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The Eyes Are Mirrors To The Soul

Only when I closed my eyes could I shut out the reflections of my inept abilities. Instead, a fraud of beauty waxed over my entire figure.


Artwork by Jakub Kujawa


My tutor’s voice was ramming in my head, pulsating like lungs. “The perfume in your eyes is too pungent. I can smell Austen mixing inside Van Gogh’s sky. This is supposed to be Chopin!”


“Do you want to know which artist’s power parallels yours?” My friend asked, laughing.


I had just headed back from art class. We had to do weaving today. Sewing Mozart’s quavers into Van Gogh’s moonlit pools made tears well in my eyes. The rosin falling as snowflakes kept making me sneeze.


“I’m pretty sure no great artist would be as bad as me,” I laughed, blinking away the reflections of the dissonance which still gleamed in my eyes.


“Don’t be so humble,” my friend, Olive, said again. “You’ve been training to be an artist for over 11 years. How bad could you be?”


“Anyway…” Olive brought out a full-body mirror. “Let's see for yourself how ‘bad’ you really are.”


“Oh come on,” I laughed reluctantly, “you already know how… talented I am.” It took me a hard swallow to finish the sentence. “Why would you have me mirrored to show my prowess?”


“Come on! You’re no fun!” She said. “Let’s see what historical figure was reborn as you.”


Olive shoved us both inside the mirror. An icy sensation clung to me before slithering out. It didn’t leave until the last chill latched away from the tips of my hair.


As if my shadow had taken form, melting like a waxen copy, another figure stood a hundred feet before me.


We were an audience apart. She stood on the stage, with the same height, hair and face as me. The only difference was that she had a blindfold on. Maybe that was her style of performance. Maybe she was blind. We stood behind the audience, the farthest of the bunch. They clapped and wooed as the stage blossomed with fireworks. The ponds reflected birdsong, weaving through Chopin’s semiquavers.


“See I was right,” Olive said, beaming at me. “That’s Myrtle who’s performing. The mirror doesn’t lie. You perform as beautifully as she does.”


I forced a guilty grin. “Of course.”



“You’ve certainly improved. Texture takes a long time to build,” my teacher said, leafing through the misplaced tendrils of my interpretation of Jane Austen’s novels.


Five minutes to go.


I nodded.


Fingering through my untrimmed mass of synonyms and chess pieces, they conjoined in a flat vibrato. I hoped he didn’t see all this in my interpretation.


I crossed my fingers as he commented again, “It’s difficult to weave with finesse. It takes reading the brushstrokes… Learning the chords by heart…”


My breathing relaxed. None of these words arrowed under my skin.


“Your past teachers certainly never paid much attention to this side.”


My heart sank.


“You see, what makes a child a true artist with real talent, is finesse…”


“At this point in time I’ll just have to guide you through it every step of the way. There’s not enough time for you to develop it on your own.”


Myrtle’s performance shot fairy tales as big as rubies from her fingertips, falling like flowers from the stage. The audience roared and applauded.


“At your age, I can only advise you to improve these pieces’ textures…” my teacher’s voice echoed in my head.


Syllables interlocked with phoenix feathers. “Myrtle has really outdone herself with improvisation this time!” My friend said, gesturing towards Myrtle, still blind-folded. She stood at the centre of the stage, casting the same finger movements as I did.


“It’d take too long for you to completely learn it all over again.”


The entire audience erupted in applause. “That’s her, mirrored! Right there!” My friend shouted, gesturing at me. Some of the crowd gazed back at us in awe.


“At such a young age!” A couple in front of me gasped.


“Oh I’m nothing.” I forced a laugh.


“Of course you aren’t!” My friend laughed.


“One of the only things separating a child from a prodigy is great texture. And you, do not have such quality.”


I lost my smile. “Yes, I am literally nothing.”


“She’s really humble for a genius!” Olive defended, glowering at the audience. “I do love having a genius as a friend!” She cast a warning glance at me.


“How long have you been learning?” A stranger asked, his eyes wide with shock.


“11 years.” Guilt throbbed in my head. The lack of redness in the whites of my eyes would have probably shown that I had not been practising enough. The mirror had clearly made a mistake.


“Oh you know, maybe let’s go home. I am tired of all this attention—”


“I haven’t even started playing Wilde yet at this age! I had only just passed my Austen Exams at your age!” He replied again. “You’re truly a genius!”


“I know you clearly don’t have the tone, texture, or accuracy to even deserve the name of a genius… are you sure you really passed Rowling’s Test?”


“Oh,” I chuckled. “Austen was a hard one for me…”


“You’re too humble!” A girl poked in. “Austen is the easiest module!”


“What’s with this ruckus?” A security guard butted in. “Myrtle is preparing for her next set.”


“Let’s go, Olive.” I dragged her away towards the windowed door, glancing at the guard gratefully. I avoided staring into other people’s faces for too long, lest the dissonance in my eyes get reflected.


“You’ll come back next week right?”


5 steps to go.


“I’ll think about it.”


