There was once a girl who wasn’t really a girl. She looked like a girl and talked like a girl but really she was a mirror. She smiled and walked and ran and played but still she was a mirror. She was perhaps not meant to be a mirror, but a real girl. The problem was, perhaps as it is with all people, that people looked at the girl and did not see her. They saw who they wanted or needed to see and thus as mirrors are want to do, she, without meaning or desire, reflected that back to them.
Her parents, wonderful and amazing people, taught the mirror girl to be both respectful and thoughtful whilst being honest, independent and fearless. It was what they wished and because she was an absolutely flawless mirror she could do all of what they wished. For how difficult is it to be a reflection? Physics will tell you that it’s all just light being bounced back at you from a certain angle. A thing they call specular reflection, the most common kind no less.
She grew and each day a new layer of reflection built itself around her, hard and brittle but somehow strong. It kept her imprisoned. Hands pressed from the inside out made no mark on the smooth surface and she smiled her dazzling smile and said all of the right things and no one noticed the absence of the girl because what they wanted was always where they wanted her to be. Then still more people stared into the mirror and still more layers grew.
Occasionally the girl would take a glance in her own mirror. Fastened to the inside of her wardrobe door she would swing the door wide and hope, from darkness to light, freeing the mirror and what was trapped inside to the world she would clear her mind of expectations and try to see without looking. But the mirror girl would stare back with her face and nothing inside because she had no one but herself to reflect and she was the mirror. If you placed one mirror in front of the other they reflected themselves back into infinity and infinity was what stared back at her because she could not break out of the mirror, only look through it.
Along came friends and boyfriends. A tricky business to be all things to all people in one go. A mirror has only one reflection to give and although sometimes two people could see the things they wanted in the exact same reflection, it want not always possible. Some left disappointed and never looked again. Other stayed for a short while, but the other problem with friends and boyfriends is that they changed their minds about the things they wanted to see. Unfortunately once the mirror has reflected one thing, the thing they wanted most to see when they first met you and liked what they saw, they still expect to see that when they look again. Sadly they all see what they want to see. Even if the mirror girl gives them their new desires they still see the old desires and it is not enough. Try as she might, she was not enough on her own because they could not see her and no matter what the mirror gave them disappointment crept in and eventually they stopped looking because she could never satisfy their need.
One by one they all eventually turned away from the mirror and the mirror girl would watch them leave her behind. Each time she was left behind the mirror girl was filled with a sorrow which did not penetrate the glossy surface and yet she felt the corners of the mirror tarnish, the shine still as bright but the gilt wearing thin and cracked on the frame of her existence until when she chose to look into that old wardrobe door mirror there was just grey where she should have stood. All around her still saw what they wanted, be it a disappointment to them or the steady picture they had built and still she walked and talked and played and laughed like she was supposed to because even flawed mirrors can make a good reflection.
For years it carried on in this way and then she discovered the world and the world came to her in a white box with a keyboard and screen. The world wide web could not see the mirror girl, the people on the other side of the screen could read her words but how could you reflect in words she wondered? And so the girl in the mirror sat down and typed, tentative at first and then faster and faster she tried to show herself to these new people whom she had never and might never meet. But she had not thought this through, for surely a screen is simply a flat surface of glass? Instead of the old wardrobe door she was no longer looking into the mirror at herself and the people on the other side looking back at the true her as she had hoped, oh no, they read her words and took their own meaning and typed that back to her. Try as she might the mirror girl would send herself out into the world at the push of a button but her words were translated though the mirror to read whatever anyone wanted them to mean and the mirror girl grew sad and the reflective surface gleamed bright with the tarnish at the edges and she was more imprisoned than ever.
And so it continued, from real life to screen chat and then to whole pages of herself filling the world yet remaining unseen. But the new people still came and eventually they seemed to begin reading through the shine and tarnish and glimpsing the rarest peek of the girl inside the mirror and the mirror girl grew hopeful and kept trying and people clicked to change her life although they did not know they did so. People from her life found her pages and pages of scripted yet true words and the girl in the mirror felt that the rare one or two did as the strangers did and caught sight of her for but a moment. She made friends, friends who, for the first time knew a true part of her and they were cherished and amazing people but they were not enough, she wanted to be seen from the inside out, for a real person to touch her hand, her true hand, not the cool glass which surrounded it.
One of the strangers was a beautiful creature, she saw him through his words in a way that penetrated the mirror and moved her soul. She called him the wordsmith and she reached out with words, tentative and afraid yet he replied, with his own words. There was no reflection of what he though of her in the words, it was a page of words filled with him and with questions, not her or his impression of her. She read the words with joy and pressed against the cool walls of her prison to be closer to those words. They were the most important words in her life so far and she reached out and touched them through the glass and the screen. Real words with meaning and feeling and truth. They were for her, but not to make her. She replied, still afraid but a different kind of fear, a thrill that spun her heart and made her tremble. She filled the page with herself and questions, as he had done, and she waited, the thrill and the spinning and the trembling never ceasing she would stare and glare and wish at the screen to give her a reply, never knowing what it would hold but never hoping for anything specific. She would not mirror him, but she did want to feel his truth, feel him through his words.
