—not just the mirror over your bathroom sink, where you’ve seen your face so many times your brain probably doesn’t bother to register it anymore, and what you think you see is actually just a Pavlovian response caused by reflexive firing of neurons in the visual cortex—
but in the mirrors of other peoples’ bathrooms, where you won’t expect it, which might explain why you always look surprised to be washing your hands, and also older than you think you should.
Or the mirror propped against the curb waiting for the garbage pickup because it’s smashed into a star. You can look at yourself a million shattered times over, and wonder whose heart broke so badly the mirror did, too.
Or the mirror that hangs by your grandmother’s bed at the nursing home. Salvaged from her former life, it has mercury-backed glass that tints faces the pastel of a hand-colored studio portrait. Even so, the old woman cannot remember who she is.
Or the mirrors that line the dairy case at the grocery, apparently to make it appear like the cheeses go on forever. Your reflection always looks a little bemused to find itself in a land of infinite cheese.
Or the mirror in the front hall of the big old Victorian where you rented a room, junior year. Coming in, it always caught you in the gloom of the entryway looking like a figure from a Diane Arbus photo. After a while you had to start averting your eyes, lest you give up completely, and come to derangement, neglect, and fondling grenades.
(On the other hand, the mirrors in the fitting rooms at the Outlet always make you feel positive; if poorer, by about eighty-seven ninety-five.)
Look at yourself in polished cars, and the lenses of other people’s sunglasses.
(But not shopfront windows; don’t be that person).
Look in a mirror in the dark. But not if it’s Friday the thirteenth. Just in case.
Lick your spoon after dinner, and look at yourself in the bowl.
Look at yourself in the blades of knives.
Don’t look in mirrors for a week. See if you missed yourself, when you get back.
Remember that reflections are flipped, reversed: the opposite of your actual face. The person you know so intimately in the mirror is someone the rest of the world never sees.
published 22 June 2016