I had just turned the corner, leaving the humid bathroom to billow steam in my wake, and I took another few steps, passing the short wall between the bedroom and kitchen. It was there, on the paneled gray wall of my bedroom, that I first glimpsed the stranger. She was naked and glistening, as through a towel had not fulfilled its duty. Small beads of water clung to the ends of her curling brown hair, they stayed on the tips, threatening to drop, threatening a free fall at any minute and a plunge to the linoleum below, but they never seemed to release their hold. In the long rectangular mirror that affixed itself to the wall like an open window to another realm, I saw a stranger.
I had almost missed her, I had passed by quickly, barely making eye contact, but in those brief, almost incalculable moments, I witnessed a stranger in my home, and I returned to the window. They were eyes I have never seen. Droopy and slightly sad…how long had she been crying? After a momentary glance, I almost remembered a girl like this, where had I seen her? Was it the same skinny, long face? No, it couldn’t be, this one’s much more pale. Isn’t this the girl with a collection of eccentric clothes that spill from her closet like oozing rainbows? No, it can’t be, this girl is too thin, the clothes would hang from her like unkempt rags on a maypole. Maybe it’s the same girl that lives in a converted garage, in the small space that has turned a Korean family into landlords. Maybe she listens to the sounds above, to the ever-present noises of their life…to their booming TV, always in the midst of an action film, to their garage door opening as someone backs the minivan down the driveway, leaving to purchase more of life’s material essentials. Is it her?
If I stretch my mind like an unbaked pretzel, I can almost remember a time when we might have been friends, perhaps even shared the same warm bed and soft lover. But his person… there is nothing familiar in her almond shaped eyes. Her pale lips are nearly invisible among the angles of her face...she looks so sad. Has she always been like this?
Is this stranger always at my side? Driving with me to the supermarket on dark, cloud-filled nights, grabbing a fistful of Kleenex while tears escape like convicts in a jailbreak or laughing with me after a long session of love making…am I this stranger? She is in my home, but could this, in fact, be her home? Who is the stranger? Who is the one thinking? Which one of us is writing? Which one of us is gazing at the stranger…her or me? Could we be the same?
I have her dreams and curse her parents. I know the names of her long-lost friends that never call, memories of working at Baskin Robbins and laughing at a coworker who collected calculators. Why do I think I know this person? I share her memories, but, who is she? Her eyes are slightly wide in alarm, her face betrays her fear. Is she dead, or struggling within a rock? A rock that has all the illusions of life, a life submerged in hard soil and buried beneath a condo complex, but yet, she can look out her window and see rain.
The stranger grabs a lipstick from the bathroom, she puts a thick coating on her lips. She rubs a little pink blush on her face, like an out of focus image whose lines begin to merge into shapes, the stranger begins to fade. Now, she is a little more familiar. But is the stranger gone? Or just buried a little deeper in the soil? Another mask hides the inconvenient truth, another masks hides the pain of reality. Do you want to accept the illusion or face the fact?
You are an illusion. I AM an illusion. I am a stranger. You are a stranger. I coat it with makeup and clothes, with stories and memories and hopes and desires, but I am living within the body of a stranger. Shall I become a part of the circus, forgetting my character, forgetting that I am confined within a rock that keeps a thousand chains around my neck, holding my heart captive? And yet, I think I can drive anywhere. I think the ability to take a plane ride makes me free.
The lipstick is another layer of delusion, a way to comfort the discomfort when confronted by the stranger. A stranger that leaks out of every pore, every open hole, every fleck of brown within the iris. You can see it. That stranger is here, now. Right in front, naked and tattooed, a skeleton with breasts that moves as the earth turns, every second, but does not feel a thing. She does not feel it all shifting, she does not know that it all stays the same. She knows nothing, and she stares at herself, wide eyed and scared.