The sound of retching emanating from the bathroom jars like sandpaper grating on glass. It’s drowned by splashing sounds and the gurgle of water disappearing down the drain. Everything’s silent for a while. Then come the sobs, muted at first, gradually rising in intensity, a crescendo reaching towards its climax with a finality born of repetition.
Sia emerges from the bathroom, beads of water adorning her thin little face, pinched after this most recent bout of self-induced vomiting. A few strands of wet hair fall over her face, giving it the same childlike look I’ve witnessed her shed over the years, and blossom into the beautiful young lady peering into my silver depths. I’ve been her friend, the one she has turned to since she was a child for confirmation and validation.
I still remember her all of six years old, twirling around in front of me coquettishly, clad in her favorite princess pink frock and whispering,
“Mirror, mirror on the wall,
who’s the cutest of them all?”
I would firmly reply, “You, my darling,” but my words are lost, never falling on her ears.
She never hears my loving affirmations but religiously imbibes her mother’s abuses, which she throws at Sia, to scorn the man who bestowed her with this responsibility, then absconded in complete denial of his own.
“Have you even looked at yourself recently?”
“You’re gaining weight.”
Isn’t my example a lesson for you?
“No one’s going to love you if you aren’t slim and trim. And those who do will leave you for someone else.”
“You’ll be left all alone like me.”
“Always stuffing your mouth.”
I watch the smiles leave Sia’s face and all joy and chirpiness abandon her life. I wish I could somehow break the prison of these four corners and tell her that it’s she who matters, not her weight and figure. But she no longer peeps into my heart, whispering those magic words of her childhood. She has buried reality in my shimmering depths and fished out a false fractured sense of self.
Today, however, I see those sad eyes, staring at me again, inches from my face. She tucks a wet curl behind her ears. Somehow she has found herself a bottle of whiskey, probably belonging to that useless dumb person she called father. She takes a swig and then starts twirling, careless and joyful, like those early days. She keeps taking swigs in-between the pirouettes. The bottle is empty when she comes to me and asks,
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall
Who’s the bravest of them all?”
A sense of foreboding rises in my chest like a fish opening its jaws. Sia returns to the bathroom and for a long, long time the only sound is that of running water. The mother comes in the evening, takes one look at all the water and rushes into the bathroom. It is then that the screams start. I’m only a mirror but today I’ve lost my light.
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