I look in the mirror and see an insecure me. The me that can’t see beyond the big, brown, wondrous eyes traced in emerald green eyeliner and thick black lashes. The me that can’t smile because the red, irritated skin, peels so much it begins to crack and bleed. The me that can’t smile because the skin underneath my nose and corners of my mouth feel rigid and tight.
I look in the mirror and see a scaly monster, the monster everyone at school and at work sees. I look in the mirror and see a vulnerable woman, tears brimming on bottom eyelids, wanting to take a fist to the mirror and watch it shatter. I tell myself I never want to see my reflection ever again. And instead, I slum to the floor and pull my knees to my chest.
There in that bathroom for the fourth night in a row, I cry in my own arms because I think no one will want to touch me and let me cry on them. There in that bathroom, I cry so hard I tire myself to sleep for another night on that cold tile floor. The next morning I wake up, my back is tight and red lines are embedded on my face from sleeping on a towel. This is the way the next few nights will be until I just give up, I tell myself.
I go to school that day. My friend, Lauren, tells me I look tired. I tell her about the night before and she looks at me with the same expression my sister gives me when something I’ve said has hurt her hurt. Lauren tells me about the first day she met me and how she noticed my smile before anything else. She said I made her laugh, she found me to be light-hearted, and kind. Lauren tells me the last thing she noticed was my skin, but I can’t help but think she’s lying.
It’s in that moment I ask myself why someone as sweet as Lauren would lie to me to make me feel better? And that’s the moment I realized I’ve gone mad. I’ve lost my mind. I stare at the ground as she speaks because I can’t look her in the eye. Lauren lifts my face gently by raising my chin with the bottom of her fingertips.. “Jamie, why don’t you see what I see?”