I’m walking down the hallway. The carpet is white, made of soft miniature mounds. The walls are painted creamy beige. The hall twists to the left at its end into an east-facing bedroom. I can tell the door is open because sunlight is bursting passed that corner and toasting the edges of the wall with golden sheets of light. Yet the sunlight can’t make it beyond that corner and its light dulls, throwing shade down the rest of the hall, into the bedrooms, into the bathroom. As I stride forward I catch my reflection on my right in the bathroom mirror and stop. The bathroom is long, narrow, and its mirror runs its length. Below the mirror, equal in length is a countertop with a sink at each end. The floor and walls are covered with white ceramic tiles. On the other end of the room, opposite the door, is the toilet with a window above it. The blinds are closed and daylight barely leaks through its edges.
As I enter the bathroom I suddenly find myself in my older sister’s basement bedroom. My feet stand again on carpet, not cold ceramic, but the coarse deep blue of Morgan’s bedroom floor. It’s also dimly lit. The window up near the ceiling, above the bed, only lets in the residual daylight bouncing off of the neighbor’s driveway. I walk up to the tall oval mirror that rises up from behind the imitation oak dresser. The mirror’s top right corner reads: “I ♥ STEVEN,” in purple puff paint with an arrow through the heart. My eyes move to the center then lower. I make eye contact with the little boy reflected back at me. I break the stare and drop my eyes to the dresser’s top. Yet it’s now the white linoleum counter of the bathroom. My chest is at the counter’s edge and the sink’s faucet is at eye level. To the left of the porcelain sink is a pair of scissors. I pick up the scissors with my right hand. I look back at my shadowed complexion, pull a tuft of bangs upward, momentarily struggle to find the lock of hair between the scissors’ blades, chop, and let the bowl cut fall back into place. My forehead looks like it’s missing a tooth.
I put the scissors back down on the dresser where I found them. I switch the floor lamp on to get a better look at my handy work. The missing chunk is glaringly obvious and I’m nervous what my Mom is going to say, what she’ll do when she sees. Is she going to scream at me? Am I going to get grounded from the TV? I brush the hair from side to side, desperately hoping to cover up the damage. Should I cut more? Is it even that bad? Maybe if I brush it around no one will notice. Is my hair getting darker?
Is it getting red like Dad’s? His hair used to be blond when he was a kid. Chris keeps pulling out single hairs from my head and telling me they’re red. When I start to cry he says he’s just helping me get rid of them. But Morgan says they’re not actually red and he’s just teasing. I don’t know what to believe. They both get to have Mom’s brown hair and don’t have to worry about it turning red. Even their Dad has brown hair. Mom’s entire family has brown hair. When did the color even start changing?
I can’t tell if my eyes are still blue or a mixture of blue, green, and gray. Casey’s eyes are green and have yellow surrounding her pupils. They look like little flowers. Where did she get those? I wonder if they’ll change too. When I was little like her my eyes were bright blue. She’ll probably get Dad’s red hair too.
I realize I’m still staring at my self, my body. I used to be little like her. When did I grow though? How did I get this tall? I don’t ever feel like I’m growing, but I used to be shorter. I used to be a baby. I don’t remember being a baby though. How did a baby become me? Is that really the person I’ve always been? How do I know this body is mine, is me? That that is the person I’ve always been. I have memories of myself, but how do I really know I’m me?
If somebody saw me standing here staring at myself they’d think I was nuts. Do other people have thoughts like these? Am I the first person who has gotten lost in a mirror? I feel kind of scared. All these questions without answers feel somehow truthful. I back away from the dresser nervously, wipe up the hair from the countertop and flush it down the toilet.
They’re funny little objects, mirrors. They’re the place where left is right and right is left, the place where I’ve never had the slightest sense of depth, the place where I fixate on unwanted hairs—every unsightly blemish and pore, and yet the plane where my subconscious is born. The mirror forces me into its twisted game. I come to it out of vanity yet I’m forced into questions about my own identity, my own existence.
The game plugs me into a linear path. One in which I piece together my past up to the present moment. I was born, I grew into the person staring here, I will die, and I always assume I’m in the middle of the path. It’s hard to make sense of life as linear. I’ve got a mind full memories and I’ve got a good sense of when they took place. I think of my head as being an enormous dresser. Each year of my life is a drawer. But each drawer is a junk drawer, completely disorganized, its contents in one big pile hidden away in a nice wooden structure.
The more I try to organize the drawer the more skeptical I become of its contents. What I thought was a simple pocketknife turns out to be caked in dried pizza sauce. The keys I thought were to my old car are actually my father’s set. As I examine each object I have to ask myself if it’s even in the right drawer. Whenever I try to visualize my own timeline I begin to feel as though I’m repeating words ad-nauseam; it’s losing all sense of meaning and order.
Yet I return to the mirror to organize time, time and again. Still asking the same questions. Still having no answers. Still bearing isolation. Still suspecting myself extraordinary. Still shying away in anxiousness.