Written by Claudette Oduor_oh so Soul_Fool
The eyes in the mirror do not belong to an old woman like me. They belong to a slip of a girl. This slip of a girl doesn’t drag her slow foot on the tarmac like me. The tarmac doesn’t grate the skin of her feet, leaving the flakes behind to garnish the meals of stray dogs. The melting tar does not explode the gnarled toe nails on her feet, like maize grains in a fire.
This slip of a girl, her face isn’t overflowing with engorged ailing ulcer dreams that burst and ooze the pus of regret.
This slip of a girl, her eyes are vacant. Her gaze has run off to find love, as though a telegram arrived informing her that love was lost. Her eyes have gone to look deep inside herself, as though a deeper facet of her doesn’t stand in the mirror, staring back at her.
I try to leave footprints in the sand for her, footprints that will fit perfectly under her little feet, footprints that will show her she is not alone. But my slow foot drags behind me, distorting the footprints.
This slip of a girl is in a hurry to make her own footprints. She runs in the sand, throwing leftover footprints in the air behind her, wasting them as though she won’t need them to guide her tomorrow.
This slip of a girl is eager to fit her feet perfectly in her own sketchy footprints, so she runs back the way she came, back and forth, back and forth, making her life a pendulum of smoke screens.
This slip of a girl, sometimes I’m infuriated by her youthful abandon. Most times, I’m envious of it.
This slip of a girl doesn’t have to walk ten feet away from her own grandchildren because they are embarrassed of her. She doesn’t have to hear her oldest grandchild say to her friends, “Ignore that old woman behind us. She is the neighbourhood madwoman; she follows me around.”
This slip of a girl, she doesn’t have to tuck her breasts inside her waistband, breasts that are little more than curdled, powdered memories of a once passionate love affair with life.
This slip of a girl, her eyes aren’t chinks of alabaster. She isn’t buried within the rubbles of a rocky past. Her life wasn’t once a tower of Babel, soaring through the skies.
And yet, the only difference between this slip of a girl and me is the fact that while my Babel crushed, she still lives in hers. This slip of a girl, we are images of each other, so alike it is hard to tell where the mirror begins and where it ends. Perhaps we aren’t even images, but versions of each other.
Or perhaps the two of us don’t even exist, and only the mirror does. After all, the mirror stands in a central place between the girl and me, showing me the slip of a girl, showing her me. How then can the mirror not be both the girl and me? How then can the girl and I not be a trick of my own exhausted eyes?
This slip of a girl and me, we both cannot understand the language of our thoughts. We shall spend the rest of our lives chiselling through the quarry stones of our past, asking ourselves what went wrong, and then not understanding the answers.
Like me, this slip of a girl sits, waiting for the one to come who shall translate her thoughts into a language she can understand. Like me, she does not realize that the language she can understand has not yet been invented. Her thoughts, like mine, simmer in her mind, drowning in their own stock. And at the end of her life, she shall swallow her words and get full from the emptiness of her unachieved dreams. Like me.
(In memory of my grandmother; an older, wiser, beautifuller, version of me)
Claudette Oduor ©
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