Mirror, mirror, rippling water/a majorly revised opening scene

Photo by Maksim Romashkin on Pexels.com

This is from my story Graveyard of Lullabies. I’m comparing Recent revisions vs. the original chapter 1 posted to my blog a year ago.

***

Today is the day I bleed aquamarine. The blue-green liquid soaks into my fuzzy pillow, spreading like melted ice. I blink at it. It is a nice pillow.

But first: the blood. I put a hand to my chin as a drop falls, splashing silently on my skin. I breathe in the smell, like salt, like ash. I run to the bathroom.

***

Today is the day I bleed aquamarine. The blue-green liquid soaks into my fuzzy pillow, spreading like melted ice. I blink at it. It is a nice pillow, when blood-free.

The blood. Another drop falls and I raise a hand to my chin, catching silent liquid on my skin. I breathe in the smell; like salt, like ash. I rush to the bathroom.

***

The mirror is still cracked, from last time. So I pour water from the bucket into the sink and leave it rippling, I dunk in my head face-first. The water is instantly cloudy, bright blue-green. So I drain it. Let it all seep away down the wooden pipe, leaving trails like squid ink. And I pour in another bucketful.

I don’t look in the mirror. I don’t. But the water in the sink is just as vivid, shifting, lacking cracks. Everywhere across my cheeks, above my violet lips, there are pinprick dots of blood. I resist the urge to punch the water, punch the mirror, and open the wooden cabinet to the side. I have never been good at healing. But I keep bandages anyway, to stop the bleeding. To slow the bleeding. The rolls of pseudo-cloth are dark, to match my skin, but stick unevenly along my jaw. This is why I broke the mirror last time, because I could see the bandages still, like some kind of curse.

***

The mirror is still cracked, from last time. I pour water from the bucket into the sink and leave it rippling, I dunk in my head face-first. The water instantly clouds, bright blue-green. So I drain it. Let it all seep away down the wooden pipe, leaving trails like squid ink. 

I yank open the wooden cabinet to the side. My fist curls at the motion in the mirror. I don’t look. I don’t. I squeal the bandages from the roll, pseudo-cloth darkly blending into my cheeks, my jaw. I plaster them over the beading drops of blood but they stick unevenly, my eyes bind shut so my fists don’t find the mirror’s reflection, bandages visible like some kind of curse.

***

“Blood is no curse,” I whisper to myself. Close my eyes and picture the room with bottles along the wall, blood in shades of ruby and aquamarine. Old bones. White bones. I open my eyes and there are still bumpy bandages across my cheeks, a thin strip above my lips. A thin strip above my– My hands itch, my body itches, I yank more bandage across my entire mouth. There is nobody to talk to anyway.

I turn away from the sink, still full, I don’t know why I needed another bucketful. I drain it. I stuff the bandages back in the wooden cabinet, stare as the wobbly bucket on the shelf slowly trickles back to full. I still don’t know where the other one went. Probably the bottom of the ocean, somewhere, always full. I quickly leave, before I can accidentally look again. I still need to fix the mirror.

***

“Blood is no curse,” I whisper to myself. I squeeze my eyes and against the blackness I picture myself dancing through the room with bottles along the wall, blood in shades of ruby and aquamarine. Old bones, white bones, they dance with me.

I open my eyes and still find bumpy bandages across my cheeks, a thin strip above my lips. A thin strip above my– My hands itch, my body itches, I squeeze my eyes shut, squealing more bandage from the roll to smoosh across my entire mouth, lips pressed thin. There is nobody to talk to anyway.

The sink still streams squid ink. I shove the bandages back in the wooden cabinet, glance away from the wobbly bucket on the shelf slowly trickling back to full. I don’t know where its companion went. Probably the bottom of a deep lake, somewhere. I flee, before I can accidentally look again. I still need to fix the mirror.

***end scene***

My main issue with this scene is the mirror. There’s a writing cliché where authors plop their main characters in front of a mirror so they have an excuse to describe their physical features for the audience. “I peered in the mirror, studying my deep, brown eyes above lightly dusted freckles,” etc.

I fell into this cliché trap. I thought I was super clever for staring in the water instead of the mirror to describe pinpricks of blood and violet lips (or maybe I didn’t think I was clever, I don’t remember, I possibly just couldn’t think of a better way to describe my character’s appearance than staring in the water).

So now I’ve removed the part of staring into the water, but without it, is it still clear what’s going on (or was it ever clear)? Am I still using the cracked mirror as a shortcut to describe my character’s physical features?

I’m trying not to. I’m quite frankly trying to avoid describing general physical features at all, like eyes and lips and hair. But I’m slightly worried this cliché still has me in its little clutches, merely because a mirror exists in the scene.

But I’m not taking the mirror out, because a) bathrooms do in fact have mirrors in real life and b) mirrors are deeply related to self-esteem and dysphoria, and I wanted to convey that.

A smashed mirror means something. Catching glimpses of your face with bumpy bandages on it means something–and for this character, it represents the discomfort that drives the whole internal conflict of this story.

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