Rachel brushed her teeth. She spit. White foam tinged with pink swirled down the drain. The sink needed cleaning. A glob of neon green toothpaste clung to the rim. Congealed liquid soap pooled around the facet. She moved her eyes away from the mess and captured her own gaze in the medicine cabinet mirror. The shock of seeing herself brought tears to her eyes.
She couldn’t even remember the last time she had looked at herself. This wasn’t her. The image in the silvered glass did not match the picture of herself she had in her head. She tried to look away, but stared at the person in the mirror the way you stared at an auto accident.
Her eyes were puffy, with deep dark slashes under the pocket as of fluid. There weren’t many wrinkles, but gullies went from the corners of her nostrils and down beside her mouth. Her eyes, nose and lips were swallowed by corpulent flesh with the notorious wobbly turkey neck hanging below her chins.
If she had looked at herself more often would she have been so shocked? Would she have been able to prevent the horror that stared back at her? How was it possible that anyone else could stand to look at her?
She cried great gulping sobs. Sounds escaped her mouth, louder than the water running from the faucet. She had forgotten to turn off the water. She cried harder thinking of the water she wasted, lost down the drain, never to be recovered. She sucked in her breath, held it, smashed her lips together and covered her mouth with both hands. When stars flitted in her vision, she allowed herself to breathe once more.
The empty house didn’t care how much noise she made or how loud she was. It wouldn’t even echo back at her despite its size. She was alone after decades of caring for others and the house was not a solace. The house now belonged to her alone but it had never been her home and was not her home now. She did not belong here. She never did. She did not belong to anyone, anymore. It wasn’t likely that she ever would again.
She slammed the lid of the toilet down. The cold plastic shocked her naked ass. She leaned her elbows on her knees, placed her chin on her fists and closed her eyes. The tingling of cut off nerves in her thighs woke her up. She stood, steadied herself with the sink and forced herself to look at herself again. She stuck out her tongue.
God, she hated being pathetic.
She was free to do whatever she wanted. She walked around the house naked: through the kitchen and into the basement. She laid on the beds in all four bedrooms. She went into the backyard daring the neighbors to peak over the fences. The Spring breeze raised bumps on her skin. She went back into the house, crawled into her unmade bed and slept for the next three days.
Her cell phone rang several times. She texted brief responses back to her daughter and her sister to let them know she was still alive but unwilling to chat. She had to maintain some contact or they’d be on her doorstep. Seeing her relatives at the funeral had exhausted her.
The next time she looked at herself her hair was greasy and stuck out at odd angles. She stank. Her cheeks smelled from where she drooled and hadn’t brushed her teeth. Now, she really looked hideous, as bad as she felt. Her stomach grumbled. There was no food in the house and she was hungry. She looked and smelled so bad that she couldn’t even considered going to a fast food drive-through.
She forced herself into the shower. As soon as the water hit her face, she cried, nearly drowning in the hot spray. She sat down, her legs unable to hold her up in her hysteria. The sadness was so profound. Her heart was breaking. She pressed on her chest trying to stop the pain she felt there. She wrapped her arms around her knees and rested her cheek there. The water ran cold.
She rose, shaking. Turned the faucets off. Walked wet into her bedroom, grabbed her big, white terry robe, wrapped in it and crawled under the blankets. She’d eat later.