I look in the mirror-it is not me

We can never tell each other how much we know. It’s a pact between all commuters everywhere…read more

I look in the mirror. Its me. I close my eyes. I reach out my hand. I find the button-a groove in the smooth surface. I should have bought one that was voice activated or at least changed the setting using my phone before I came to look in this mirror. I gently push the button in.

I open one eye. There I am, my image reflected back at me in the mirror. Except its not me. It looks mostly like me, but it’s a better version of me. Its an avatar. I have it on all my mirrors, a filter, so I never see what I really look like.

Except the button on this mirror doesn’t seem to be working. It won’t stay on my image, it constantly reverts back over night and when I come in here in the morning, there I am. Really me, what I must really look like. I close my eyes tightly whenever this happens and switch to the virtual me. The me with filters and ‘adjustments’, the me that I am sure is really me because that other me-I don’t want to look like that.

This can’t be healthy. I put make up on the virtual me, well I put it on the actual me, but in the mirror it goes on the virtual me. It looks a bit rough, I hit another button and the whole image is smoothed over and the makeup on the image in the mirror is perfect. I have no idea what it looks like on the actual me. I don’t care. I head for the train station. Its still dark. I walk and no one can see.

No one notices if my makeup is badly applied. No one notices me at all. That is how commuting works, same people everyday. Same seat. Same bags. Same coat. New coat. She has a new coat. And no one notices anything at all ever. I know these people, their habits, their smell, their conversations on phones. I know there lives but not their names-sometimes their names but only accidentally because I overheard. They probably know me too, but we can’t let on. We can never tell each other how much we know. It’s a pact between all commuters everywhere. A tacit agreement that even though we know everything we will pretend to know nothing. Except she has a new coat. I look down. That is not my business. It is not relevant to my life. I can not notice that.

I don’t look up. I just look at my phone. I put it on mirror. It just has an image of me. Always, Never actually me. Well yes me, but me with filters.  My makeup is perfect in that image, my ears are smaller, my mouth more rounded. I tell myself I look like that and there is nothing to contradict me. Nothing at all.

I go to get my coffee. I am wearing a scarf. I look at the ground. I don’t want to be noticed.  I have a takeaway coffee. They know my order, I send it by phone, I don’t even need to make eye contact. I have paid for it by phone. I just swipe my phone at the collection station and its released to me. I don’t have to see anybody. More importantly nobody sees me.

I get to work. I go past the kitchen. There is someone in there so I avoid it. I go to my cubicle. I take the lid off my coffee cup and sip it. Sweet, bitter delicious coffee. I switch on the machine, really can they not set it up so that I can do this from my phone before I arrive. It hums into life. I slip into lifelessness. I look at the Inbox, the news. I think about my first meeting. 9am slips by. I look at my phone, at the image on my phone. It is a good image. I have a meeting at 10am. I decide not to go in person but to send a virtual me.

I know that since I am in the office I should not do this. It is technically against the rules but I do this. The image of me, it is I think-better than the real me. The virtual me goes to the meeting. I see the meeting on my machine, I say things. I sound good. I look good. I huddle over my machine. Sooner or later they will ask why I am never there in person.

I finish my coffee at 11am. I always take ages to drink it.  I need the bathroom. I cannot go to the bathroom. The bathroom has mirrors. The mirrors in the bathroom are real. Real mirrors with real reflections and they cannot be changed to show your image, your avatar. It is really you. You cannot avoid seeing them. I need the bathroom though.

I grab my scarf. It looks odd. I know it looks odd, I pick a time, 11.21am. I am bursting now but 11.21 is not random, its too early for an 11am meeting to have finished and passed the time when anyone with an 11.15 will be going to a meeting late and too early for anyone going to an 11.30. I have this. I can get to the bathroom with my scarf and no one will see me. When I get to the door, I can wrap the scarf around my face and I won’t see it in the mirror-well maybe just the eyes-but the eyes are very close-aside from the colour. Did I mention that my avatar has different coloured eyes to me.

I look out from my cubicle, there is no one. I make a break for it. I see someone. I have misjudged it. 11.22 would have been better. I walk on by and pretend not to see her. I am here now before the toilet door. I wrap the scarf around my face and go in. I can only see my eyes. I focus on what I have to do. I focus on the taps when I am washing my hands. I do not make eye contact with myself. All the glimpses I get of me are accidental or peripheral. That person, she is not me. I am the image on my phone.

I look at the time, 11.27, just in time for the 11am meetings to finish and for early birds to the 11.30 to be on their way. I hide in the toilet cubicle. 11.30 passes. 11.35. 11.37. I will go  at 11.38. At 11.38 on the dot I fling open the toilet door and race for the exit. I nearly bump someone over in the rush. I mumble something to her. Sorry maybe or excuse me. I try to avoid panic, I can’t breathe. Is that panic or because the scarf has been covering my mouth for 20 minutes. I don’t know. I can see my cubicle. Head down, I march towards it. I see my chair. I reach out for it, grab it, slam myself down on it. I unwrap my face and bend over my desk. I have made it. No one saw me, at least not the real me. Next time I will send my avatar to the toilet.  It was not always like this. There was a time before this. Before there was a better perfect me, that existed as a picture when I am flesh and blood.

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