If Sin Was a Girl by McKenzie Karickhoff
Featured in The Coup: Lucid, Vol. 32 (2014)
She has the gaze of a bird of prey: a mocking, carnivorous vulture that can pick out any possibility of a flaw in the most seemingly piece of perfection. She looks as though I have insulted her with my very presence, her jaw set tightly with her lips pulling into a disgusted smirk. No person could mimic her scrutinizing glare. Attempting to drown out the feeling of her judgment, I listen to the clank of my favorite pair of black-heeled boots on the thick tan tile. They smack back and forth the way a stereotypical cheerleader chews gum.
Suddenly, the rhythm changes; can she hear me? It feels as though I am stepping further and further down into the cold waters of her clutches, or rather the waves are reaching up, soaking my favorite pair of cocoa colored tights, soiling the comfort I feel in them. This is how she works. This is how she always works. She sings the song of a siren, sweetly introducing you to the bitter thoughts of feeling ugly, thoughts of being weird — and sooner or later you begin to believe her.
It starts the same every morning. I am ready; dark locks of hair have been lovingly polished, an outfit has been poised to perfection, and my attitude has adjusted until it proves enviable. I have always believed that if you feel beautiful you will look beautiful, and I have taught many people to believe the same. But they too have told me thing, things of a girl who tears away their self-assurance, their feelings of beauty in a fleeting moment. So I began to look for her, this thief of confidence. I wouldn’t say I feared she would pop out around a corner, or scrawl writings about me from the ‘burn book’ along the school walls, but I tried to prepare myself in the case I fell into her cruel clutches.
Yet despite my carefulness, she caught me off guard. She still catches me off guard.
The girls make her sound like folklore: a legend of bloody Mary. Say her name three times and she appears, snatching your confidence from behind a pane of mirrored glass. I rather refer to her as a stain. She is cunning, beautiful, and keen, but cynical as the Wicked Witch of the West: a narcissist of the most contemptible sort. Once, I encountered her in the bathroom, her rumored dwelling place. I saw her, but she said nothing. She simply stared, mockingly looking me up and down and up and down until I began to feel ridiculous, like I had been walking around in a clown suit. I remember trying to smooth out the wrinkles in a shirt, trying to fix the makeup that smeared when I unknowingly brushed my hand against my face. She grasped onto those things – my desperate attempt to fix my mistakes. That’s what she does, when you find yourself alone in the bathroom with her; she takes hold of a mistake, a flaw, and she magnifies it. And she doesn’t let you forget. She never will.
There remains one way to beat her now: when you find yourself with her in the bathroom, when you see her stalking from inside each sliver of glass, you must not look to see her distorted reflections – you must look to see your true self.