today, on my way out, i caught a reflection of myself, inside a frame, my eyes lining up to the ones staring back, the exact same shape they always have been, in a picture of my seven year old self. like any good mother, mine lined up my school pictures all in a row, to show them how much i’ve grown, but i don’t think she knows the burdens buried behind these brown eyes, these eyes that line up to the ones staring back, the exact same shape as they have always been, crescent topped with no room for mistakes or eyelashes, but everything that falls into these black holes will ride on rods and cones into galaxies of insight, because i crave light.
see on picture day they’d tell you to smile and the only times i really smiled, mom, you told me my mouth curled up too much and nose wrinkled in a little bit and my eyes were squinted too small to see out of, but why would i need to see out of them when you told me there is nothing to see here. i never smiled that way again so as to not let the lines around my mouth wrinkle or the feet around my eyes curl up, and me and mom, we practiced my smile in the mirror. she said, open your eyes. close your mouth. point your chin. tilt your head. fix your hair. and, cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeese!
i could wear one expression. but with that one expression i learned that smiling doesn’t always mean you’re happy just like crying doesn’t always mean you’re sad, and my english teachers told me to find better words than happy or sad, words like “convivial” or “disconsolate” and so i stuck my wrinkled nose into a pages of a thesaurus until they were happy, but i think they made my mother with her i-want-my-daughter-to-be-a-doctor-lawyer-engineer dreams sad when they said, you know, your daughter’s pretty smart, she could be a writer. but mom, you’ll be happy to know i am not a writer. i am an actress. and if i do say so myself, i am pretty darn good because i play the part of your daughter every single day. and i am so sorry for all the days i have had to take an intermission backstage, for myself, and throw in my understudy. i’m so sorry, dear sister, i wanted you to play all the parts i could never have but instead i gave you all the parts i could never face, and when i see your face, dear sister, i see eyes lining up to the ones staring back, the exact same shape mine always have been, and i think every tear i’ve ever wanted to cry have made their way into your eyes, let’s face it, and you’re the only one in this family brave enough to let them fall.
who did we think we were going to grow up to be? this little girl, with eyes lining up to the ones staring back, the exact same shape they always have been, she, she always wanted to be a mother but she never knew if there was gonna be a man who would love her, and maybe she still doesn’t know that. you taught me to never trust a man. i learned that, i learned not to smash the mirrors when i was cut by broken glass.
we, we are the girls who read in the corner, and in the hidden nook between her dresser and her bed, she writes everything she left unsaid, and when her mom finally calls her out of her head and back into the world, she puts on that smile, the same one in the frame, lining up to the one staring back, and she plasters the plastic faces that let her face the world, for in this world we are one of the girls who so desperately needed to know that we are the protagonists of our own stories, and even though sharing your secrets doesn’t mean you get to be saved from them, but there must, there must be a way to save ourselves, so this, this is for the girls who were told that they could do anything, know anything, and be anything they wanted to be and took that to mean they had to do everything, know everything, and be everything if they wanted to be loved.
now i have frames of my own to close in on the world, to hide behind and know that not everything can be frozen in a photograph. i crave light, and you know, mom was right, at some point this mouth will close and these eyes will open up to everything that is beautiful in this world, like the wrinkles of a old woman after years and years of laughter, and when i’m finally there, i’ll look back on my seven year old self; when life has finally deemed me a storyteller, i’ll tell her everything that i know now, that it’s okay to cry and be happy at the same time, that you’re allowed to smile and be sad at the same time, that it’s beautiful, even, that there is room for mistakes, mascara for eyelashes, and that even the color brown can be bright, for when, today, on my way out, when i caught a reflection of myself inside a frame, i smiled back, and left.