye of resignation, the image of herself gazed back at its form with the same resignation, identity to identity, self to self.

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