Shards of a Life
The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own. Who was that old woman staring back at me? Why is she here in my bathroom?
She has been beside me for the past ten years in everything I've done, following me everywhere I go. However, I only see her in reflections. She is bent and weathered, unlike me. I feel fresh and vibrant. My mind is no different at seventy than it was at twenty. Ageless, I will live forever as my best self, never changing.
I woke in a fog, one confused morning after a dreamless night, stumbling blindly into the bathroom to rinse out my stale, wine-soaked mouth. Oh, Lord. I found the old woman staring back at me from the mirror over the sink and I couldn't take it anymore.
"Stop. Stop. Stop, dammit. Stop chasing me. Leave me alone. Go bother someone else. Can't you see I'm having a bad morning?" I screamed at her face in the glass as I tossed a hastily discarded high heel from the previous night at her.
She shattered without a word, staring back at me sadly with crinkled, dull eyes. Her hair was a tangle of silvery roots peeking out of the unkempt forest of artificial auburn curls. 'Who was she kidding', I thought. Her pursed mouth was sitting at the intersection of wrinkle and line, with her garish russet lipstick bleeding into the gutters along the roadway of her face.
"Shit". I knelt to pick up the broken pieces of glass and heard my knees crack and creak at the effort. Picking up a star-shaped fragment of the mirror on the floor a flash of a memory escaped it. Had I imagined it? I looked again and the flash turned into a movie of myself as a toddler crying out in the night after a bad dream.
I saw the nightmare emerge from the glass. There was a bear cub stuck at the top of a burning tree that was pushing up through the floor of my bedroom. I couldn't reach the little bear and I sobbed until my Daddy swept me into his big arms and tried to comfort me. At that age, I had no words to explain my terror. It didn't matter. Whatever it was, he could make it better.
Dropping the toddler dream glass into the waste basket I stooped to collect the next piece to see a still photo of my big sister and me, dressed in our pastel Easter coats with be-ribboned straw bonnets. My sister already had chocolate smears on her face from sneaking her candy before church. My skinny legs looked cold under my fancy dress covered only with little white lacy socks, which always seemed to droop on my toothpick ankles. A happy day. A good memory recorded on the broken glass.
A jagged slice from the mirror glowed darkly under the bright overhead lights. It brought back a frightening memory of my parents' darkened bedroom. Shades are drawn, and the doctor left the room carrying his black bag, shaking his head. What was happening? What was wrong? No one talked to me. I was six years old and in the way. They wouldn't let me talk to Mommy.
I sat on my bed and cried, while my older sister told me to quit being a baby and shut up. That day was a mystery to me until years later as an adult I heard the story being retold to my younger sister. The doctor was there to take a blood sample from my mother, who was RH-negative. He was concerned there were going to be problems with my baby sister because of my mother's blood type. My God. I thought my mother was dying. It was all so secretive and frightening to a child.
I quickly disposed of that portion and picked up a good-sized chunk that was reflecting my first flute solo in the band when I was in fifth grade. The song was, 'Girl from Ipanema'. My mother surprised me by sewing a pretty navy blue dress with a red ribbon on the bodice. She also bought me my first pair of stockings and a girdle, which she had refused to let me wear before, even though all my friends had been wearing them since fourth grade. She finally allowed me to shave my legs. I remember playing the solo perfectly, shaking in my shoes. The only thing I was concentrating on was hoping my stockings did not fall down while I was standing alone on the stage.
My fingers bloodied on the next pieces, leaving rusty drops on the tile. Alone in a hospital room with two nursing students trying to guide me through the paralyzing contractions for the birth of my first son, Jeffrey. Alone in my hospital room after his birth, listening to a social worker trying to make me give him up for adoption. The rage and anger welled up in me again, remembering how they kept him from me, hoping I would give in.
The next slip of glass made me smile, watching my husband hold my hand as the nurses rushed the stretcher down a crowded hallway yelling, "She's crowning! She's crowning! Get the doctor!" All I could think at that moment was, "I'm not alone. I'm not alone." And, that made me cry. I set the piece aside to keep forever.
The other bloody shard of glass showed me a movie of my daughter in the recovery room after my granddaughter was born by C-section. My little Sara looked so worn out and fragile. Everyone else was admiring the baby. I wanted to make sure my baby was comforted and that she was not alone. We didn't need to say a word. We were just two mothers sitting together, sharing a bit of peace before the world intruded.
The last bit of glass that was big enough to pick up with my hand had white frosting on it. In the glare of the bathroom lights. I could make out three little bridesmaids marching down the grassy aisle to the strains of a Star Wars march. My Son, Sam, dressed in a vest and bow tie, waiting for his Bride to follow the little bridesmaids to meet him under the arbor.
I turned the glass around and saw white and blue frosting smears and a cloudy portrait of my daughter in white, her new husband, and their little family posing for wedding day pictures, surrounded by our family.
I swept up the glass dust with a broom and dropped it into the waste basket, turning to see if that old lady was still in the room with me. Without the mirror, she had nowhere to hide. I smoothed my artificial auburn locks and promised myself to make an appointment with my hairdresser very soon. I didn't want to end up looking like that old crone.