Warnings for language.
Monkeys are superior to humans in this: when a monkey looks into a mirror, he sees a monkey. – Malcolm de Chazal
I watch her watch herself cry in the bathroom mirror. She is crying the way girls at clubs always cry in bathrooms: as though her heart isn’t in it enough to ruin her makeup. For the moment, she is alone. I look down, shifting my weight to my left foot and notice a stain on one of my peeptoes. I fold my arms across my chest, lips pursed as I wait in the line that hasn’t moved for the last five minutes. Could this day get any worse? Giggling, two girls emerge from one of the stalls. I make a face. I have never understood why girls want to do that, pee in front of each other. I see enough of that at work; I’m not interested in doing that on a night out.
“Don’t think about work,” I mutter to myself, not wanting to go over the day I’ve just had or the many, many drinks I have consumed since my arrival at the club.
I look at the girl again; she is re-touching her makeup. The door behind me swings open; the music from the bar floods in like a river, diffuse and incoherent and I have to duck as the next girl arrives, brushing past me without an apology, making a beeline for the crying girl.
“Oh my God, Katie, I saw you run off and I had to come in! Are you okay?”
Katie, wiping tears away quickly, gives a shaky smile. I laugh quietly to myself. She looks like she is playing the role of someone trying to be brave.
“Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just…seeing him with her, you know?”
I roll my eyes, hating her already. I know I have no right, absolutely no right, to judge someone I don’t know, but after the day I’ve had I want to yell at her.
Katie looks at herself in the mirror again and adjusts her hair. I watch the dark curls spill out over her sequined jacket like water tumbling over rocks. She has nice hair, but today I’m not going to tell her that, or ask her what shampoo she uses. I don’t have the energy.
“It’s just…” Katie is saying, “It just hit me all of a sudden.”
“Did you not know he had a girlfriend?”
“No. Well, that’s not the problem.”
I am openly staring at them. They’re more interesting than playing bejeweled on my iphone and the banality of their conversation is a nice reminder that some people’s biggest problem in life is their ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend.
“I just saw this girl standing at the bar, and then he came over to her and put his hand right here,” she demonstrates, pointing to the small of her back. “And he started tracing circles on it, and it just-“ It’s too much for her, she can’t possibly recount the touching ballad of his fingers on her back without breaking into tears. “It just hit me, you know?”
I wanted to hit her.
“I’m not really important to him anymore. Like when I turned up here, I was waiting in line for the bouncer to let us in, and he could see me, he looked straight at me and he didn’t even come over to say hi. All his friends, who used to be my friends, couldn’t be bothered with me anymore.”
“And then,” Katie continues, “when I tried to talk to him, all he said was…he made that stupid joke, you know the one where he says that he can’t wait for his biography to come out,”
Her friend nods earnestly.
“-and then everyone will know how much I hurt him, even though he made it perfectly clear at the time and every other time I’ve seen him since.”
The friend, sensing an opening, launches her attack. “Listen, you have got to stop beating yourself up about this. Breaking up with him was the best thing you’ve done, he made you miserable, he said you had become a bitch since Annie died only a few weeks after she passed away, he told you he wasn’t in love with you, what the hell did he expect was going to happen? Thank God he’s moving to England.”
I didn’t know who Annie was, it could have been her pet gerbil for all I knew, but still I watched them like a train wreck, fascinated and repulsed at the same time.
“Yeah, but, I broke up with him the same week his granddad died! That’s like, unforgivable.”
The line moved by one person, and we all shuffled along the required space. My new position gave me a better view. Katie’s friend had her arms on Katie’s shoulders, words of encouragement now spilling from her mouth like so many dropped marbles. Even though I knew that Katie was just trying to tell her friend about what’s real for her, I found I didn’t give a shit.
The line moves and I am at the front now, close to Katie and her friend (they are hugging) and suddenly I hear my mum’s voice in my head, the one that says if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all. I look at her a little guiltily, as though she knows what I’ve been thinking. She glances at me over her friends shoulder, and her eyes sweep me up and down like a metal detector, lingering on the stain on my shoe and I shuffle my feet awkwardly under her gaze, not wanting her to know. I look around the room, taking in the inevitable water spots and stray paper towel on the floor. I look up and catch sight of myself in the mirror in front of me. I blink. I look pretty, not as though I’ve had the day from hell. I look at Katie. Neither does she; she could be just any other girl retouching her makeup in a club bathroom, but I know she isn’t. I know that as far as she’s concerned, no-one else’s grief could possibly compare with her own. I could show her. We could have a grief-off, and I’d kick her arse with my stained shoes.
She has turned back to the mirror now, pulling her lipstick from her purse. She looks up to apply it, her mouth forming the universal ‘O’ passed down from mothers to daughters all over the world. Her eyes catch mine in the mirror and I smile at her.
“I like your hair.”
She brightens, smiling with vivid red lips.
“Thank you,” she touches it, plumping it slightly. “I grow it myself,” she jokes and winks at me before turning to her friend. I watch them leave in the mirror, the door opening, the thumping music louder suddenly. The door swings shut; the sound of the music fades and all is quiet again. A girl exits the stall behind me, and I make to enter it.
As we pass each other, our eyes meet. She opens her mouth. “Oh my God, what a bitch!”
– End –
Like it? Vote for it!