The world is grey and it is reflected in my eyes. The blinds are shut and my bed is cold under the window draft. I could be anyone in this moment with my eyes scrunched closed in dread of the day, but I am not; I am who I am every day and now I must face it. I crawl to the black-framed mirror, propped up on boxes by the door; it is a small room and my back can rest against the bed as I study the ghost before me.
Nothing has life in this filtered winter’s light; I have to remind myself that it’s not a personal grudge from the world that I look like death. I should dye my hair red again, I think, so at least it would not be as bland as the rest of me. I won’t do it though. Pasty skin, grey eyes, pale lips, and the mussed barely-brown hair. Ugly, and dull; very much like the rest of the world when coated in monochrome. Is anything beautiful in winter? I think that maybe it is, and maybe I will see it like I do every other day when I have put on eyeliner, trainers, and the can-do attitude that comes after two cups of coffee, but right now that seems like a challenge. How can this face even be alive? It is Frankenstein’s creature – detached, not understanding, alien – and it is I who has to coerce him into existence.
I stop, and have a shower, and then look again. The hair is different; now two inches longer and darker and straighter with the weight of water, but the face is the same. The cold eyes stare back analytically, they see the bags under my eyes and the skin screaming of stress and comfort eating, but I pretend that I don’t notice. I know that it is ignorant of me, and similar to the way that I dismiss the extra skin between t-shirt and trousers and how I tackle criticisms with a shot of vodka when I get home, but it’s all the same; those unpleasant things we filter out to cope with the day. Like the blinds in my bedroom, filtering, filtering…what exactly? I dry my hair and cover my face under bright make-up, hoping that my colleagues won’t notice what it is hiding. No one likes to see their boss falling apart, it makes for awkward conversation.
I close my eyes and open the blinds; the room, my face, and everything is flooded with natural light. The world is grey outside as I knew it would be, but as I look in the mirror on the way to work – dressed in the expected clothes and with a steaming mug in my hand – yes, I am alive. The grey is hidden enough for today and the ghost will not return until evening.