It’s another morning. I’m always the first one to see her.
The light floods the room as she flips on the switch. Here, these lights are my friends, though in other areas—dressing rooms in particular—their harshness can tell as many blunt lies as I do if you bend me in a house at a carnival.
You can’t always trust us, I admit. Me and Lights. And Smoke, too. But in here, I’m honest. We’re honest. Me and the Lights.
Her eyes, cloudy and half-asleep, take a look at me and lean in for a closer look. I try to appear warm and friendly, but I’ve learned by now it’s pointless. Nothing I reflect will penetrate the thick fog of expectations resting between us. She decides what she’ll see before she even walks in the door.
She inspects me as she examines herself. I see the frustration as she scans what I show her. Not pleased. She’s doing it again, picking away at herself, like a chicken. Chipping away at herself, like an ax. Her brows furrow together, a slight dent shows above her right eye. She reaches her fingers to her face and beings to poke, prod, stretch her tanned skin, the light hair of her eyebrows, the slope of her nose.
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Beauty is in the flaws. Loveliness is in the soul. She’s amazing. But it doesn’t matter because I show, while her brain tells.
She’s hating herself because of what I show her, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m across from her, screaming the truth, but she will not see it. She sees what she feels. I reflect the truth—how she interprets what she sees is the lie. A lie woven like a rug by many quilters, each adding a patchwork of perfection that is an image none of us could ever reflect in reality.
Later, the paints and creams and pencils and sticks will come out, each with a different role in the game she plays with herself to change, conform, rearrange. The distance she puts between us becomes smaller and she works to quiet the Voices of Perfection in her head with purple eyeshadow and Berry Kiss lipstick.
I wish I could tell her she’s beautiful.
Like so many others she knows, I’m cold. I’m glass. Despite what I reflect, all she sees are magazines and movie stars, each setting a bar of expectations that are untrue and unfair and unkind. Her mind is full of people who are not people, but ghosts of a PhotoShop screen. I would know. If they stood in front of me, their scars would show, too.
She leans her forehead against me, and I want to tell her everything she thinks about herself is wrong. “You’re beautiful,” I’d tell her if I could. “I see you every day. I see you when tears are dripping down your face and you need to see yourself, see how sad you look to believe how bad this is.”
“You deserve better,” I’d tell her. “I see you,” I’d say. “And I wish you could see yourself the way I see you. The way I show you before the muck of the world gets in the way and messes it all up.”
She turns off the light and walks out of the room. I remain flat against the wall, waiting for the day when she comes in, turns on the light and smiles.
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