I see her there in front of me. Her eyes are slightly red. She hasn’t been crying but she looks tired, weary almost. She stares back at me, her eyes meeting mine, a hint of defiance in the way she tilts her chin. She’s daring me to judge her, an unspoken challenge passes between us. I try to convey some tenderness with my gaze. No words are spoken, yet I know she is feeling raw today.
I see shades of temper, I see shards of pain. I glimpse flickers of something that moves swiftly, far too fast for me to identify.
I search her face then, looking at her as though for the very first time. What story lies in the depths of her eyes? What tales can be told from the expression on her face? I try to look deeper, exploring further now, wanting to know more, to understand.
The reminders of her life are shown there on her skin.
Laughter and heartache are documented line by line. Memories of all the streets where she didn’t fit in, the avenues where she couldn’t stay. They have etched themselves there on her casing to paint a picture of loss and love. I wonder how she bore the weight of the heavier burdens, if she was able to fly at all during those times, or if she remained grounded, resentful of the unwelcome anchor that encumbered her wings.
I search for the places where the emptiness lives, where the cavity is deep and wide. I search for the spaces from which she overflows, ready to pour herself into a mould that she can then break free from.
Suddenly I stop. I drop my eyes, feeling with a sense of instinct that below the surface is a room where old wounds live. She has packaged them up, all those raw feelings, all those uncomfortable experiences. They have been carefully wrapped in paper and then tied in string. Safely contained. They line the shelves, their neat forms collecting dust, remaining silently stored away. I know she is not ready to unwrap them just yet.
Maybe tomorrow. Maybe.
I glance up once more. She is still there. I gaze back at her, determined not to look away this time. I try to silently communicate to her that it’s ok, that she’s ok. She looks back at me, seemingly unconvinced, and I want to reach out to her, to wrap her up in a bundle of love and understanding. I want to tell her she’s not alone and that we can blow away her fears just like the cobwebs that live on the garden pathway outside. They too are intricate and well woven, yet fragile and easily swept aside.
Her expression is blank now. Unreadable. She has drawn the curtains on the window to her soul and I know that there will be no new revelations this hour.
There’s a knock at the bathroom door and I step away from the mirror. I breathe deeply, my lungs receiving the air gratefully, each new breath taking me slightly further away from the uncomfortable feeling of having been too exposed.
I walk from the house, down and out onto the street, past the other faces that have been prepped for the day ahead. Millions of faces.
We are a sea of strangers standing shoulder to shoulder, united and isolated all at once, presenting ourselves as we wish to be seen, camouflaging the rest.
I pick up my pace now and as I walk I wonder how many of these other faces have stories like mine. Dusty rooms with neatly bound parcels inside. Packages that wait patiently to be unwrapped, to have their story heard, to have their pain felt. I tell myself I’ll open one of my parcels soon. I feel better for the thought, for the intention. Yes, I will unwrap one soon.
Not today though. Maybe tomorrow.