What’s so beautiful about this face? The question rings in my ears. I lower my gaze from the glare of
the bulb overhead. I’m met with the eyes of a stranger. She doesn’t look like me. She stopped looking
like me a long time ago. I don’t wear lipstick three shades darker than my blood. I don’t put on heavy
lashes on my drooping, bloodshot eyes. I don’t have a dazzling smile set in stone.
But she does. Her lips are coloured dark, the Devil shies off her smile. She has long lashes, long,
curved lashes that look like clouds sprinkled glitter over them as she walked. She bites at her lip just a
little, timid look in her eyes and the world unravels at her feet.
She has a life, but she isn’t real.
I don’t have a life. I am not real either.
I run shaking hands through my hair and set about my routine. My wearied fingers move of muscle
memory more than co-ordination, and unmask, with leisure, the ghost beneath them.
The water runs down my neck, dripping off of my chin, the tip of my nose. As I pat it dry, I look into the
mirror again. It is as if the lighting changes, as if I am in the murky motel bathroom again.
Yellow light flickering over my head. A small girl, in a small motel, in a small city in the middle of
nowhere. Her life crumbling before her eyes, as she tries in vain to fix the mess around. She can
stitch up the wounds her brother comes home with. Busted up knuckles from fights in bars he’s too
young to go to. The marks he carved onto his forearms with their dad’s pen knife. She could sew up
his wounds when he was four and busted open his chin on a staircase, when she was eight. But she’s
wasted, a failure. Because she can’t sew close the rips torn in their lives when their parents died.
Because she can’t help her brother with school homework, because they don’t go to one anymore.
Because she can’t be a mother, a father and a sister to him. Because she decided it was easier to
think she couldn’t help him than try.
That was eight years ago. Eight years ago, I was fourteen and wanted to be a nurse when I grew up.
And eight years ago, I was tossed into foster care with my crying brother clinging to the end of my
The urge to smash the polished mirror flares up me. It is like a slow burn in every essence of my
body. I grip the sink edges and will myself to breathe. I screw my eyes shut, knuckles whitening from
the grip. Hot tears slip past my cheeks. I suck in a ragged breath, a broken sound escapes me
instead. I press my perfectly aligned teeth onto my lip, my shoulders shake with soundless sobs. I can
taste the twinge of metal in my mouth, with salt. I force my eyes open and look at the mangled
reflection staring back at me. Eyes swollen and rimmed red, lip bloody and bruised. Body drawn tight
like a string, tension in every inch of her thrumming skin. I feel the violent urge to be cruel to her. To
mar her perfect skin with the scars from my past. I feel dejected and lost. Fatigue seeping into my
bones, I let the smirk dissolve.
I almost miss my brother. Wistfully, I thinks about how his arms could hold me up as I cried. I think
about him being the only person who knows about the girl with the pink pajamas, pigtails and dreams,
the only person who knows about the girl with the chipped tooth, the only person who might
remember the girl with horrid nightmares and a little brother. I hate myself a little bit more, for seeking
comfort in him. I blame myself a little bit more for the drugs that swim in his veins.
I have a brother, but I am not real, so my brother isn’t either. Nobody knows the little boy who sucked on a lollipop while his sister pushed the swing behind him.
So, they aren’t real.
The international model with dirty blonde hair, and the junkie who can’t tell a cat from a dog, they?
They’re not real either.
I wash up my face. Again. The cold stings and bites at my skin. It doesn’t feel enough.
As I walk out of the washroom, I catch another glimpse of myself in the mirror. And I think again.
What’s so beautiful about this face?