By Sam Schraub
Emi stands in front of her mirror, three fluorescent lights overhead casting a solid, warm, yellow light down on her, wrapping her pale skin in an amber blanket.
The fourth bulb flickers inside the fixture, a rapid dimming then sudden return to normal -- if you looked at just the right time, every bulb would appear to be normal. The mirror reflects back Emi’s image from the top of her head where her damp hair hangs in tangled layers, a darker shade of apricot than usual, to the peak of her hips, the bones prodding forward against a thin layer of skin. Emi’s head rotates down. Her reflection does the same. Her wide eyes roam down to her glossy red painted toes, over the gap between her thighs, stopping to glare at her deflated stomach. Wide wrinkles, like cracks in a sidewalk, rupture in her forehead as she squints at her mirror trying to understand the version of herself she sees before her. She’s never understood the envious remarks other people have made about her appearance. Where they see drop-dead beauty, Emi sees the faded scars of the damage she’s done to achieve the unattainable. Her pale freckled face is spattered with tiny freckles, like little hazel constellations. She rubs at her cheeks, at her forehead, at the bridge of her nose as if she could actually erase the little discolorations away if she were willing enough. Her eyes begin to redden as small, unclouded tears fall, splashing between thick layers of black eyelashes and gliding over her smoothly sculpted cheekbones. She stands, still in her undergarments, still evaluating herself, when the ping of a doorbell ringing slices open the silence. Wrapping herself in a fleece robe, she quickly runs to the door, her feet barely causing a pattering sound on the ground, only to find her girlfriend Cameron standing sultry in the doorway. Her dark skin brushes against Emi’s ashen hand, grabbing and guiding to the bedroom. Green eyes meet brown eyes and with a passing look they tell each other “yes.” Emi breathes Cameron in, inhaling deeper and deeper, trying to huff every little bit of Cameron up. As the neon, lurid blue numbers of the clock laying on the bedside table count up from 9:10 to 9:17 hatred is exchanged, lips lusting after flesh. Emi doesn’t know that the swirl of lush, burnt umber hair her hands are diving through are the same curls Cameron thought were too brittle and dense. Emi doesn’t know that the soft flesh of Cameron’s thighs were the spotlight of hatred mere minutes ago, thoughts storming through Cameron’s own mind that they were too thick and flaccid. Cameron doesn’t know how Emi stood in front of the mirror shaming herself seconds before she arrived in an episode of self-loathing from her head to her toes. They see each other in different lights despite the dimness of the room. Emi and Cam have only seen themselves in the mirror, in photos, in videos -- but they’ve never seen the version of themselves that each other see. They don’t see - can’t see - the reflection of themselves that lives inside of other people.

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