My face stares back at me from the confines of my mirror. Except it’s not really my face. The face that stares back hasn’t been mine for many years; my past self watches from the mirror, watching, haunting me. I don’t know how to get rid of her. I don’t know what she wants.
In every refection she watches, eyes dull and glassy. Lips twisted in horror. There is hate in the pitch of her dark brows, still damp with the red that runs from her temples down to drip from her chin. It stains the hollow of her left eye, bringing a sharp phantom pain across the scar on my face. Her wounds haven’t healed, her skin hasn’t pulled itself together yet. She hasn’t moved past that night.
I almost died, so many years ago. My friend, a man I once called sturdy and trusted with my whole being, had tried to kill me. I’m lucky I’ve always been quicker than him. Instead of my throat, he slashed open my face, right through my left eye. It had hurt in a way I could not hope to describe, and not just physically. But the pain had almost been equal to when I stood over his prone body, his own knife lodged deep within his throat.
Equal to the spike that drives deeper into my chest when I look at her. The ghost of my past I thought I had killed. I don’t know what to do with her. I only know that she lingers, staring, judging me from behind the glass. Nothing I do or say makes her leave.
She makes it hard to forget, even decades later, makes those questions swirl in my head. Why? Why did he try to kill me? What had prompted his violence? Why had he abandoned me and all those years between us? His ghost won’t answer my call, and the only one who will won’t answer my questions. My bleeding past only stares, confused and terrified, frozen in that moment before I realized my oldest friend was dead. That I had killed him. Before I swallowed my tears, stepped over his body, and left. Unaware of the piece of myself I had left behind.
Yet, despite it all, I still turn to the glass, hoping one day I’ll find she’s finally left me. I am not her anymore, that scared and betrayed little girl with crimson stained fingers. I’m stringer than her, better than she could ever hope to be. I know who I am, I know where I’m going, and I don’t need him anymore.
I only need myself, my present self, not the lonely broken thing that has no right to judge me. Yet. Yet, despite how much I hope this time, this time I will look into the mirror and see the real me, I can’t help but pray she’ll still be there. That the woman I used to be, the one who laughed so easily and had so much faith in the world, who walked the streets knowing she had someone who cared, who loved her for her. That there was someone I could depend on, against all odds —
But then I look to her left. See the crimson dripping down her face, and I remember what it felt like. That sharp edge cutting through my skin, going half-blind, the warmth of the knife in my hand as I killed the one person I thought I could trust. I remember the echo of my own screams, the choking gurgle of his last breaths.
The final chapter of our shared story lies splattered across my ghosts face, and I am reminded of that indescribable pain of loss. I stare at her, and see only the weakness I had shed walking alone into that cold night. Staring at her, I can practically feel the empty space of my blind spot, the space he used to inhabit, like a tangible weight.
I turn away from the mirror, putting my ghosts back in that locked trunk in my mind, and I walk away. The girl in the mirror is not me. She is weak, and I will never go back to being her. I can’t. The new me has no room for ghosts, or regrets.