The mirror The mirror can be cruel sometimes; it reflects every bump, bruise, fat deposit and surgical wound riddling my body after a life filled with medical trials. The sight of these imperfections often drive me to run my hand across the protruding scars and stretch marks. Feeling the constellation of wounds underneath my fingertips always make me wonder how did I get here and how can I go on?
Looking at the image of me projected in the glass every morning, I can’t help but stare at the legs that sometimes fail me, the feet that often go numb, and the left arm that fails to life. I think about how average my extremities appear; how no one can just look at them and tell they don’t work. There’s no outward indication that despite popping drugs for pain and inflammation every day, I’m driven to lumbar epidural steroid injections and nerve blocks, orthotics in my shoes, physical therapy and another set of specialists to preserve my ability to walk.
At the same time, the mirror gives me inspiring glimpses of who I have become; a woman who has grown back her hair after shedding most of it through treatment. The person who walks at least two miles a day, even though it’s with a pronounced limp and a series of grunts. A human being who has endured every poke, probe, puncture, stitch, shot, suture, and burn and is still fighting.
Yet, I sometime still can’t muster the energy to stand in front of the mirror and glamorize myself. I can’t figure out how to cosmetically improve the reflection I see, which includes excess weight on my belly and chin, dark patches of skin, and sagging skin under my eyes. Frequently, I don’t even try to pretty myself up. I leave the house in modest clothes, no makeup, pulled back hair and comfortable shoes, content to see another day; this Sunday was no different.
I was feeling grateful to just have the sun shining on my face as I pulled my car into the grocery store parking lot on wearing yoga pants, sneakers with orthotics, and the Army T-Shirt I received twenty years earlier after I was rejected from serving my country because of my medical background. I glanced quickly in the mirror and could see that my salt and pepper natural hair was standing up all over the place. So, I grabbed a Mets baseball cap off the back window frame and stuck it on. I pushed it down, making it sure it covered up all the stray hairs before I stepped out.
I was in and out of the store in record time. Pleased, I unloaded the bags into the backseat of the car. When I turned around after shutting the door, I came face to face with a six fort three inch tall, brown-skinned, broad shouldered man.
“Are you done with the cart?”
“It’s all yours,” I replied.
“Are you in the service?”
“No, I’m a bit too old to join now.”
“Can I just say you’re an attractive woman?”
I frowned at him, unimpressed by the lame come on line.
“Are you married?” He asked.
“He’s an anointed man,” he said, scanning my body. “He’s very lucky to have you?”
“Is that right?” I asked, smirking at the complimentary stranger.
“You have the body of a 25-year-old but you’re older right?”
“Yes, I am”
“Older than me?”
“Probably,” I said, estimating the man’s age at maybe 30.
“Well too bad I didn’t meet you sooner,” he said as he pushed the cart away.
For a moment, I thought, I have no idea what he sees when he looks at me. I see the battle scars, how could he miss them? Then, it hit me, even with everything I see when I look in the mirror, he must see an attractiveness that radiates from within. I’m not the woman I once was but the one that remains isn’t shabby either.
Author the Author:
Nika C. Beamon is the author of the highly praised memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House (7/14). In 2009, her non-fiction book, “I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married: Successful, Single Black Women Speak Out (Chicago Review Press). She is also the author of two mystery novels, Dark Recesses and Eyewitness.