I glance into the mirror and pause. A face stares back at me; a face cleansed of make-up, of pretence. A face that is both familiar and unfamiliar to me.
This face looks tired, drawn, careworn. The faint lines at the corners of the eyes seem more defined now, shorn of their cosmetic camouflage. The eyes look lost and blend into the rest of the face without anything to define them. The skin is blemished and naked.
This woman is plain. She looks vulnerable. She appears to only have a passing acquaintance with sleep but too much familiarity with pain; it shows in the tightness around her eyes, a tightness usually hidden from view. The layers of artifice and disguise have been stripped away and she is but a pale shadow of the mask she wears daily.
This woman is me, and yet she is not. This woman goes unseen, hidden beneath the layers of superficiality. She is protected by the painted mask and now, dragged into the light, she seems reduced somehow. She has less presence, less substance, less reality. She is my shadow self and yet she is also my true self. She is that which is hidden in plain sight.
She is me, the me that I permit few people to glimpse. And now, like a small animal dragged in terror from its burrow, she is exposed. I stare into the eyes so like my own and yet so different and then I turn away from the mirror, already casting aside the memory of that wan, tired, naked face gazing back at me.