Friday morning, I changed seven times.
When I looked up from buttoning the shirt I would unbutton seconds later, I expected to see someone else staring back at me in the mirror. But — it’s always her.
I turned to face my profile and pull at the bottom of my shirt. I was running late and didn’t have time to change again, but — I did anyway.
I’m not sure when this happened — but my reflection has become some strange sort of foe. It appears we agree on simple things like: cotton versus polyester, but, the clothes hang off us differently. Colors distract us. Most of our wardrobe is black. And her expression is always sullen — to match our sweaters. But, things shift. I’m starting to see colors explode through the seams. I feel her fight the smile that creeps up at the corners of my mouth.
Across the river, at work, her reflection finds me again. She glares out from the glass doors of my office building, melting in the morning light like a Dalí painting. I shift my red tote bag around my torso to cover my waist. There’s no hiding from her though — she sees through things. Totes. Camisoles. Layers of mascara. Thick, glossy nail polish. Geeky frames. Bras. Boots. She catches me at angles that others do not.
My own disconnect still surprises me. She’s an imposter. I can’t read her.
I want her to look some other way. I want her to laugh more. I miss that — my own laughter and how it escapes wildly — a thousand big bangs imploding in my chest. Suddenly, I want to laugh at everything. I bite the side of my cheek.
I check my teeth in the ladies’ room mirror. A big, toothy smile. Is that happiness? Laughter? I’m not sure I’d even recognize it. But, truthfully, there’s not much of anything I recognize these days — It leaves me space to feel something new.
On the drive home, my eyes meet hers in the rear view. I decide only one of us will survive the summer. And — it’s me.
I turn up the stereo so loud that the bass shakes the little, white cat that’s glued to my dash. In a line of cars, waiting to cross the Ross Island Bridge, I pull my hair loose from its tight-tied bun. My auburn locks fall softly around my ears and the dying wind of summer kicks them up behind my headrest. I pull off my cardigan, in my eighth and final costume change of the day, and let my left shoulder bake in the sun.
Today, I’m showing up. — Myself. Alone. Take it or leave it. I dump my doppelgänger on the West bank of the Willamette.
As I make my way over the bridge, Mt. Hood welcomes me back to the East side. I drive up Division and turn down 16th Ave. I let myself get lost myself in a maze of circular streets, crowded with babies and bikers. I pull over. I turn off the engine. — I think I’m alone now.
Seat belt still fastened, with five minutes to spare, I throw my head back and I laugh, hard, before making my solo debut.