- for reassurance.
I stare myself down as I brush my teeth, until I have to look away. I’m not sure if that means I won or lost. The bathroom light may or may not be fluorescent. It doesn’t matter. Either way, I look bad. This morning, the shadows under my eyes are particularly pronounced.
I spit, rinse, and wipe my mouth. My eyelids are puffy. They go down, eventually, but it takes a couple of hours. I have to leave now.
My reflection leans out of the glass, and puts a hand either side of my head. She holds me so I can’t look away, and looks at me with earnest eyes. She says-
Today is not a butterfly day.
Oh fuck off. I brush her off irritably. Not a butterfly day. No fucking shit, Sherlock.
Way to kill all my hope that maybe, just maybe, something random and nice would happen in the next twenty-four hours.
I didn’t say nothing nice would happen, she snitches.
I leave the bathroom.
She’s relentless, though. Stubborn. She just doesn’t let it drop. In every window and puddle and reflection she stalks me on the walk to work. And she mutters, dropping comments meant to only be half-heard, more gleaned from her tone than her words. Am I like that?
Obnoxious fucking cunt.
I pass a taxi rank, and a driver puffing on a smoke calls out to me. Hey, he says, it’ll be okay.
What? I slow, and behind him she leans out of the car window and gives me a thumbs up. I hurry away.
At the lights a woman in a business suit and early morning sneakers approaches, smiles, and tells me that everything will work out.
The little asian girl opening up Krispy Kreme ducks out the door and chases after me, waving and gasping in the cold, and tells me not to worry.
A car pulls up beside me as I wait for the lights to change. I turn to the passenger window, and she’s there, looking expectant.
These are not nice things, I say.
The window winds down. The passenger leans out and tells me that everything will be fine.
There are no reflective surfaces at work. The monitors are matt LCD, and the windows are hidden behind blinds. Good. I sit through encounters with everyone who walks into the office, whether they’ve worked with me for the past three years or they’re just dropping off some charges. Everyone pauses by my desk, and reassures me that everything will be okay. My answering nod and polite smile becomes sicker with each visit.
I have to go to the toilet, and she’s waiting for me in the mirror again. She’s wearing a ridiculous looking grin. My grin. I never knew I looked so fucking stupid.
Are you doing this?
She doesn’t say anything. Infuriating fuck.
Can you make it stop?
Today is not a butterfly day, she repeats.
I know, but can you stop it? I can’t take much more of this.
She shrugs and does nothing more. The door opens and a random uniformed officer enters. She nods at me, and tells me to keep my chin up. I just about vomit.
She’s right. Today is not a butterfly day. I’m tired and cranky, the tearstorm from the previous night leaving me sapped, and I have no resilience against the world. All the fear and anger and destruction in the reports gets under my skin. I take everything too personally. This constant barrage of hope, support and positive thinking is wearing me down and stressing me out like the best of slow tortures. I have nothing left to spend on keeping a bright face. I walk home with blurry vision, and when the door closes behind me, I cry.
Eventually, I go into the bathroom.
I told you so, she says. Fucker always has to be right.
But you didn’t have to tell me at all.
What do you want me to say? The same things everyone else said? That you’ll get a lucky break, one day? That things will work out, one day? That you’ll remember where you’re going, one day?
I shake my head.
Here, she pulls a wad of grey mush out of her pocket. Take it.
I look at it suspiciously.
Take it! It’s a present.
She glares at me.
Look, no offence, but you’re clearly a product of my unconscious or my subconscious or something like that, and so you’ll just have to forgive me if I don’t trust you.
She doesn’t say anything, just deepens her frown.
Last night my subconscious gave me a dream in which there were icebergs that holed the ship, storms that broke the ship, waves that swamped the ship and a freaking whirlpool that dragged the ship down and I drowned AND froze to death for good measure. You have it out for me.
She puts the grey mush on the bench. It sags a little. The most unappealing playdough in the world.
What is it?
I raise an eyebrow at her.
I kept some aside for you, and you seem to be running low.
Hesitantly, I take it. It feels like fairy floss, or a spider’s egg sac, but doesn’t collapse when I handle it. It’s warm in my palm, unsettlingly so, and seems to breathe and shift about, like a sleeping foetus. Ick.
You should use it for general purposes, she advises. Keep you going for a while longer.
I think I want-
You don’t know what you want. She reaches out and pats my head. You’re a silly muppet. You’ll be okay.
I fucking hate you.
That’s because you know I’m right.
I crush my hope in my fist, hold it up to my lips and whisper: I hope I’m not going crazy.
She drops her jaw, furious and betrayed for one brief moment, and she’s gone. Tessa Victorius. It’s just me, talking to myself in the mirror. I don't know if that means I won or I lost. I don't think it matters. Time for a cup of tea.