Have you ever woken up to the most beautiful woman as she looked directly into your eyes and spoke in a sweet, sweet voice? Every morning for as long as nearly 50 years, yours was the opinion that mattered most to her. And every morning you got to compliment her and see her face lit up with sheer joy. You were her best friend, you had seen the smartest her, you had seen the sickest her, you had known her deepest fears, you had seen the happiest she ever was. You were there for her and she was there for you. She accepted your silly inabilities as you did hers.
What I mean is that you shared the perfect relationship, almost like a fairy tale. Except, it is to many a fairy tale but not in the way you’d imagine. It’s a very popular one too.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is fairest of them all?” That’s somewhat the question that’d start my day.
And if you know that question, which I bet you do, then you obviously also know my reply.
All to the courtesy of those age-old stories, I must say. But what they don’t let you in on is who exactly is that mirror, does he have any feelings, any agendas, any life beyond what the fleeting glimpses it is allowed in the stories.
As a mere mirror, I couldn’t bring myself to confess my true affections for her. So I just tried to make her happy with my answers.
All these years I was there on the wall I would always ask myself, what would she have been were I not there in time?
But that’s enough me, me, me. I mustn’t be so consumed with my own image and life! Heh!
The thing I hate the most in the stories of Snowhite is how they make a caricature of my queen. Ask yourself if you will, why will a person just repeat the same stupid phrase everyday upon waking?
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is fairest of them all?” that is childish! Though who can blame the writers of the tale, for after all, they had children as their primary audience?
But that’s in fact quite far from the truth.
It began when she was around 14. Her obsession with her physical appearance, at first it was just a “oh lord I have crooked nose cause I fell face down and broke it, my left eye is slightly bigger than my right and my calves appear to be abnormal when turning them.” But obsession is like a forest fire, within hours the entire savanna gets burnt to ash.
By her 16th birthday, she had stopped going out with her friends, at first, few of the palace girls would come and play with her, bring her little clothes their mothers had sewn for her wooden dolls out of courtesy, but soon no one wanted to play with the crazy girl. Not that she wanted to play, to begin with, she would throw tantrums asking them, beckoning them to leave or suffer her anger. They would just run, leaving the dolls by the doorstep.
She spent hours consulting her image to tell her that she was perfection, that her fingers were graceful and well proportionate. That her ear lobes weren’t too long. She would keep on changing her outfits during the day just because her shoulders seemed uneven to her. She would indulge in putting harmful chemicals on her face to whiten it, to hide any blemish that might not have been there to begin with.
There were times she’d just run around the palace at night when no one would see her thinking it would make her calves come in shape. She gave up on her favorite foods too. Because I have no need for any sustenance, so I ask you to try and imagine a Thanksgiving without apple pie or roasted turkey, or for that matter a simple croissant or a slice of cake!
Each year her heart grew bitter, her soul got further away from herself, her days spent in vanity. I was there all along, unresponsive. All those lonely spring mornings, those bleak summer afternoons and festive winter nights’ people spent by the bonfire; I hung on the wall by a thick nail. She would sit next to me, and talk; wishing nothing more cursed would ever happen to her. Now what you must understand first is that she believed that she was already living the worse. There was nothing more, yet she feared the “what if” monster!
To think with absolute belief to be a misshaped, grotesque and undesirable creation of God for more than a decade is enough to qualify as hell, it needn’t be a cauldron of fire, disease, and torture. To think and think and think and think over the same thought with no certain respite. As vain it is, if left unchecked, doubt evolves into a venomous insect that keeps crawling through your brain. You can never quite squash it with logic for it always leaves a spawn behind.
She would often talk to her reflection, asking its opinion, checking if she was smiling alright, if her upper lip was too thick or if there were a cluster of zits forming on her forehead or nose. Her mother you might ask was doing what exactly to ease her daughter’s suffering?
Alas, she wasn’t even allowed to enter the room. She’d contracted leprosy and though it is debatable that her daughter, saw her in her predicament; it remains a fact without a doubt that she had seen a few leapers in her life and she knew what ailed her mother.
In those days, it was a notoriously common and incurable ailment. Her mother had burnt her hand one day as a candle stand fell on her, but strangely that caused her neither to scream nor rush for medical aid. Two weeks after that she was taken to a quarantined room never to leave.
My existence was the greatest Christmas blessing she could have ever asked for. Don’t judge me as a narcissist, I’m merely paraphrasing what she had said that morning after spending the first quarter of an hour thinking she had lost her wits completely.
In a time when she could stand no one, and spent the hours staring at herself, I was the lifeboat that got her out safely but not without a few scars of my own. A mirror on the wall. A mirror who could tell her what she had been asking of her reflection for years to no avail. What others too have been telling her, despite her persistent disbelief in their answers.
Now, though still there were times she was insecure about her appearance, but she had faith in me.
Oh how long we used to talk….
Such fruitful conversations, such insightful debates and such dumb mistakes I’d make.
“You got a spot of dirt on your left shoulder.” I’d point and she would spend ten minutes looking for something that was on her right all along. Countless times she had to tell me that her left was my right, and mine hers. I was hung facing the largest window in the room, and as she’d lay sprawled on her bed reading a book, I’d narrate the outside gossip and she wouldn’t wait a second to correct me “oh you mean Mrs. Ludlow is sitting on the left side of the fountain?” or when I’d say that there is a doe or a bird out the window:
“Where is it Mr. Mirrorrrr…?” she’d taunt.
“On the left side of the window.” I’d respond.
“I know you mean there’s a doe on the right of the window. You know you can just say that there is a doe on your side of the window Karen.”
I would sheepishly admit my error and move on. Though in her later years I was able to fully understand the concept of reversed image and then it was her who had to get used to the fact that I was describing her the world as she would see it.
But prior to that, specifically when it came to reading written words, our difference in perspective caused a terrible nuisance. Then sometimes she would actually write the text as what she called “reversed” for my indulgence.
She soon cultivated a keen interest in the art of creating ambigrams, so we both could read at the same time. It was a brilliant piece of magic for me as I was for her.
Although, after all these years I cannot help but sometimes wonder, was I merely enabling her or truly helping her come out of her predicament? Was she ever truly free of doubts? Had she succeeded in accepting herself? I wish I could believe the best.
But that’s for another time.
Finally, the word of my existence got out through a nosy chamber-maid’s daughter named Snowhite. She sure got a nice scolding from my queen for violating her privacy, but that was all we could do. And the town’s folk were mostly an ignorant and superstitious lot, so as it is often quoted, rest is history or in this case: ‘Snowhite’s “fairy tale”’.
It is funnily ironic though from a third person’s point of view, now when I put those words together, for wasn’t I too a violation to her privacy they may ask?
Perspective really is a strange, strange thing.