Heiko H. Caimi – Alice in the mirror


After taking a shower, Alice stood in front of her mirror, without looking at it. It was a large, vertical mirror, almost occupying the height of the wall. Her mother gave it to her.
She stood there for a long while, staring at her feet. They were nice, slender feet, with straight fingers. She liked that part of her body. She liked it a lot.

Her eyes moved from her feet to the scale. Often, when she stepped on that digital pillory, she stood there staring at her feet for a while, before she had the courage to look at the digital numbers. Every time, the figure that appeared was different from what she wanted to read. She didn’t want to weigh herself. She did not want to weigh herself anymore. The scale couldn’t lie, but the truth hurt too much.
She shyly gazed at the mirror, then quickly closed her eyes. Those swollen thighs were an awful sight. She could not tolerate it. Why did her mother give her that mirror?
She kept her eyes closed for few seconds. Maybe she should have turned around before reopen them. She had always felt good in the bathroom, before her mother gave her that mirror. It was not entirely at ease in that apartment, as it was too small to move around without continuously banging against something. But the bathroom was her perfect place. It was a large bathroom, spacious, where she usually sheltered when she wanted to be alone with herself. She pampered herself with long salt baths or showers. She liked to feel the water running over her body while, with her eyes closed, she stood still under the running water. Water was generous, it caressed her without caring about her shape; a warm, almost sensual caress. A loving caress.
She opened her eyes. She could not look away from the reflection of her own belly. It just didn’t want to be flat. No matter how many diets she did, it was always round, a hideous outgrowth that would not go away, not even with gym.
She looked up at her breasts. They were not high, firm breasts, such as those in the adverts. Hers hopelessly bent down, sad, as if they were utterly discouraged. She could have masked them with a bra, pretending that they were not so falling, but her mother’s mirror always revealed the truth.
She looked at her shoulders. Even they didn’t want to stay straight, proud: they were hanging down like the shoulders of a broken mannequin, slender, weak. No matter how many exercises she would do, her shoulders would not lift.
She looked at her face. She did not dislike her face, but neither she really liked it. It was a cute face, slightly childish, with big eyes, regular nose, and full lips. But the crease on her eye and her mouth terribly resembled her mother’s, as well as the dimples on her cheeks.
It was like her mother’s severe gaze was staring at her from the mirror, piercing her big eyes and turning into a bitter expression. An expression that invaded Alice’s face every time she thought of her. Like now.
And when she put her makeup on, she ended up looking even more like her mother, as if, by annulling her features, the similarity became more pronounced, neutralizing what was left of her.
Her blond curls were a legacy of her mother too. They were beautiful, nicely framing her face, and made her look a bit thinner. But they weren’t her curls: it was as if she had made a wig using her mother’s hair.
She closed her eyes, squeezed them strongly so she could not see. She hadn’t turn around, but as she opened her eyes the sight was blurred by so many dots, as if a blanket of dust was laying between her and the mirror.
She walked into the kitchen naked. Water drops traced her passage, as to prevent her to lose her way.
She opened the cutlery drawer. She took the knife out. She stared at it for a while. She could only see her eyes reflecting in the blade. Without a face around, her eyes looked even more like her mother’s. Her mother’s eyes scanning her from the blade.
She put the knife on the table, leaned against a chair: she couldn’t breathe. It was like she was missing a destiny. She moved out to live on her own as soon as she could afford it, in order to escape her mother’s daily criticism, but that did not change things: her life had not changed, no metamorphosis had come to save her. The only thing she had obtained was to be alone with her anguishes.
She picked up the knife. She would have started from her thighs, up to her belly, then her breasts, zac, and…
Then she couldn’t remove both shoulders. She dropped the knife, that fell on the floor and bounced on one foot. Terrified, she looked down.
Luckily, it had bounced on the flat side and left intact the only good thing she had. How different her feet were, so different from those of her mother’s. Who knows where they come from. Not even her dad had feet like those, nor her brother. Perhaps her grandmother… But she had died too soon for her to remember.
She found herself thinking of asking her mom whose feet they look like. But who knows what she would have answered. Nothing pleasant, that’s for sure. She kept looking at her feet. She began to feel a sense of extraneousness to that beautiful part of herself. They were in disagreement with the rest of her body, with everything. Or was the rest that was in disagreement with them?
She moved her chair and sat down. Crossed her legs, picked up a foot. She began to stroke it: she felt she loved it. But at the same time she felt repulsion for that part of herself that didn’t seem to belong to her, so different from all the others, crashing with the rest of her body. It was her’s, but she felt like it didn’t belong to her.
She stopped stroking, and looked at the other foot. It was just beautiful, the twin of the one she had just cherished.
She got up, went to the door, and checked that it was closed. Pulled the phone receiver making sure it was off.  She opened the cupboard, took out a half-full bottle of whiskey and took a sip, then another one, and another one, until it was empty. She put the bottle on the table and took the knife again. Yes, she actually would have started from her feet. She had to remove them. That was the only way to feel whole. With the knife in her hand, she walked into the bathroom.


Translation by  Amneris di Cesare* (edited by Sara Di Girolamo)


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Heiko H. Caimi
Heiko H. Caimi, born in 1968, is a writer, screenwriter, poet and teacher of fiction writing. He has collaborated as an author with publishers Mondadori, Tranchida, Abrigliasciolta and others. He has taught at the Egea bookshop of Bocconi University in Milan and several other schools, libraries and associations in Italy and Switzerland. Since 2013 he has been editorial director of the literature magazine Inkroci. He is one of the founders and organizers of the traveling literary festival Libri in Movimento. He collaborates with the news magazine "InPrimis" keeping the column "Pages in a minute" and with the blog of the writer Barbara Garlaschelli "Sdiario". He published the novel "I predestinati" (The Predestined, Prospero, 2019) and edited the anthology of short stories "Oltre il confine. Storie di migrazione" (Over the border. Migration stories, Prospero, 2019).