Mise En Abyme



Amily could not see herself, though she stood in the middle of a room with mirrors on the walls and ceiling. Or it might be more accurate to say that, like most humans, she had adopted a myopic view of her reflection. She was capable of noticing a lipstick-smudge on her teeth, a chin hair in need of tweezing, and individual eyelashes for mascara application, a coffee stain on her silk blouse, a run in her stockings, and how her skirt was twisted to the side from having dressed in a dark hurry. However, the totality of her being was beyond her reach and desire.

But in this room, the mirrors and the lighting filled in her blind spots with those who brought her here. Amily had only to turn a few degrees to see her father’s stern brow and toucan-beak of a nose reflected in her features, and she shivered as she heard him thunder how she had splintered their centuries-long and pristine reputation by becoming a guardian of the law. Next to her father, made as much of shadows and broken glass as she had been in life, stood Amily’s mother wringing her hands and wincing at her husband’s every word. And behind her ethereal parents hung their stories like tails of now-extinct creatures that seemed so fantastical that one had to speculate if they had ever been true at all.

There was a hidden-away story of her mother losing her virginity to a much older cousin named Winnie on her thirteenth birthday. Winnie not only broke her hymen but her backbone too, and for the rest of her sentence in this world, Amily’s mother remained spineless.

A shrined story lit up Amily’s father from behind. Always the author of his character, he had conquered eight seas and nine continents by the age of ten and given it all away for eleven virgins, obviously not counting his damaged wife, by noon.

Their together story was so patched and jagged it almost lost definition. They were faithful but not to each other. They were happy but not with their lives. They were united but on opposing teams. They had children but not of their own. They had victories, but they were lost. They had riches but of steals and ransom notes. No matter where the line was placed, there was never any symmetry in the narrative they had inhabited.

As Amily tilted her head to the other side, a refracted rainbow revealed her seven siblings. Genetics does not have a monopoly on common traits. Being Papa’s favorite will make you red. Wanting to belong will make you orange. Being cast aside will make you yellow. Feeling forgotten will make you green. Cutting yourself will make you blue. Cutting your baby brother will make you indigo. Being mentally facilitated will make you violet. This was true for anyone, Amily told herself and closed her eyes to climb out of the abyss.