Tornado Warning – Then Excerpt


What started it was the picture I drew of myself. I decided to draw a self portrait, after I literally stared at my reflection for almost thirty minutes.

I pulled the mirror off the wall and put it down on the ground and without really examining myself I just started to draw. It’s when I finished that I was startled enough to stop, put the paper to the side, and stare.

I hardly recognized myself.

Last fall I checked out one of the cameras from school to try taking pictures. The one thing I noticed back then was looking through a lens is really different from just looking. The lens is so small that it forces the one eye to choose what it sees. Then, with precision, the hand needs to focus the lens so that the camera actually snaps what you want it to. This is what it was like for me today looking in the mirror. While I was drawing I was just part of the reflection but once I put my pencil down and looked at the drawing, then the captured image all came into focus.

The girl I drew…I don’t know her. She is worn like leather, joyless, spent, ancient. I forced myself to look at the mirror. The thing of it is…it’s not as if I am frowning and angry. What is scary is I look vacant, gone, dead.

And that’s when it crept into me…he really can’t kill me…well, he could, but that’s not what I mean. What I mean is, he actually already has, because he’s killed my spirit. This is what it means to be alone, really alone…because there is not a living soul who I can tell.

I hardly tell myself. He must feel me slipping because he has asked me a million and one times if I really understand he won’t live without me.

Now that I know I am dead, how can I care about his life? After all, he is the creator of what I see staring vacantly back at me.

I had to stop. I found a small blanket in the hall closet and covered the mirror. Then I had to leave my room. I was trembling. I walked to the kitchen and grabbed a snack, then I mechanically went into the living room and sat down by the huge window that looks down the Mianus River. I drank in the view…all the deciduous trees are bare naked. And that’s when it hit me with full force. All those beautiful trees, they shed everything that makes them gorgeous and they endure the long harsh New England winter and then just when people almost give up hope, they sprout their tiny little buds. A month or so later they have leaves; some have flowers too.

I am 19 and I am the tree. I am almost unrecognizable, yet underneath the twigs and sticks and bark there is a strength. I can feel this strength. I don’t want to be dead among the living. That tree would no sooner refuse to sprout then fall over if I pushed it. Maybe….at the core….maybe I am still here.

So I got up and went back to my room, pulled away the blanket, and sat back down and again gazed into the mirror. My eyes are green…somewhere in the pool of black squarely centered in all that green is a path back to me. If I stare at it long enough maybe just maybe I can see deep inside and find my core, my strength, my light, my spirit. It’s winter but sure as day will turn to night, spring will come.

“I am alive….I am alive…I am me and I am alive.”