Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
by Ashley Wang
Once upon a time, we were gods.
We soared high above the clouds upon the wings of angels. Everything was beautiful golden light and warmth (no cracks where tendrils of darkness would slip through the moment you turned your back). Not even the sky was a limit. We had everything. (and nothing)
I think I might have been loved.
I was whole, then. Not broken.
I knew of something called "happiness."
We flew above the world and we laughed and laughed and laughed and everything was beautiful and perfect.
(it wasn't enough)
I remember that day when I looked down and saw myself in the mirror. She was beautiful too, in the way the siren is beautiful—right before it lures you into its hungry maw. I reached out with my right index finger, giggling, trying to touch the face of my reflection and—
smash. snap. shred. splinter. shatter.
(laughter turned to gasps turned to cries turned to screams—)
I just wanted to see.
(I hit the ground. I split into a thousand little pieces.)
I'm still laughing now.
I wake up shrouded in darkness, surrounded by little bits and pieces of broken glass. My only source of light is you, shining through the cracks from when I fell through the mirror. You see me through the glass. I see you, and you laugh.
Who are you now, my (im)perfect fallen angel? What do you have left with wings clipped, pride broken? Nothing. (nothing but me)
having nothing = no matter = no worth = worthless = doesn't matter
If I had a heart (I'm not so sure I do anymore), I think it would be a pile of broken glass shards. Pretty enough to admire from a distance, something you'd leave on a shelf and occasionally glance at. Not what you'd place on your desk, where you'd give the non-faked smiles and sunshine and loving care.
Perhaps they could be mistaken for diamonds, until you come close and try to crush one and it proves its weakness. Brilliant when they reflect something else's light, but with none of their own. Not like the moon, though—at least it's solid and won't shatter at a touch. These are superficial. Meaningless.
I once had everything.
Now I am empty.
What wouldn't give, you ask. What would you not give to become whole again? Perfect again? To be worth—something? To be truly seen again?
You know my answer before I even open my mouth.
Nothing. Nothing at all.
I shove my hand through the hole in the mirror, heedless of the pain. You're waiting. I pull you through.
You smile, soft and (sickly) sweet, showing teeth.
I want crave need something—anything. Anything to fill in the void of my once-heart, my once-soul. Anything to go back to where I once was before, before I knew what fear and pain looked like.
You are my everything. You are my new God.
And beggars can't be choosers.
I watch them, with their perfect hair, perfect faces, pretty-perfect clothes and grades and homes and (fake?) lives and I can't help but wonder, how. How can they not see? How can they smile and giggle, so wild and carefree? How can they not scream and sob and tear at their throats when no one's listening at night? I laugh, silently, from my little corner. They don't know there's a monster in the mirror.
But I'm also a bit jealous, I'll admit. They're satisfied, after all. They're happy. Sometimes I wonder if it was cruelty to lift the veil over my eyes, if I was content with the illusion. If it was better not to know. Then I shake my head and cut off that thought as soon as it arrives. Dangerous territory.
After all, I'm not entirely free of delusion, either. My lens has simply changed—broken glass now, instead of rose. I wonder which is worse.
"What's so funny?" he asks.
I stop laughing. "Nothing," I reply. "Nothing at all."
People tend to walk over me, each step glass/ice, crackly/smooth. It hurts them but it hurts me too and I break apart into even more pieces. (I cry out with no voice so no one hears.) I try to pick them up myself but they slice and cut and fall out of my fingers and of course they won't let me heal.
Soon they'll be all dust and white powder and they won't hurt when they're stepped on because they'll be so small that not even the finest blade or most dedicated torturer could crush them further.
Eventually I get used to the pain. It doesn't hurt much, anymore.
I wonder, sometimes, what it would be like if someone else were listening while I told my story.
No—they wouldn't want to hear this one, I think. My story is told along fractured lines, over fragile bones, a swirl of chaotic flashes and ramblings and not-really-thoughts all twisted and out of order and downside-up—hardly coherent. No, I don't think they could understand. (no one can understand, no one but you)
They'd think I'm mad.
It should scare me that I can't say for sure they're wrong.
I just wanted to be different. I wanted to be special. I wanted to be good—better—perfect.
Not watched, but seen. Not heard, but listened to. Not pitied, but felt.
