I stopped looking into mirrors ages ago. I use them only at tools now. To see to straighten my hair. To help with putting on the makeup this world demands I wear. But I don’t actually look into them. Because I know what I’ll see.
The last time I looked, I saw the chains. The chains that tie me here. In this house. In this image of who I am. Of how I am supposed to look, think, behave, act. Of what I can and can’t say.
That was the day I went to dinner with him. The day I saw the chains that bind him to his work, our house, our children, me, his parents, the people he works with, the people we go to church with. I saw all those chains.
I saw the chains that hold everyone. Each of us, bound in place. Free to roam about within the reach of the chains. But never free to leave. Free to sleep naked on the living room floor, in a spot of sunlight from the back yard. But not free to be seen by anyone. To be seen, the chains mean clothing. Appearances.
They were everywhere I looked. Everywhere I went. Attached to everyone.
I watched them yank him out of bed in the morning, drag him to the shower, to get him ready for work. I felt them drag me out of bed, and down the stairs to the kitchen, to fix him a breakfast, and a lunch he could eat at work. I watched the chains pull my children, my two sons, out of bed, out of their slumber, their peace, their dreams. And drag them through getting dressed, and cleaned up, their homework papers collected, their notebooks and textbooks packed in their backpacks. I saw the chains relax for a few moments, as they ate their breakfast. Then, the chains drug them along, through brushing their teeth, only to finally drag them outside, to the corner a few houses away, where the school bus picked them up.
The chains dragged me to the kitchen, made me wash the dishes, clean the sinks, clean the counters and the range. Then open the refrigerator, and make a list of what I had to buy at the grocery to get through the next few days. It wasn’t a decision. It wasn’t freedom. It was chains.
It was responsibility. Those things we each do to be functional in our society. Those things we have to do to even have a society. Mow the lawn. Wash the cars. Wash the laundry. Buy groceries.
The chains were everywhere I looked.
Except on the birds. Or the flowers. Or the spiders, or dragonflies, or rabbits. Those could come and go as they pleased. They could leave, if they wanted, go exploring, find a new place to live. A new place to sleep at night.
Since that day, I don’t look in the mirror anymore. And I take my pills each day. The ones I have to take so I can live with the knowledge that none of us are free. That everyone, every last one of us, lives in chains. And I wonder. Do we really know what we have done to ourselves? Or are we blind to the chains we have made?
Then, I felt the pull of the chains once more. It was time to make dinner, and have it ready for him when the chains returned him from his work. And the chains know what I must do to keep things working in our home. I try to see the chains exist for a reason. I know, without the chains, there would be chaos.
But many times, I wonder.
What would it be like to be free? And does anyone else know we are not?
This is written for Week 68 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can read about Miranda’s small fiction challenge here. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. And many of them are amazing.