The Other Me in Me

A/N: This piece is actually fictional, based off of a real life event. I wrote it as a college essay, and even though it didn't get me accepted anywhere, I have still grown rather fond of it. I hope you will too. It's based off of the concept of the labyrinth, Borges y yo.

I was sitting at my desk, my gaze aimlessly grazing the surfaces of contents in my room when suddenly the lone, silver Tae Kwon Do medal from today's tournament caught my eye. The wide beam of sunlight missed the medal just narrowly, casting it aside to the shadows, but for some reason, its argent tint was still repugnantly potent to the human eye. I sat there, staring at it from a distance for quite some time before I noticed her. I am not sure how long it took for me to see her, to see that familiar face that so closely resembled my own, staring emotionlessly back at me through the vanity mirror in front of me.

We looked nearly identical and the only differences were subtle, the type of digressions that were perfectly apparent with just one glance, yet irksome because it was too difficult to pinpoint what exactly they were. A person could notice them immediately – it was just identifying them that was the problem. But having seen her so many times, I was an expert. I knew. It was in the way her almond-shaped eyes dulled in comparison to mine, the usually present spark of life and purpose lost for some reason or another. Her face still bore that same blank, unreadable expression, except hers seemed more pitiful, more defeated, more desperate. Her cheeks were flushed, hair swept back in a ponytail that was once neat, primed, but now disheveled messily and tousled with sweat. And it was all because of the small, silver medal that I was now fingering in my hands. Because of me. It was all because of me she had reappeared.

She was not me though, only at some times and in some ways. To an outsider, someone who didn't know her as I did, who had not seen her before, it would be difficult to decipher what exactly had gone wrong with this image, the primary reason behind the differences between her and me. But I knew. I had been there. I had felt her in my body, or me in hers, as we competed in a Tae Kwon Do tournament for the very first time. I had experienced her remorse over the fact that there was still someone better, while I, on the other hand, was happy to place second. I had felt her struggling against me as everyone approached with congratulations, heard her scoffs of disbelief when they voiced their pride in me for performing so well.

And now, I saw her, staring back at me with that same wan, crippled countenance with a hint of betrayal lurking in the undertones of her eyes, wordlessly blaming me, faulting me for destroying this chance to win gold. How could I have been defeated? How could I have let her down? We had worked hard for this, practiced so much, so why had I not followed through?

And like every other time before when she appeared to guilt-trip me, I surrendered. There was something about her image, something about the sensation of her whispering voice in my mind that would never allow me to escape. I could not elude her. Not now, not before, maybe never. I wanted to though. Every time after she left, after I had somehow been warped into agreeing to her incessant pellets of blames and recriminations cast my way, I would always tell myself, "Not next time; next time I will be strong." But through and through, I was putty in her hands, my entire resolve rendered defunct the next time she came around.

Eyes piercing into mine, she alleged I had lost. I had failed. The silver medal that lay in my hands might as well not be a medal at all. It was nothing. It was not gold. My insides roared in protest at these assertions, vexed because she was right. Suddenly, there was a need to prove myself, to better myself, to strengthen myself. I had failed this time, but next time I would not. Next time would be different. Practice. Work harder. Grow stronger. Prove to every person who had congratulated us today that today's performance was barely even a taste of all that we were capable. We were not good; we were better. We could do it. We would show ourselves that we could win, file away today's loss as a starting point to improve, a minor glitch that would later offset our line of repeated victories, a buried memory that no one but us would remember. Soon, that gold medal would be ours.

As she told me all this, as she fervently whispered these words of fight into my mind, I saw through the mirror her eyes hardening in resolve… or were those mine? Her previously slouched shoulders squared with defiance as her back straightened with purpose… or were those mine too? I could not tell any longer, but that thought was insubstantial in the midst of all else passing through my mind. All I could see was the prospect of the future. All I knew was that next time we would do it. Next time we would win.

And it was in that moment, while acknowledging all these thoughts – or perhaps she was acknowledging them for me – when I realized that I needed her.

I looked up and our eyes locked once more in the mirror, and suddenly, even I could no longer distinguish the differences between us.