We’re stood in front of the mirror again. Poke this, prod that. Stretch, grab, twist, pull, until red lines decorate our skin like creases on a crumpled napkin. Nothing changes, flesh moves back to where it was with unsurprising certainty. Mirror us gazes back, stare analytical, impersonal. She tilts her head and forces a smile, which drops just as quickly as it rose to her lips, floating to the floor like a leaf in autumn.
The red lines still glow on our skin. We trace them, delicately at first, then with ferocity and danger. Fingerprints line the branches of our body like blossom. We twist and fold, imagine cutting into flesh, manipulating the fabric of our body like clothing. A pleat here, a tuck there. Sculpting like clay to perfect our imperfections.
It’s ritualistic, this inspection. Sacred time spent analyzing, criticizing, all straight-faced and somber, a funeral for something untouchable. Unattainability is key. Twist around, check behind. More things to change, more things to hate. We sigh, near-silent cries of desperation flying from our lips.
We dress slowly, another ritual. Carefully selected pieces to do to our body what we cannot, hide the things we can’t change. Slowly the nakedness disappears. Suddenly our body doesn’t exist. It’s cloaked, shrouded, hinted at through necklines and hems.
We stare again, tilt our head, force the same smile. Fingers pull at clothing, rearrange, redistribute material. Eventually, we’re exposed to the glare of the mirror again, fabric pooled around our feet. No fingers this time, no pulling, no prodding. Gently we trace the faint red marks, still present, still angry even as they fade. We turn and twist, every angle viewed, every contortion conceivable performed.
We squeeze our eyes tight shut; run our hands over our torso. Shoulder, chest, sides, stomach, thighs. Our body is gone again, non-existent as a visual, a physicality only. It is magical. We dress again with our eyes closed, feeling clothes slide up our legs and over hips, sleeves hugging arms, shoes grounding our feet. We walk out of the room without looking in the mirror.
Words: Katie Billham, Storehouse Content Team, @katiie_mae_
Illustrations: Freya Elise, Storehouse Content Team, @freyaelise