Teen Mirror by Julia Kantić

The anxiety, the torpor, the ennui, they are all parts she gets from me. Even the hyper parts, the rip the skies aparts, the foul tongue, the need to stand in shadows at parties, the talk-of-the-town inside the head, then out, repeat, repeat, do not close your mouth, do not pass go, do not collect one hundred British pounds, land on Whitechapel and that’s the limit. Brown as shit. Exasperated, I tap, I worry, I exhibit patience, the patience of a mother, the patience of a not-so-much-a-saint, but a martyr sometimes (when it suits me). She gets those from me. And I thought I’d packed them all away, hidden them safe and tight, transcended in appearance at least. But if that was the case where did she learn them? From me…on my broken days, on my look-in-the-mirror days, on my don’t-look-in-the-mirror whatever you do as you come around a badly lit corner and that damned mirror still doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. Those days too.

And don’t get me started on heartbreak, shatter, scatter, cut, slice, twist, skewer, gutbreak. Don’t hurt her please. Yet it must be so, yet no, I don’t wish it so, and yet, she must grow and how can she grow without pain? Tomatoes that suffer are sweeter to eat, the same with many fruit, but she is not a fruit to be picked plump ripe, to be squeezed and squashed, the juices spilling like blood on white blouses. Go pick your fruit elsewhere, Goddamnit. Leave her be. Except…she’s going to want to ripen, to hang on the bush showing her brightness, showing her rightness (for you, or you, or you) and maybe it will be she who picks, who plucks, or not. These are the hazardous joys of being human, and feeling, and wanting, and growing up. And as she feels the pain, I’ll feel it all again.

That’s life, the pain gets harder, deeper, stronger, and you bend and bend, until you can let go. Now you are grown-up? Everything is clear as crystal when you look in your teen mirror. Don’t trap yourself in infinite reflections. When she is older, maybe has a daughter of her own, when she is grown-up, which mirror will she choose? I look in my mirror and try to see: mother, daughter, sister, wife, me—split at the edges by the bevelled glass, and in the centre a true image I must not be afraid to look at, in the hope she learns that too.

She is not me, and I am not her, and no good has ever come from looking at daughters in a magic mirror. I wish for her to be fairest of them all, and she is for me, and that’s enough. Why look in a mirror for the image of someone else? Why then twist it to show me? She is more than a reflection, a flat image, and so am I. She gets that from me.

Julia Kantić is a writer and web developer who spends her time between England, France and Croatia. This sounds glamorous but isn’t. The name Julia rhymes with ‘peculiar’—take from that what you will. She lurks on Twitter: @peculiarjulia