I sometimes feel as though I am not there. No—let me rephrase. I sometimes feel as though I am other people, and the saggy sack of bones I see in the mirror is a new, grotesque monster that runs about convincing people it is me. Its brown eyes roll about their strange frames, its hair is continuously dyed red and cut short even though it was, at some point, stringy and blonde, long like spaghetti noodles, and its pink lips spill words and phrases that the brain inside its skull cannot help but constantly wonder about, as in, did I really say that out loud? Do I really believe that? The answer to those questions is almost always a resounding no, but the brain in its mismatched skull can do nothing but sit back and listen.
I sometimes wish to remove this brain, to cut a hole in this fake-me’s skull so I may remove the insides like the squishy, squelching insides of a pumpkin to set aside in a silver bowl and use for later. I can imagine sliding my hands inside the skull and removing the brain with the same grace one holds the hand of a child, cradling the brain against my breast as though it is a bruised, wounded thing; as I cradle it I apologize in whispered tones, a little lullaby, hush-a-bye, don’t you cry, I will treat you better, baby.
Sometimes I stand before a mirror to convince myself that the grotesque monster pretending to me can someday be coaxed into something gentler, something tame and lovely with smile lines and the scent of flowers, and then I will become more comfortable inside its cramped body. I touch the skin of the face, pale, easily sunburnt, glance at the fingernails, cuticles forcibly removed by absent teeth, stare down to the feet, toes curved just slightly in towards one another, a permanent display of shyness, physical manifestation of the question, “Are you sure?” This body was born untrusting, uncertain.
I stand before the mirror and tell the reflection that its name is Katherine, chosen by the father, and its nickname is Kathy, chosen by the mother after her mother who died young from leukemia. I say it repeatedly until the reflection buzzes with the energy of the listening, eyes wide and brimming, chapped lips parted, body leaning forward, balancing on the balls of the feet. I speak with the confidence of someone who knows things. But, for all her attention, the girl in the mirror does not believe me.