Always he replied and she returned until pages and pages flowed into space and filled the empty grey in her mirror, finally, with her old face. Certainly she saw the tarnish on the edged and the cracked and faded gilt of her worlds frame but she smiled inside the glass cage because at least there was vision and colour here now.
Of course there is only so much truth and self one can pour into infinity with words. Words are not everything, they are important and full of promise, but they are not all. And the wordsmith and the mirror girl agreed to meet and she was more afraid than she had ever been in her life. If he saw the mirror and the reflection she would turn to sand inside the prison and let the mirror live. Her heart and her soul would not stand the crush of being unseen, not by him. Not when she knew all the truth of him and he the truth of her.
The day came. He travelled to meet the mirror girl and waited for her behind a closed door. She paused at the door, smaller than it should be and slightly crooked it was as though once the door opened she would be entering a magical world, but everyone knows, even a mirror girl, that magical worlds can be rainbows and ponies or witches and brambles. Fifty-fifty some would say but the mirror girl knew the world more than some and knew that witches and brambles were more likely than rainbows and ponies and the glass squeezed around her until she almost couldn’t breathe. It whispered to her that it would crush her and take her place and she knew that it would be happy to do so because mirrors were happy to reflect, but she was not the mirror, she was the mirror girl and she did not want to be just the mirror, she wished to be just the girl.
And he answered.
Door swinging slowly open to show her blue eyes and a dazzling smile that was shy and almost boyish but excited and hopeful all rolled into one. The smile reached his eyes and made them shine. She felt as though she couldn’t breathe, but it wasn’t the mirror squeezing her now. She realised she was taking him in with the briefest of glances yet keeping her eyes from seeing what he saw. She drank him in, the person he showed her but refused to let herself see what he saw when he looked at her. They left the room and went out into the world together. Hours passing in moments, or so it seemed and she knew him. Through the mirror and filling her heart from the inside out she knew him for the person he was both inside and out. Too reluctant to let it slip away she pondered never checking what he saw and simply fooling herself into believing that everything she had hoped was simply the truth.
But a person cannot live that way. Even a mirror girl must either been seen or give a reflection and neither can divert their gaze forever. It was a simple thing that did it. The simplest of things if it can be believed. It lasted less than a second she thought, but for one tiny moment, as they sat and talked and ate, with her not looking, hiding even, he had reached his hand across the table in a casual manner and for the briefest moment in time his hand brushed against hers.
And it was warm.
It took her a moment to register. You see like I said, it was the briefest touch. And she had touched people before and she had known she was touching them. It’s just her hand, her true hand, had never felt it. Only her mirror hand. But this had been her hand, real flesh and blood connected to her and full of feeling, her really real hand. As it dawned on her she realised she had raised her eyes. Not on purpose you see, no decision had been made, it simply was.
And he looked at her and he smiled and the warmth of the smile bathed her face, her true face, with its beautiful heat. Like the sun on a spring afternoon, warm and light and lovely. His eyes looked directly at her, the delicate exploring weight of their gaze fluttering across her features and searching inside her eyes and seeing what lay beyond. He looked as easily as though the mirror did not exist and she was just a girl to him. And because he felt it was so, it was suddenly as though it was so. There was no melting or breaking of the brittle yet impenetrable glass, it was as though it just was not there and had never been.
She talked and listened and smiled and laughed like a real girl would and she did it because she was a real girl, not the mirror girl. There was only her and he saw her, liked her and even fell in love with her.
So in years to come, the former mirror girl and the wordsmith said the newest most important words in their lives and they married and she was the happiest real girl in the world. She could see and touch and sing and dance and love. She could be seen and touched and sang with and danced with and loved, as if by magic, by the whole world. Some would like it, others not, but she was a real girl now and that’s what being a real girl meant and it was all because of one good look by one good person.
The mirror girl looks every day for other mirror people, to see through their glass and break the spell of sadness they are under and that is her gift to them as it was his gift to her, reality in all its painful, delightful, terrifying and awe inspiring glory.
To really see and be seen is an incredible gift and even if the person who originally saw you should one day stop looking you must never let the mirror layer itself over you like a cold heavy cloak because you might as well crumble and let the mirror live. This is the lesson that the real girl has learnt and she will never be a mirror girl again because once upon a time, one good person took one good look and saw a real girl where once a mirror had hidden her.