while you were looking in the mirror
I know what you're going to say. To me, to yourself, to the world, every waking moment as you pass reflective surfaces and pools of water and people who look at you funny.
"How do I look?"
And you know what I'm going to say. I'm going to tell you you look fine, you look great, you're wonderful and so on and so forth and- can we please just get on with breakfast, I have work and crap that I should be doing, you know this. But you go back, look again, and adjust a few stray hairs. You decide that you need some more chemicals rubbed into your skin, that you need to book an appointment with the men in the tower with their nail files and posters that shout from all angles: you can never be this good. But you try. How you try.
And the stores! The rows and rows of pretty dresses and colours and giant starbursts telling you to SAVE LOTS OF CASH RIGHT NOW THIS INSTANT, or what, your friends will hate you or nobody will love you or you'll die of too much unspent cash? Something along those lines. Parading yourself in front of mirrors, desperately clawing at that look that will make it all worthwhile, that will make heads turn in the street and- and- something, something else, surely. I forget, I'm sure it was important. Probably.
A few days ago, ruffling through papers and drawers, I found something. A photograph. Years ago, I had got to know some girl pretty well - you might have known her. You say that you were her, once. Picking up that picture, I saw her for the first time in years, in a crowd, glass in hand, smiling.
I knew her.
Something had changed. In fifteen years - sixteen? - this girl with laser tongues and sparks in her eyes had changed, piece by piece replaced her skin with plastics, her face with oils, her brain with sysnthesised packing foam. She had done things, been things, asked questions, and now?
"How do I look?"
Now you've left for a day, for the mirrors and sponsors and disaproving looks suggesting: maybe a moisturising treatment for the lower thigh? Because you've got to moisturise the lower thigh, because if you didn't! Think of what would happen if you didn't. Me, I'm thinking hard - maybe I'll come up with something eventually. Something important.
Meanwhile, have you met Lucy? I hope not. I saw her first on a bar stool, drawing on napkins. We talked, she and I. Oh, I remember talking with you, but always pasting up wallpaper, hollow stripes to fill space; seen, not felt. But now paintings flew out through my tongue, works of shape and colour and vibrance stacatto dynamics... and so on with the polysyllables. She knew what they all meant.
And while you're in your polished towers, dancing in sweet-smelling elixrs of youth, the bell rings; she's waiting at the door, wearing the ugliest shirt that I've seen. Her hair is at angles; it never obeys her commands. She lets it do what it wants, brushing strands out of her eyes when she needs to. Her nose is crooked, her face unflattering, her skin a crater-filled landscape of faults. She bites her nails.
She is the most beautiful girl I know.