When I look in a mirror, I see through myself.
I have no reflection.
I can see and touch my own body, and other people see me without any problems, but for years I was unable to see my own face.
I don’t show up in photos or on video.
Until I was eleven years old, I knew what my face looked like only from how it felt under my fingertips, how other people described it to me, and from the portraits my parents paid people to draw.
But even the portraits were temporary. They faded within minutes. And if you write a sentence about how I look, the nouns and adjectives evaporate.
I have a r and ye .
It’s strange knowing such a unique part of your body—of yourself and your identity—solely through words and pictures, as if you were a character in a story or comic book.
As if you weren’t real.
And most people aren’t even very good at describing things beyond the most basic and obvious.
The video my parents took of my birth is actually pretty bizarre, because it looks like someone filmed the whole thing, then digitally erased the baby. Something is born. Something is held in its mother’s arms.
Something is loved.
Something goes to school.
Something likes to play with his dog.
It was bad enough everyone knew what I looked like, but worse I could see what they looked like.
I get that if I was born blind, I wouldn’t know what I looked like either, so I should be thankful for being able to see, but there’s something especially cruel about the seeing everything but yourself aspect. It’s like in the Bible, when Adam and Eve could eat everything except the fruit of one fucking tree. I am my own forbidden knowledge. How fucked is that!
Or rather I was my own forbidden knowledge.
Because when something was eleven, something and his friends ignored their parents’ rules and went to play in the abandoned gas station outside of town, where the junkies shoot up, truckers get laid, and God knows what else goes on.
That day there was dying going on.
Some emaciated wreck of a human was babbling his last nonsense words as a stream of bloody fluids that escaped him through where his teeth should have been, ran down his neck and over his sunken, scabby chest before gathering in a pool on the cement beside him.
Something’s friends were all gone by then, rightly freaked the fuck out.
But something was staring—
Not by the dying but by the blood itself, so deeply, darkly red and so perfectly reflective.
It was in that mirror-blood I first saw myself.
In the filth of that derelict gas station, in the company of that drooling corpse, I realized that I could see myself—in blood!
And what stared back at me was nothing like the portraits.
I remember sirens and flashing lights and realizing my friends must have called the police. I don’t know how long I spent crouched there, staring at the blood, but when the cops arrived I knew immediately they couldn’t see the body.
It was right there yet they walked past it.
“Is this some kind of fucking joke?” one of them said to me. But before I could answer, his tone softened and he asked, “Are you OK, son?”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
The cops and my friends loitered like drunks around the gas station for at least a quarter of an hour, acting as if they didn’t know why they were there but didn’t want to admit it, then in a mutual but silent embarrassment started leaving.
“It’s boring here. Let’s go to my place,” said one of my friends.
Still the body was right there.
The gaping, toothless mouth, the greenish-yellow stains.
I went with them.
On the way back, I asked my friends whether they had called the police after seeing the dying man.
“Saw somebody dying?”
They had no idea what I was talking about.
A few days later, I got up at night, took a knife from the kitchen and cut myself on purpose, squeezing out enough blood so that it formed a crimson globule on the countertop, then put my face against it so that my eyeball was almost touching the blood. Slowly, I pulled my face away—a slow zooming out—struggling to focus, but I did not see myself. The globule merely reflected in red a distended, empty kitchen.
Animal blood also didn’t work.
Neither did my friend’s blood after I punched him in the nose.
By then it became apparent to me that somehow death must be involved.
I yearned to see myself once more but took solace in the fact that no one else could see the real me. They could not see what I saw, what I knew I was. They saw merely a false projection of their own humanity.
My chance finally came several years later, after my mom had dragged me to her brother’s cottage. My uncle was using a chainsaw to cut firewood, when the chainsaw slipped and he carved a nasty wound into his leg. He screamed and all of us came running. Despite the pressure he kept applying to the wound, his blood poured out of him, through his fingers and down onto the grass and dirt. Under the pretext of trying to help him slow the bleeding, I pressed my hand against his leg, gathering the hot blood in my palm. When I had enough, I stepped suddenly away—They all stared at me.—and, trembling, held out my hand beneath the dirty evening sunlight and gazed upon my own reflection for the second time.
Time again seemed to flow past me, but I recall vaguely, as through a wall of styrofoam, their screams and panic fading fluently away.
Like a forest stream whose source has been shut off.
Until it was quiet, and although I could see my uncle’s body lying on the ground, they one-by-one seemed to lose all interest in it. Eventually they all went back to whatever trivial thing they’d been doing before, and when I asked my mom what happened to my uncle, she said, “Who?” and laughed and said, “But I’ve never had a brother,” and when I later checked her phone and photo albums, sure enough he was not there, and I realized the power of my gaze.
I am the antonym of being.
More than non-being: dread-form of never-was.
To see myself, I must stare into the blood of the dying or the dead. In doing so, I disengender them.
To catch a glimpse of my own visage I must erase them from time itself.
I am not a human.
I am negation.
Since that evening at the cottage, I have haunted the places all normal people fear. I track death’s cold footsteps to where the threads of life are finest, and wait for them to fray—to snap. Sometimes I aid in their undoing. Because as long as I draw blood, I can kill without earthly consequence. My reflection is the erasure of crime, for how can one kill what has never existed?
Every time I see myself reflected, my desire grows.
I am beginning to love myself.
Perhaps I have become enamoured of my own image, but even so my narcissism is of the most unique kind.
For now, I prey only on the weakest among you, those who would not survive long anyway, and in my actions I become their angel: of death / of mercy / of forgetful self-reflection.