It’s a vicious, wild animal, wrapping its claws around my lungs. Squeezing tighter and tighter, like a python suffocating its prey. Its bite is debilitating and the poisonous venom infiltrates my system. Panic washes over me, a tingling sensation pricking my fingers and toes, flowing inward to my limbs, until finally my entire body is numb. Paralyzed by fear, I am enslaved to the beast. It follows wherever I go. The longing for direction and certainty aches in my belly like a plaguing virus. I close my eyes and wait for it to pass.
She leans over, her mouth wide and gaping. She lines the circumference of her lips in one fluid motion, flawless from years of practice. She flattens her hair until it’s glossy, sleek and straight. The young woman straps on her bra, tightening it until her breasts throb. She wiggles into her jeans, a repetitive little dance to get them up and over her hips. She’s worked tirelessly to fit into that size 24. She slips into her heels, one foot at a time. She slings her purse over her shoulder and reaches for her keys. As she turns to go, she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She stops for a second and turns to face her reflection. She sees years of judgments staring back at her, projections of societal illusions. She has starved, bleached, tweezed, bronzed, moisturized and manicured. Her love is conditional, dependent on acceptance and validation. Relentlessly in pursuit of perfection, she has been chasing an elusive carrot, always just slightly out of reach. Not yet sunrise, this is just the first of many battles. She turns to leave. The weight of her world rests on her pretty, slender shoulders.