Saturday 20 June 2009

The Woman Who Looks Back At Me

This is a post for this month's Scientiae carnival, and the theme is "Mirror, Mirror, on the wall...".

The woman I see first thing each morning and last thing at night has three grey hairs in the centre of her hairline. I remember her anguish when the first one appeared on 24th December 2005. They stick out at funny angles, and resist all dyes. She should probably just suck it up and deal with the fact of life - even my little brother has grey hairs.

Her eyes change colour: blue, green, grey, depending on the lighting and her choice of make-up. I always think she is at her most beautiful when they are a vivid blue. Lately she has got some fine lines in the outer corner of her eyes. I can see them all the more clearly because the skin in the wrinkles is much paler than the rest of her face.

She's been on fieldwork or working outside a lot. I, and everyone I know, can always tell because her freckles appear all over her face. It makes her look younger, but maybe that's also down to her being happiest outside. I've seen her come so alive out in the field that I can barely keep up with her. Her own husband would probably not recognise her when she's up to her ears in rocks.

The woman looks older than her 29 years, and she doesn't laugh as much as she used to. Even when she's simply relaxed, she looks sad. Her eyes and mouth droop slightly at the outer corners, and her unnerving habit of always maintaining eye contact has been known to scare people. I sometimes dig out her old US driving licence, of her smiling, blonde-haired and vividly blue-eyed. Maybe it's the blue background of the photograph, but I chuckle wryly, and murmur "That's her before the lights went out".

She has tattoos now. They're scars she has chosen for herself, and she will tell anyone who will listen that she'd rather have any number of tattoos than a C-section or episiotomy scar. She has picked fossils, and shuns names of close family, saying "I'd never choose anything as transient as a human being". Sometimes I see her looking out of the window of a tattoo parlour with a wistful look on her face, and I know she'll be back for more.

We are worse than best friends with our criticism of each other. Sometimes when I catch her gaze she looks absolutely repulsed by my body. In turn, I spot every lump and bump (although I also notice that the bitch always looks pretty damn good in the bedroom - if only she would look as good in the shop windows as I walk past).

Occasionally she'll dress up for a night out, put on a really pretty top which shows off "The Girls", and some killer heels. She always gives me one last look, as though she needs my approval. She must think my opinion matters over anyone else's. She looks great when she leaves the house, but by the first photograph she seems to no longer fit her clothes, and I can hardly believe it's the same person looking out of the Facebook page at me.

But when she puts on combats, boots and a fleece jacket, ties her fringe back and slings on a cowboy hat, she loses five years and 10lbs, and becomes some kind of a superwoman.

Maybe it's just as well she's a palaeontologist.

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