“Hey!” Olive wrenched her hand from mine. “When will you learn?”


4 steps.


“Learn what?” I avoided her gaze. My heart thumped in my chest as cold sweat trickled down my neck.


2 steps.


“Learn to be confident enough?”


“Oh…” I avoided her gaze. “Oh, you know… I have stage fright.”


“You should perform with Myrtle!” She shouted, gesturing towards me, “Myrtle! Myrtle! Wait!”


“No, Olive!”


She went to the front of the auditorium, chasing after Myrtle who the curtains had already half-covered. In the distance, Myrtle’s chest heaved a shorter breaths the closer Olive’s footsteps came crashing towards her.


“You should perform with my dear friend! She’s just as talented as you!”


“No!” I shouted at her. The entire crowd gazed at me and back at Myrtle again. The blindfold’s knot tied behind Myrtle’s head gave a shake as she shot her head at Olive’s direction.


“Yes, yes! Definitely!” Myrtle nodded in vigou, almost as if in relief. She smiled after her breaths evened out again, raising her head in my direction.


“Prodigy, I heard you are.”


That night, back home, the same twisted monsters peeled from my dissonant mind. Ice cold fingers interlaced with a mirror’s surface. Only when I stopped weaving Grimm’s fairy tales did those horrors stop.

“Your weaving is no different from a child’s… a few months perhaps? Will it be when you get to perform? Perhaps in a kinderarten’s talent show?”


Rummaging through my drawers and cupboards, an album of Myrtle’s complete interpretations emerged from piles of unfolded clothes. I unboxed the album, a sudden perfume of Beethoven’s sonatas wafted through a warm breeze. Lotus petals and waterfalls replaced the tentacles and humiliation.


Only when I closed my eyes could I shut out the reflections of my inept abilities. Instead, a fraud of beauty waxed over my entire figure.


“See? I knew you could do it!” Olive’s voice made my heart skip a beat.


Sealing the interpretation away immediately, I gazed at her with utter guilt. “Olive, please be serious, I can’t…”


“Do worse than Myrtle? I can feel it, you’ll beat her under the age of 20.” Olive chuckled, holding my hand.


“No… Olive… wait…”


“There’s nothing to be shy about,” she laughed.


“You’re a prodigy.”


My throat tightened and I got tired of blinking. Tears gushed out as my lips trembled silent confessions. Crying barely helped. Olive’s hand patting my head only caused me to weep harder.


“Myrtle, wait! You have to help me,” I said, backstage.


“Can it wait till after the performance?” Myrtle hissed as the curtains started to draw.


Light began pouring in and I felt the hellfire, trapped in my pupils, about to pulsate loose.


“No, you don’t understand!” I shouted as the audience before us waited. Olive sat at the front row, last to stop clapping.


“What?” Myrtle said. Two pools in her blindfold darkened.


“I need your blindfold—”


Myrtle shoved me to the front, the audience now gaping at us in anticipation.


“Weave!” She replied.


“I can’t!” My breath hitched and cracked.


“I…”


“What?” She yelled, holding her blindfold in place even when it was tied tight around her head.


“Spit it out!” The audience groaned.


My lip trembled. “I failed at everything!”


“What?” Myrtle asked. “What did you say?”


“I failed…” I mumbled. “I failed! I failed! I failed!”


The audience started discussing among themselves.


“I can’t texterise! I can’t weave!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. Before the audience’s uproar died down, I lunged at Myrtle for her to come with me. She dodged and I grabbed her blindfold instead.


The ground gave way to tendrils, and the same chaos reverberated through the air. I was not weaving.


Pools of tears gushed out of her dull brown eyes. Across the stage, under the gaze of a thousand people, the ugliness of Myrtle’s performance magnified into view.


“Faker!” The entire audience gestured at Myrtle in disgust. Disappointment glimmered in their eyes.


“No!” Myrtle cried out as a security guard dragged her offstage.


I stood there as the front row spat at her. People with their eyes glistening with kaleidoscopes of Monet’s landscapes and Persephone’s songs laughed at her.


“Child! Child! Go perform at a juvenile detention and the toddlers would call you out for being off-weave!”


In the midst of the shouting, Myrtle’s head bobbed out of the door. My throat tightened again and I tried forcing my eyes closed, not daring even to let a shed tear slip one tendril into view.


As I began to make my way backstage, a round of applause reverberated across the room.


“Weave!” The audience began. “You’re better than Myrtle! At least you’re not a fake!”


“Weave! Weave! Weave!” I tried shutting my eyes throughout that round of cheering.


“What’s happened?” Olive’s familiar voice dwindled down to a whisper. She leaned closer to the stage, gazing blindly at me with no target in sight.


“You’re just scared. Just weave. You’re going to do amazing.”


 

Angie Yeung is always here to geek out about every artistic field known to mankind, from classical music to poetic novels. Despite her stage fright, she enjoys playing the piano and violin to an audience. Still a full-time student from Hong Kong, she hopes to study creative writing in the future on the side of publishing the coming year. You can find her on Instagram: @angeryed._




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