Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: REFLECTION (10/10/19)
- TITLE: Surface
By Rachel Burkum
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I try to trace the curvature of the cheekbone, but cannot break through. Instead, I retreat and feel my own face. The figure opposite me does the same. But I wish it wouldn’t. I wish it would act differently. Look different. Be different. But it never wavers from the precisely mimicked movements of my own muscles.
My feet take me down the lonely sidewalk, stepping over bumps and cracks. Roots have tried to break through the ground, creating a virtual deathtrap for distracted wanderers. I breathe in deeply the crisp air. My lungs protest.
I pass by a car, stationary by the curb. And I see those eyes again. I see a figure, distorted by the window’s curvature. But in my mind, it’s not deformed. That’s a figure I see each and every day. I see truth instead of lies. And I sigh. Then look away to continue on my listless journey.
Passing an elderly woman, I feel my lips bravely pull themselves upward. I return a nod, but remain silent, my hands tucked safely in my pockets. But hearing a cry, I turn. The hidden roots had taken yet another victim.
A phone call. Sirens. A long wait. Today was not supposed to be like this. My thoughts wander as I sit in the uncomfortable chair. They say she’ll be okay, but I want to make sure. My head turns up to a security mirror in the corner, and I see the same body that I loathe. It had followed me even here.
I’m smiling again, this time with less effort. She’s laughing in spite of her pain, and patting my hand like a grandmother would. I laugh, too, as I help her figure out how to tilt her bed. How to use the television remote, and how to call the nurse. We decide to exchange numbers so I can check up on her later.
And as I turn to leave, I stop at the sunlit window. She’s there again. Me. But the glass also shares the old woman’s joyful expression. I cock my head, focusing on the distorted layers. It’s not just my frame, but my deeds I see. Not just my flaws, but what I’ve done. Not just the shape I detest, but an act of kindness.
We share a hug before I exit, and my walk is lighter now. I forego a cab, and continue home, suddenly noticing the orange and yellow leaves. The sun feels warmer. The sky looks bluer. I touch a tree as I pass by.
Reaching home, I’m met again by that same face I’d seen earlier. The same eyes. The same face. Yet this time, I see more. I see more than my skin. More than the blemishes. More than the flesh I’d taught myself to despise. God, forgive me.
I reach out to touch the face, but my fingertips meet a hard, smooth surface. A surface that reminds me that’s all it is - a shallow covering for what I’m truly made to be. I am blessed. I am loved. I am more.
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