Reconstructing Gwen

deconstructed woman

Photo credit: Flora Borsi

Gwendolyn Anders was being deconstructed. No one else could tell the forty-five year old divorced woman was falling apart. She couldn’t afford to let anyone know. She had to keep moving, go to work each day, make sure her two kids got to and from school, did their homework, ate healthy meals, made it to soccer practice.

She did her best to adhere to the “supermom” stereotype, and as far as the rest of the world was concerned, she was successful.

Inside where no one could see, she was bleeding to death.

“What do you see when you look in the mirror, Gwen?” She asked herself that question every morning as she was about to take her shower. Usually what she saw was a worn down woman approaching middle age. After having two children, her tummy would never be “bikini perfect” again. Her ass was a little too round for that “buns of steel” look, and her boobs were sagging just a little bit lower every year.

When men have them, they’re called “crows feet” and are considered distinguished, but on women, they’re just wrinkles.

Of course she dyed her wild mane, which before she washed, dried, and hair sprayed it into submission, was less a crown of glory and more the product of a Van de Graaff generator.

She asked the same question every morning as she stood nude in front of her bathroom mirror. “What do you see when you look in the mirror, Gwen?”

This time she saw something else.

At first, the mirror didn’t reflect anything at all. She thought it was a static black, like an old-fashioned chalkboard fresh from the factory, or a window coated with black paint. Then she saw it move, as if the glass were covered with millions of iron filings, and behind the mirror were thousands of magnets moving them around at random.

Strangely, she didn’t feel freaked out or panicked at this odd state of affairs. It was almost as if she expected it.

Then something began to take form. There was a shape, and colors manifested. She saw a small splash of red.

It was her. It was Gwen’s face, her hair, her skin, and her bones. Inside, where her heart should be, a tiny crimson bird rested. It was perched on one of her ribs, and it was bleeding feathers.

“I’m falling apart inside.”

Then the bird turned its head and faced the mirror, too. She fluttered her wings and Gwen saw she had an expression of hope on her face.

“I am such a fool. Why didn’t I see it before? You’re ready to fly and I’ve been keeping you caged.”

Gwendolyn Anders had been in a cage for past thirteen years pretending to be supermom, blue tights, red cape, the works. Today, she broke the lock, and the door sprang open. Then a little scarlet bird the color of blood said “no more” to being daily sacrificed on the altar of everyone else’s expectations and soared free.

After that, she became a better Mom, and a better person, because what she saw in the mirror was who she really was. She was herself.

I wrote this for Photo Challenge #214 hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to craft a poem, short story, or other creative work.

It’s an interesting image, and I had to look closely to see that the red splotch inside of her was a bird dripping feathers. I decided to make this another Dark Mirror story, but instead of the mirror taking Gwen to some other place and time, it showed her what she needed to see most of all.

You can read more about the Dark Mirror in tales such as Encounter at Muxnar, A Black Matter for the King, Saving Max, and Darfur Misspelled.

Oh, in case you were wondering, this is a Van de Graaff generator. Scroll down on that page or do a Google image search to see what standing close to one would do to your hair.

12 thoughts on “Reconstructing Gwen

  1. A Van de Graaff generator- a teacher I work(ed) beside used this tool for science classes and as science rewards. The kids LOVED it. I am glad Supermom found her true self. Well done.


  2. Awesome story. I am feeling that way right now (for the last week or so really). I need a change and get back to who I was before I “derailed” and became a mom and student (not complaining about either one, mind you). Excellent take on the photo prompt!


    • I think a lot of women find themselves in the same place, unfortunately. It’s both (in my humble opinion) an effect of how the role of women in our culture (or probably in most human cultures) has been perceived traditionally, and the feminist movement which has told women they could have it all (career, marriage, kids, etc…), no matter how much it would consume them as human beings.

      Liked by 1 person

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