24 August 2008

I really hope other people do this

I replaced the downstairs mirror in the hall above the shoe rack with one-way glass, and placed a spycam in a scraped-out hollow in the plaster. I'd been making faces at myself in the mirror again and was wondering whether or not it was just me. I hoovered up the plaster-dust that had fallen into my dad's walking boots and spent a few moments nudging the mirror, squinting, and wondering if it was straight, then began the recording, carefully lowering the mirror. I smoothed the hair out of my face, then I repeated the squinting at myself, looking slightly downwards at a patch in the middle-bottom of the mirror, tensing jaw muscles and wondering whether or not it would look different when I replayed it on the spycam. I squinted like I do on a sunny day and I've forgotten sunglasses, frowning more and more as I looked increasingly unapproachable. I widened my eyes dramatically, opened my mouth, inspected my tongue for that gunk you get if there's no mouthwash in (there's never any mouthwash in), then tried to maintain a neutral, walking-down-the-street expression. I smiled the smile that marks my favourite song shuffling onto my earphones and wondered what that pretty stranger thinks as he or she sees me glance at his or her face in some creepy, subconscious attempt at eye contact, that I guess I always stifle. I tried to look at myself sideways. Eventually I stepped away, the mirror cut me off as I climbed the first step - then I leaned back, ducking my face under the mirror, and checked that the spycam was still there.

Exactly one week later, the house was empty again, and the external hard-drive to which the spycam was transmitting had run out of memory about two and a half days ago. I pulled back the mirror, briefly brushing a thin lock of over-curled hair from my left - right - eye, and took the black box from out of the wall. It took over an hour for the .avi file to sort itself out, so I guess the computer can do things a hundred times as fast as I can. But I can fast-forward.

And it went a bit loopy, and froze up, when I tried to play the huge file. I impatiently dragged and clicked the hell out of everything on the screen, watching the windows go all white and fill with imprints of the stuff I dragged over them. But eventually the first pictures jerked into the frame, the vandalised interfaces springing awake angry and confused like they were sleeping drunks, and I'd drawn cocks and swearwords all over them. I saw the back of the one-way glass at forty-five degrees, shifting about until I'd got the camera in place. Soon the glass merged down into the clarity of my hallway, and my unbrushed hair popped up into the frame. I instinctively pawed my forehead, and watched my week-younger self follow suit, brushing dopey strands from between his eyes. He was looking slightly above the lens at first, but it kept shifting, as he mostly looked himself in the eye, then looked back down to the reflection of some indistinct point on his blank grey T-shirt. I watched him scare me with his ugly leering faces, pausing the video periodically and trying to remember what had gone through my head. The most striking bit was the image of me squinting. I looked almost thuggish. I leaned back and my thoughts twisted round, picturing myself smiling and squinting, cross-legged on a rug on the grass, wearing a jumper in the sun, and spouting that one awkward phrase to her again and again...

So after about half an hour, I made a final couple of clicks, then heaved myself out of the swivel chair, and sprawled myself out on my bed, staring at my ceiling, my tiny, smudged hand-mirror reflecting every spot of my face, and I was reliving that conversation I should never have spoken in. The computer was struggling to delete the hundred hours of the mirror's viewpoint, of which I'd only viewed the first five minutes.

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