Mirror, Mirror

Damn you.

Just because I don’t want to follow the herd doesn’t mean I want to lead a pack of my own, not that you appear to have realized this.

It’s lashing with rain as I unpack the new supplies and set them up in my newly-christened “studio”, a blank room with an easel and a battered little table I found cheap at an op-shop. The table shows the most life, piled high as it is with films, packs of batteries and an old Polaroid-style camera. For now the floor will have to do to accommodate the rest of the supplies, since I now can’t afford any extra furnishings until my next payday.

Right now it doesn’t even matter that I’ve had no formal art lessons beyond year 10 in high school, or that chlorine-soaked water is dripping from my hair onto the floor. It’s probably wrecking the carpet – I might have to remove it if this will become a regular occurrence. I’m hardly the first painter to try abstract, but’s that’s a small detail. A technicality, really. If anything, my painting might be considered derivative or shadows of some late great’s work.

I pile my hair upon my head, securing it haphazardly with a stray pencil. The blue chunk falls loose in seconds, and I grin to myself. It’s the sort of thing you’d never do, and I still remember the shock and horror in your voice at the thought of ever letting blue or “unnatural” colours near your perfectly-done, never-touched-chlorine honey blonde hair. I still haven’t mentioned that the haircut you recently complimented came from a ten-minute DIY trim with nail scissors, not the polished salon tools you seem to prefer.

Fine by me. You blend into the crowd, I’ll stand out.

It’s true, the colour is more a royal blue than navy. When I actually style my hair, the blue stands out well against long black hair, specifically coloured for this purpose and made longer by virtue of straightening irons.

Glancing around tells me I’m going to have to get this room better organized. A dressing table would be the best way to arrange things, and I could use the extra storage space. I have no doubt that I’ll be able to salvage an old one from an op-shop. Maybe an extra coat of paint or some new designs, and it’ll be another way to differentiate how you’ve organized your own place.

These are the problems you cause me. I’ve been inconveniencing myself lately, taking buses to new places further afield than you’re used to, and being secretive about my life. It’s out of a desire to stop you copying yet more things about my life. You’ve copied enough, but you don’t even seem to see it.

In a way, it helps me that you’re so trapped inside of your little bubble. Even when you’re at your mimicking-me best, there are places you won’t go and things you won’t do. I don’t think you could even locate an op-shop, let alone go inside of one, and I know for a fact that you’d never do anything that might get you remotely messy. It’s from this knowledge that I picked up art – painting is the epitome of not staying clean and neat, and so it’s safe from the list of things you’ve begun to mimic.

Nowadays I’ve been devoting time and energy and money I don’t really have to being myself. I have to find new music that you don’t know about, hunting out bands and then subtly lording my new finds over your head by never giving you a straight answer.

I love this song, I’ll tell you.

What song?

In those two words I perceive a threat and worry that if I tell you, you’ll go chasing the song down, just for the sake of keeping up with me.

Oh, no-one you’d know. Just this little band I came across one day online.

“Little band”, the key word being little. I know you well enough to know that you don’t like little-known or obscure things, and “little-known” is the perfect deterrent.

It helps that I’m better with words than you.

You’re the type of person, who, predictably likes whomever is proclaimed to be the next most popular band or singer. Typically, this comes in the form of TV, of glossy teen rags and radio ads talking about the winners of whatever competition has just finished. It doesn’t matter to you that you’re following the herd by jumping into the fray. Sometimes I wish you’d think for yourself instead of letting society dictate to you who you should like and what you should be. By contrast I prefer to stick with the bands I know and like, not jumping from one to the next.

These are small consolations, after viewing the poorly constructed and poorly-written stories you produce on occasion. Taking criticism isn’t something you do well or even gracefully, and I often consider you as someone who uses something like writing as a show-pony: you mention it and use it when you think it gives you an advantage, even if it isn’t important to you. You’d rather be fake and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.

Of course, the stories and the other pieces of writing follow the desire to learn more languages – incidentally, you picked the same ones I speak, and your recent enthusiasm for baking came not long after I mentioned that I found it to be relaxing.

Eventually I began to feel that there was nothing left for me. You were copying the things I did, but with a tenth of the energy and interest I had. Some nights I took to looking in the mirror, studying myself and applying makeup as I saw fit, just to make sure I had some qualities that differentiated me from you.

“Some nights I took to looking in the mirror, studying myself and applying makeup as I saw fit, just to make sure I had some qualities that differentiated me from you.

You do these things. It’s not like you own them,” you complained the times when I got annoyed.

I agreed readily – I didn’t own anything, but that didn’t mean I wanted to be copied.

Still, you were stubborn, a trait I’d long liked about myself. You continued to mimic me, and so I sold my car and a few things I didn’t mind getting rid of and found an apartment. I began deliberately seeking out the things you’d never do.

I quit my steady, secure job for the financially weak waiting tables and various freelance work for which I got paid, a contrast to your sensible, organized office job. I cut and dyed my hair, picked up hobbies and learned how to refrain from mentioning them.

And even when we drifted apart, speaking pared down to only a couple per times a month, I welcomed it. Welcomed the chance to be myself, without a copycat.

Even though I welcomed it, I still felt the regret for losing my best friend. I refused to let myself feel guilt, declaring myself innocent in the problem.

You, I justified it, had caused the problems when you revealed yourself to be my doppelganger wannabe.

4 thoughts on “Mirror, Mirror”

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