The girl staring back at me in the mirror wasn’t as ugly as I had remembered. I had avoided mirrors for years, but realized sometime during the summer before ninth grade that I couldn’t avoid it much longer. I stared, hoping that I could come to terms with myself. I didn’t look anything like Mama but was the softer nearly exact replica of Father.
I could hear Maria vacuuming the oriental runners in the hall, she was singing a Bob Dylan song-- a strange mix to say the least. I laughed to myself and caught a glimpse of my smile. My teeth were straight and white, my lips were full and pink, and thankfully my gums didn’t show. There was a girl at school who was all gums, and every time she smiled I felt a little bit prettier.
My eyes were big, a deep mysterious shade of green that looked brown if you didn’t pay attention. I had thick lashes and nice brows. For all practical purposes, I was an attractive girl. I studied myself from different angles, willing myself to like what I saw. “Like a rolling stone…” Maria’s voice drifted in over the hum of the vacuum cleaner and I smiled again. I hoped Father would hear how stupid she sounded.
I squinted my eyes and fluttered my eye lashes. I puckered my lips and raised my eyebrows. I wrinkled my nose and ran my tongue across my teeth. I patted my head and rubbed my belly. No matter what I did, I still felt okay about my reflection. I wasn’t nearly as ugly as I felt. In fact, I wasn’t ugly at all.
“How does it feel? How does it feel?” My father’s voice floated in along with Maria’s and they simultaneously broke into a roar of laughter. I felt like throwing up. I knew the song too, but I didn’t sing along. I wouldn’t sing with Maria if she paid me. He never sang with Mama, so he shouldn’t sing with her.
By the time I was at the door, Father was gone and Maria was back to her Hoover. I studied her, knowing that she could never compare to Mama in a million years. Maria was probably forty, was short and round, had curly auburn hair that grazed her shoulders, warm brown skin, and a gap between her front teeth like Madonna or Lauren Hutton (only a less glamorous). Mama was tall and slim, with perfect teeth, long glowing hair, radiant skin, piercing blue eyes, and movie star curves. Mama was perfection, and Maria? Maria was average. Father had to be blind.
I sat back down in front of the mirror and cringed. I saw Father looking back at me. Those mysterious green eyes were like his. Those full lips, his too. The hair color, the nose, the teeth-- everything. Would my whole life be plagued by the ghosts of my twelve year old eyes? I knew what I witnessed nearly three years before had changed my opinion of my father and my opinion of men, but I was starting to wonder if it had changed my entire outlook on the world. My cup, which used to runneth over, hadn’t been anywhere past the halfway mark in years.