It's not even about that anymore.
Cut for cut, blood for blood, perfect beauty for (perfect pain).
Everything for (nothing).
One day it'll be enough and I'll be able to stop (it'll never be enough and I'll never stop, and I know it, I know I'm lying through my rotted teeth but I continue anyways because there isn't a choice, not really, because the alternative is much, much worse).
It doesn't hurt.
This is the last time. One more and then you'll stop.
You'll be perfect.
You'll be loved.
Odi et amo. I hate and I love.
Why I do this, perhaps you ask?
I know not, but I feel it happening and I am tortured.
"Why do you do this to yourself? Why don't you stop? Why can't you just walk away?"
Why not, I answer.
"Because you're hurting yourself! It's not right. You don't have to do this."
They never ask why I need to. Stopping doesn't make me any less cold, any less broken.
So I smile. I say fine, I'll stop, this was the last time. Then I shrug and go back to my room and lock the door and do it again.
It's much easier to lie to them than to lie to myself. But I manage.
I try to leave, once.
I thought I'd had enough. I thought I couldn't take anymore. I thought I could make it without you.
You don't try to stop me.
I don't last a day.
I come crawling on broken-bruised knees, begging for you to take me back. You tilt your head quizzically, studying my face, cool and calm and collected. Your little half-smile says it all: See? I told you so.
I never knew, before, how much I could take.
can't live with you
can't live without you
can't die with you
can't die without you
So which do I choose?
I know it's wrong. I know it's hurting me. I know there's no reason I should.
I do it anyway.
What is a soul worth? Am I half-empty or half-full?
I chase perfection in a different form—perfect pain, perfect sacrifice. I hurt now because I would hurt more otherwise, and I would hurt more then because I'm hurting now. I disappear to become visible.
I crave pain because I want your approval. I crave your approval because of my pain.
I take what you give so I can give what you take.
I'm at my lowest highest. I am disappearing returning, falling rising. I sob (with joy) and scream (in ecstasy). I am finally (in)visible.
See me, I plead from the floor, too weak to stand up (no, that's wrong, I am strong—) You don't have to fix me. Just give me one drop of (imitation-)love that you don't even need, not really. One tiniest morsel and I will be fed, I will be warm, I will be whole, and I will never, ever ask again.
(They walk past and they don't even see what's right beneath them. I suppose I can't blame them, not really. People love to look left, right, up, forward, and especially behind, but never down.)
You hear, of course. You're the only one who ever has. I will after you do this one little thing for me, you say—but I've learned that you lie.
Give me a reason. Just one. One reason not to leave and end it all (the only way it could truly end). Maybe if I finally do, it won't hurt anymore, because if I can't feel then I can't feel pain.
Not everyone is silent, I learn. Not everyone chooses not to look. Someone listens. Someone sees me for who I am, all broken flaws and imperfections, and doesn't flinch, doesn't turn away. Someone reaches down, takes my hand, points towards the sky and says look. Someone reaches up, wipes away the blood and dirt, and I can see.
my beauty lies not in perfection
but in dreams, half-fulfilled
not whole, but not broken
but not nothing
once lost, but found
a thread of light
a drop of hope
half a smile
no longer cold
no longer empty
a thousand points of light, reflected
liquid glass (ice water—no, gold)
never again what they (it) once were (was)
but perhaps stronger
The fractures still show
but the wounds are closed (if scarred)
perhaps not beautiful
but no longer wanting
(little strands occasionally seep through)
but close enough.
and the heavens see.
I shove you back through sheets of liquid silver.
You scream and cry and laugh and shout, But I made you! You are nothing, nothing without me! You could have had everything! I am God! For a moment, I hesitate.
Only a moment.
I will wait no longer.
(i can't let go)
But I love you—
If you loved me, you'd let me go.
I open my mouth, and words finally come out. You're no god. You don't love me. You lie.
You are cold gray ashes and smoke. Anything and everything and nothing at all.
I look into the mirror and I see myself.
Mirror. R I'm—or— (r?)
(R I mor r…)?
Who I am has nothing has am I Who
I am who has everything has who am I
am I who anything who I am?
all at this of this at all
(Reflection—teen frolic—once-lifter—fencer toil—cent or life—cent or file—lie for cent—I let confer—ten-clef or I—let in force—)