Who Speaks

Art by Jessica McLeod-Yu
CW: Negative self talk

CW: Negative self talk

In my room, the mirror occupies around a fifth of the space. It does not domineer the space, but nor can you look at the room’s four corners without its reflective shine catching you. On some nights, I choose to sleep with its sliding doors pressed as far away from me as possible. Those nights, I barely sleep.
As I lay myself to slumber, the sheets a thin touch upon my skin, I hear the distant sound of dull knocks. A rapping, and a tapping, which only grows in its intensity.
It says: rap-tap. Listen to me.
It beseeches: rap-tap-tap. Hear me.
It pleads: rap-tap-tap-rap. Please, listen to what I have to say.
It growls: rap-rap. You have to listen to me.
It hisses: rap-rap-tap. You will listen to me.
It shouts: rap-rap-tap-tap. Listen now!
It shrieks: Rap-rap-rap. Listen to me, mongrel!
It roars so angrily: Rap-Rap-Rap. I will make you listen, putrid worm!
On and on it goes. Obscene and brutal in its description. A love turned abusive. But today, I’ve had enough. When the morning slides past the crack in my blinds, to cut across my eyelids, and sear me awake, I don’t walk past the mirror.
I stand in front of it. In front of him. He has all the same things as me. The features which make me wince. His waistline extends, not by much, but enough that I try to hide its curve. His arms are thin, not too thin, but enough that I cross them close. His jaw is lost in a bowl of loose skin. I cannot change that one.
His smile is sincere, and wild. The edges of his mouth twitch, and his teeth appear in little sparks of white. His eyes are too wide, pools of mud which try to swallow me. His hand reaches up, and his knuckles rap the glass which separates us.
He says: rap-tap-tap. So, you going to hear what I have to say?
I tell him: maybe.
He says: rap-tap. There’s no maybe, you need to hear me.
I say: fine. what is it?
He smiles, impishly, then says: tap. She did you dirty.
tap-rap-rap. Yeah. You heard me. She fucked you.
Rap-rap-tap. Let it happen.
things didn’t work out. It happens, we have differences.
Tap-rap-tap. That’s true, and funny. Only one issue.
Rap-rap-rap. You let it happen! You wanted it!
I did not want to be hurt!
Rap-Rap-rap. No, you wanted her to be happy!
is that so bad?
Rap-tap-tap. At the cost of my happiness?
I wanted-
Rap-Rap-Rap. You didn’t want anything! You didn’t want anything. You have no wants, no desires that aren’t about others! You sit there, and you grovel, waiting for a kiss to slip free from heaven but it won’t. It hasn’t, and it never will!
I look at him. His fist is pressed against the glass. Oh, how thin it is. His mouth is a sneer, all fangs without fangs. His eyes. Oh, how lonely they are. The muddy pools draining away down his cheeks. He is angry, furious, wrathful. He is hurt.
I say to him: what did you want?
He laughs, and says: thud. What you want; to be loved.
I beseech him: but by who?
He does not answer.
I plead with him: by who?
He growls: Rap. By you. By me.
I am surprised, and it hisses from me: what?
He shouts at me: Tap-Tap. Are you so surprised? That all I desire is your acceptance?
I whisper to him: yes.
He shouts, so sadly: I only want to be satisfied with who I am. With what I am. Why can’t that be enough for you?
How alike sadness and anger are, for, with tears in his eyes he strikes me. His fist rebounding off the glass, his howls so loud, and his eyes so wet. I can only lean forward, and kiss his fist.
I wake up. The morning has slid past the crack in my blinds, and traced itself across my eyelids, searing them. I do not know who I am. I do know who I am.
I walk to the mirror, and I do not recognize the man in it. He is me.
I look at him for a long time. I see two sets of eyes which watch me. One is wide, trying to eat the world in front of it in search of vindication, no matter the cost. The other is downset, hollow, and has given its sight away too many times. I do not recognize them, nor do they recognize me. This is good.
A light knock can be heard. No longer angry, polite and inquiring.
It asks: tap. Are you angry?
I tell it the truth. I am.
A small sigh slips past the underside of the mirror. The cool breath tickles my skin. It asks: but don’t you care?
I tell it the truth. I do.
I can see them, those two pairs of eyes, asking questions.
So I say, “It is so hard, isn’t it? To stand tall, and proud. To care for you. To speak when it matters. To let go, and live.”
The first words shared aloud.
I leave, and wonder if, when I fall asleep, I will wake up again. Whether the next one to open their eyes will be the one with the downcast heart, or the hungry mouth. Maybe I will not recognize the next set of eyes. Perhaps they will have no reflection. It does not matter much. There is always a time, and a place, to change, shift, regress, even…
Hah, yes. 


Originally published in Woroni Vol. 72 Issue 1 ‘Evolution’

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.