2
min

The Woman in the Mirror

29 readings

4

The sound of her heels echoed as she hurried down the corridor. Jim was hosting The National Endowment for Cultural Arts’ annual fundraiser, so he was otherwise occupied for the moment and wouldn't notice she was gone. She glanced back as she pushed into the ladies room at the opposite end of the building. All she could think of was ESCAPE. No one should live in the prison that had become her life, she thought.

She looked at herself in the mirror. She didn’t even recognize that woman any longer. Such deep sadness and despair. Fine lines were beginning to show around her eyes. “I want my life back.” She shivered. Suddenly she heard a stifled sob from one of the stalls. Quietly she moved toward the sound and peered under the door. Then she saw her.

“Hello? Who’s there?” Iris heard the woman slowly let out a breath as if she had been holding it for too long. The woman was dressed in some kind of elaborate costume from another era. Perhaps she was part of the cultural celebration that Olvera Street is infamous for. Iris thought. She noticed this woman’s pale blue eyes and recognized the same sadness and despair as her own. The same fine lines around her eyes.

“What are you doing here? Were you crying?” Iris placed her hand on her shoulder.
“I am fine.” The woman reassured dabbing a tissue to her eyes and cheeks.
“I am...” she paused as the sound of footsteps echoed in the corridor outside the restroom door. When the footsteps continued down the hall and faded away, she began again. “I am hiding from my husband.”
A knowing smile curled the edges of Iris’ lips. “So am I.” Iris affirmed.

As the two spoke, they came to realize striking similarities in their circumstances. Iris felt akin to this woman more than anyone else she had ever met. They both had over-bearing fathers who “arranged” their marriages. Husbands who were being groomed to take over their family businesses. They both admitted to living in loveless marriages that they dare not leave. “It would dishonor the family name.” They both admitted to losing a child and the shame that comes with feeling purposeless, as a woman. They cried together.

Music from the party blared as they huddled tight, sharing secrets. Iris giggled and wiped her tears as she retrieved the flask she kept in her handbag.
The woman gasped. “What? It’s the best hooch money can buy!” Iris laughed.
The women drank, smiled and enjoyed the solace of their new found camaraderie.
A door slammed loudly, from the other end of the corridor, breaking the enchantment.
“It’s my husband!” someone said. The woman cracked the door to peered through.
“It’s him, he’s coming!” she whispered and retreated to the stall from where she was first discovered. “I’ve got this.” Iris looked out and saw Jim coming. She sighed defeatedly. “Don’t worry, it’s Jim. I should go now.”
The woman came up behind her. “Find your strength, Mija. And Iris, only your courage and strength can change OUR family story.”
Puzzled, with her choice of words, Iris inquired, “Before I go, Who are you?”
“I am your grandmother’s grandmother, Iris.”

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