Rapunzel Has Insomnia
She’s awake to see the first blue-jean beam of dawn that following morning. But this time it's a different dawn—more virulence in this newborn sky—possibly, she considers, something even primordial about it. A color she doesn’t know the name for; something complicated-sounding and consonant-heavy.
And there, just in time for this strange dawn, she feels the squint-and-glance of a memory: when she was little and learning which color combinations made what, how she’d always end up frustrated, because instead of her classmates’ Kelly Greens, hers ended up more Pea Soup, or on the worst of unfocused days, Witch’s Brew; how she’d give up finally and lose herself in the violent scribbles of more morbid, satisfying colors: a ruddy rose, fuchsias and violets so neon they glowed, until those desperate loops became florid and wine-sopped, a shade far more remarkable than its sum parts. Anger. Frustration. The deep pressing of crayon into white. Sometimes: snapped lead, colored pencils bent clean in two, tears in paper, in the centers of her ruby shading. There was murk and mauve and raw chunks of black that burned in those stormy spheres. The kind that glittered. Thundered mutely, which was how she began learning to fear the hushed things over the loud. That was the kind of pigment she preferred.
This was what she thought on seeing dawn’s bleeding sky, a familiar color algorithm she’d never dream of trying to understand.
The pretty young woman considered it a solid transaction. She was proud of her business acumen. The thing in the mirror had made a convincing argument, assuring the pretty young woman that their deal was free of any loopholes, and that no, of course not, there was absolutely no obligation to ever visit this particular mirror again. “Close the door and snap off the lights,” it told her reassuringly. “Once your soul is sold, you’re free to go. You’ll show up just fine is every other mirror you meet.” So the pretty young woman made a bargain with the thing in the mirror. She handed over her soul and looked forward to a lifetime of youth and beauty. Time passed and she stayed pretty, and there were many years of many mirrors with many glimpses of young-looking, pretty reflections, and for quite some time she only participated in endings that ended happily. “How lucky!” everyone always would say. “So lucky,” she’d murmur each night, a half-sigh away from another dreamless sleep. But after a particularly nasty divorce proceeding with a certain minor French prince involving a very public exposure of his glass shoe fetish and witchy mistress (both quite hush-hush up until this point), the pretty young woman felt the first bone-twinges of age; she needed a holiday from it all, and so she retired from the public and traveled back home.
One afternoon, she came across a door in an upstairs room she’d long since forgotten, which lead to a room from her girlhood: glassy and blue marble-eyed wind-up dolls layered with dust so thick and undisturbed it kept record of the years. And in this room there was another door which looked like it’d never been opened, or if it had, it’d been so long ago it looked like it’d forgotten its purpose, how to even begin the process of opening itself back up. The knob was also dusty—a dim, flat brass. Ugly, she thought. It’d been left unlocked. There’d been a reason, she was sure; these sorts of things always had good reasons behind them. Oh, but she’d been young and silly—what had mattered then, didn’t now. So she opened the door, snapped on the light, and met the dead woman’s gaze in the mirror.
I am petrified history. The purest form of present. A rolodex of reflections. I am the mirror in the ladies’ bathroom, collecting the shallow pond moments of lives. They are pearl-bright and the loneliest of hobbies.
I consider myself intimate with women’s faces: their shades and symmetry, the geometry of cheekbones, the bridges of noses, and the hard screw-shine of pupils in an undone face.
Then: the realizations, the recognized soul-self, followed by the lukewarm spring of tensed edges and laces laced. I have seen young faces grow old, been present at the first surprise of familiars finding themselves altered on Friday nights between appetizers and entrées.
Some trace their wrinkles like fault lines; they examine, they frown; they pull inches of pinched cheek and chin, rearranging an outward biology enhanced by time.
Of course, the old eventually stop coming, but I cannot help the dead. I hold no loyalty to the absent, the missing—no capacity for the vanity of ghosts. For I am no crystal gazer—just an honest echo.
And soon, always, new faces begin their inaugural looking in, admiring my oval frame that’s heavy with the heft of lifetimes ill-suited for fairy tales.
But they like it—this particular purgatory I provide—where pasts grow milky under dim, dinnertime lights. I have seen my fill of ancient eyes. Beware: you will find no bloody apple cores or compliments here.
Mary B. Sellers is a mermaid who likes glitter. Originally from Jackson, MS, Sellers is a recent graduate of Louisiana State University's Creative Writing MFA Program. While there, she worked on her Frankenstein of a thesis: a hybrid novel, Rapunzel Has Insomnia, which is part story collection, part fairy tale vignette, and part memoir, dealing with themes of mental illness and inheritance, the complexity of mother-daughter relationships, and childhood trauma. In her downtime, she likes drinking wine and eating tacos.
Her stories and essays have been featured or are forthcoming in publications such as: Third Point Press, Sidereal Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine, Literary Orphans, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Maudlin House, Moon Sick Magazine, and others.