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  • Whenever I look in the mirror, I am shocked. That's putting it politely. I don't believe I have ever walked to a mirror expecting to see the person who gazes back at me. She looks just as surprised and shell-shocked as I feel, so I'm not alone in this.
    One would believe that by now I would know what to expect, what to see, after all being a woman with enough vanity on hand and having spent a fair amount of time rushing between mirrors and doing the live thing, I would know what I look like from the outside, or rather should look like. And do look like. And expect to see exactly that.
    Yet... each time, I look in the mirror, it's
    " ! who the hell are you?!" she starts backwards faster than I do.
    "... uh, yeah " the shy recognition, that phew of a sigh. We both take a little step closer, hands tucking the sweep of hair behind the ear.
    "Yes, that's you, megan." She rakes her fingers through her hair, backwards, up and out of her face and we peer at each other, warily. But questions shadow our features, doubt still hovering.
    She is blonde - a lot older than I expected - a tarnished blonde with a lot of white-grey hair scattered haphazardly and glinting as it all falls back now, tousled. I am always impressed by the white streak that sprouts from the highest curve of that cowlick, forming the outer locks of a fringe falling across her brow, lengthening over that eye, covering what she thinks is an unsightly mole just under her eyebrow on that side. Dark pencilled brows. I always lean in closer and she always obliges, tilting her head just a little so that I can see by fall of light the fine colourless eyebrows where the pencil hasn't coloured. Yep, a natural blond. She should pluck her eyebrows... and tint them, because sometimes she realigns the brows completely off course with that pencil. Her mascara could also be done away with if she tints those lashes too. She wouldn't look like a goose then when not wearing make-up. Her nose is nearly always shiny and I keep suggesting that she uses a powder but she ignores the suggestion.
    "Too fussy. Who notices any way?"
    She smiles and laughs a lot and I envy her, the way she seems to have no ill feelings about some of the things life throws at her. Her mouth is pale, almost white, tinged blue almost all the way through winter, lipstick a definite must for a touch of colour. Not a full and generous mouth, small but the upper lip is sharply defined.
    I know life has not been overly kind to her. Sometimes when she thinks I'm not looking her smile fades and I see the ravages wrought by time and living through mistaken choices, losing bits of her zest to false promises she couldn't keep: that small frown line, the light creases scoring her forehead, wrinkles etched about the eyes, downward cast corners of mouth, visible petulance in the lines on either side of her nose. Her skin is also aging, sagging, loosening; I seriously suggest she starts using creams and lotions properly, on a daily basis. Fluff herself up some, make herself look and feel youthful.
    "Don't have the time." Your choice but you could, if you want to.
    "Blegh."
    She looks up and smiles at me, those worrisome lines and creases smooth and the petulance disappears as eyes crinkles, the corners of her mouth lengthening and tilting up. She looks alive and I can't help smiling and laughing back at her.
    Appeased, I let my eyes roam, taking it all in, committing it all to memory again. When I look to see if she understands and doesn't mind me studying her so intently, she is looking me straight in the eye.
    I am embarrassed and at times uncomfortably awkward. Sometimes I am belligerent and take another step towards her, daring her to keep looking at me so. She steps up to the plate and we land up having in a staring match: sometimes she wins, leaving me disconcerted; most times we end it bored or distracted.
    Then there are the times we don't know how to react, equally startled and we both step back, with me trying to package the whole experience into perspective. She just looks confused and lost.
    It remains an unfailing mystery to me. All reflections caught are mind-boggling; a life of double-takes, split-heart-second separating; utterly shocking. Like walking back into the building after a smoke-break and, seeing a woman I don't recognise striding with determination towards me through the darkened glass - my first instinct to flee, my heart frantically searching an escape route, my muscles liquefied, my confidence quailing - usually has me needing another one right then and there, a pacifier; she scares the hell out of me.
    I don't see myself as this me. Don't see the megan others do, not from inside. I live from inside and I have no visage, no concept of my physical self.. Brute personality, sure! but I lack this durable physical image of myself, this megan I see staring back at me, eyes narrowed, green eyes blazing, adamant that I should.
    Why do I feel the outsider, like an intruder in her life? Welcomed but non-committal?
    Not sure, questioning my validity, I turn away, silently whispering that I will not
    Become her
    Lay claim to her image
    That I will take the time and learn to
    Breathe like she, peaceful
    Mimic that smile, youthful
    And sleep as another might.

    I wonder if she sees herself, when turned away from me.



    (Self-portrait – but which of whom I cannot say for sure)
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