I stared at the mirror unable to recognize who was staring back. I tried blinking, but the image didn’t change. I tried closing my eyes, but upon looking at the mirror again, I still could not recognize who was staring back. I thought maybe the mirror had been swapped, and that I was looking at a picture. But if that were to happen, then I would wonder who would have broken into my room late in the night to do so. And why they wouldn’t have just smothered me in my sleep instead of leaving me to this fate. I had a rule in this room. It wasn’t my rule, but the rule of the people who sent me here. I was given this room filled with ornamented glass, centuries old wine, and a coaster. The coaster was my favorite part of the room. It stood unabashedly on the finely carved wood table, and waited for me to settle a fine glass of wine onto it. I couldn’t keep track of how much I wished that I would be that coaster. Such a life would be wasted on me, but I wished for that life. I needed that life. The rule of the people who sent me here was simple. At least, that’s what they called it, simple. But nothing really ever is simple. The glass in which I drank my wine was made in a way that could never be formulaically simple. The coaster that was so delicately hand crafted could never be simple. If I ran such trivialities in my head then I would no longer find the need to bring a knife to my arm. That was what they told me. Simple.
If I broke any of the rules, then they would know. And if they knew, then I would have less of a chance of leaving this condition. Except, if I were to die in this condition, I would die alone, and I would die with no records of me ever having lived. That is what they told me. The first step out of my condition would be to look at myself in the mirror, that is what they told me. That was the rule. I had to draw a picture of myself every day in great detail as I looked in the mirror of my living room. I had the paper and pencil sprawled in front of me, and the wine glass setting on the coaster, and the whine of the refrigerator somewhere to my side. That whine kept me sane as I stared into the eyes of whoever was in the mirror. If I failed to produce a drawing, I would have broken the rule, and there were no other mirrors in this room. I considered the wine glass, but I could not see through the distortion. Rather, I preferred not to touch my wine glass. I wished for it to sit on the coaster forever. I looked back in the mirror. I didn’t know who was staring back, but I drew my picture anyway, thinking I could figure something out with what I had. My room was insulated, with nothing but those few things that I could use to keep myself alive. The white walls seemed like it wanted to swallow me, to transfuse my body into its composition such that it wouldn’t be a white wall. I understood it’s sentiment.
I drew what I saw in the mirror and then inspected every last line that I had produced. It didn’t look like anyone special. Just a man with slicked hair and a clean shaven face. His eyes were a bit too large for his face, but his mouth and nose were exactly where they should be. His shoulders were broad, and his upper body was well toned. I could not draw a lower body since the table was blocking. I didn’t recognize this man, not in the mirror, nor on the paper. It made me frustrated. I didn’t have much in the room to uphold this frustration, and if I were to break out in frustration rules would be broken. I knew of no other way to expunge the anger that welled up in me, in my inability to recognize who was in the mirror. I couldn’t call on anyone, I couldn’t tell them that the mirror I stared at was not the same mirror from yesterday, nor the week before. It frustrated me that on that particular day, of that particular week of that particular month that my mirror was different. It all seemed so haphazard, slapped onto my everyday routine just to vex me. My anger couldn’t be subsided, I knew it couldn’t. The white walls that paraded me knew it couldn’t. I would never be subsided as long as I had been given such freedoms as drawing on a table with a wine on a coaster. My arms flung unrestrained and my bare feet stamped on the white tiles below me in a fit. The wine glass fell and shattered onto the white tiles, becoming almost transparent as it did so. The coaster remained on the table unattended to.
I continued to thrash about until my feet were swollen. The pleasure ebulliently filled my body and I felt everything stop for a brief moment. My muscles all relaxed and I looked at the picture I drew. It was still unclear. I looked back in the mirror. It still wasn’t me. The whine in the refrigerator stopped, and the entire room rung white. My breathing relaxed, and I looked to the door that existed to keep me here. There was a note plastered on the bottom of its frame, stuck in with a nail. I walked over to that door and lowered myself to inspect the note. I had often been given such notes on strange occasions. Certainly such an occasion was due, but I had no way of telling. The note read simply, “You’re doing well, keep it up.” And in smaller print, “Don’t hurt yourself, alright?” I felt obliged to answer the notes, and in the morning following they would disappear. I grabbed the pencil I used to draw and scrawled my reply to them. I said, “Today I can’t see the mirror. Did you guys switch it?” I knew I wouldn’t get an answer, nor would I ever get an answer. There was nothing else left in that room for me to do, and the only connecting room was the kitchen. I walked over in hopes of finding something to ail me.
The kitchen was much smaller than the room with the mirror. It was perhaps half as large, with the same white walls. There was the refrigerator, a table in the middle for dining, and a sink. There were no cabinets, but beside the sink was a knife, a plate and a fork. I wasn’t allowed to touch anything in the kitchen unless there was an absolute emergency, or so they told me. Usually food would be prepared for me by the morning I woke up, but I figured they wouldn’t be able to tell whether I did enter the kitchen if I didn’t touch anything. This gave me a giddy sense of clandestine, like I was a patient hiding something from his doctors in a cuckoo’s nest. I grabbed the knife in passing before I left the kitchen, unknowing if its use would help me.
I walked over to the mirror and looked again, hoping that I would not have to resolve this in the few ways that I knew. I could not recognize the man in the mirror. My patience grew thin and my entire body shuttered as if I was glass being shattered by a hammer. I had no way of keeping the rule if I had no proper way to see my reflection. I would not be able to leave this condition. And as such, I figured that by partaking in the methods I knew how to perform, the methods that would lead me to salvation, would not be so bad. If my breaking of a single rule would prevent me from making progress, than what difference does a few rules. I brought the knife to my arm, and let my mind drain itself from all extremities. The refrigerator started up again. I plunged the knife into my arm, and slid it up my wrist. I then brought it out and watched as the white tiles were painted red. My mind didn’t waver, and it remained clear. A surge of immeasurable pleasure ran my entire body, but it only lasted for a few seconds. I drove the knife into my arm again, and again, until my arm could not be held. My body remained in a state of bedlam, but I knew that it was just from deprivation. I brought my arm to the mirror, and I recognized that arm. It was my arm. I was overjoyed that I fixed the problem. I pushed back the table, and then brushed my face against the mirror, watching as I smashed my head into the glass, and as the reflection became mine. I smiled as the shattered glass had depicted my image in a near perfect state. I was overtly ecstatic, unable to contain my joy. I wanted to express that to the world, my perfect image. I began drawing.