This short-short story by Jordanian author Maheera Migdadi appeared in our MIRRORS-themed issue, released last month. As with every issue, we will be sharing a few excerpts from the magazine online; to support the magazine and read all the fiction, essays, and poems, subscribe via Patreon (print and digital) or Exact Editions (digital for individuals or institutions), or buy single issues through GumRoad, Amazon, Khan Aljanub, or your local bookshop.
By Maheera Migdadi
Translated by Madeline Edwards
She takes her time peeling the heavy blanket from her cold body. Grudgingly, she slides out of bed and drags herself to the bathroom. She wipes her hand over the mirror like she’s waving goodbye; her drowsy face looks back at her from the blurry glass, reminding her of all the hours she hasn’t slept. It warns of the long day ahead. She’ll be holding her breath for the next twenty-four hours.
Footsteps dragging, body slumped over. There are plenty of taxis, but none will take her. And despite all the years she’s been working, she doesn’t own her own car, or apartment, or even a little cat.
She has no choice but the bus, a means of automatic transport between the stop that’s far from her house (which she gets to on foot) and the stop that’s also far from her work. Every day shuffles between walking and bus riding.
Most days she claims the seat where she can see the world behind her, through the bus driver’s side-view mirror. The world is always slipping away, and she alone is moving forward. She knows deep down that the entire world is moving forward, while she is the only one leaving, endlessly falling backward. There is no ultimate destination for her falling, no stops along the way, no quick break along the side of the road.
In the elevator, she stands in front of the mirror. How frumpy she looks! She imagines that if she moved, she’d ripple and sway like an empty dress on a clothesline, struck by wind on all sides. So she stays like this for the whole ride, glued in place, so no one can discover her emptinesses.
In the office, she looks at the image reflected in her computer screen. Not much different from yesterday or the day before yesterday. If it wasn’t for the lines around her eyes, which have increased by two, and the sagging cheeks that seem to have sagged further, she’d swear that when she leaves the office at the end of each day the image of her face stays there, fixed on the dormant computer’s screen.
In the street, at the end of the day, a very long day, you see her completely exhausted, reflected in the puddle left behind by a cloud the sun failed to notice.
This time, she stops, contemplates the puddle, asks: “In this entire universe, isn’t there one mirror, one shiny reflective thing, that makes me look pretty?”
She taps the puddle with her toe. Soft, gentle waves ripple through her reflection.
It dissipates, a candle in a moment’s breeze, flavoring it like an end without closure. She sheds a tear that hits the sidewalk, and she knows her reflection now sits firmly on its surface, but she refuses to look. Instead, she raises her eyes and sees a peddler carrying mirrors with all sorts of shapes, sizes, and decorations.
“Sayyidati, would you like to buy a mirror?”
“What do I need a mirror for, when I’m the mirror of so many sad women?”
She leaves and keeps leaving, no stops along the way.
Maheera Migdadi is a writer and academic from Jordan currently living in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. She has a master’s degree in finance and banking, and works as a lecturer at Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University. Migdadi published her first short story collection, And Then the Poppy Became Red, in Jordan in 2010, and her second collection, His Beautiful Things, in Saudi Arabia in 2021. She has also published her work in various newspapers, magazines, and online platforms, including Al Ra’i, Al-Quds, Alkalima, and others.
Madeline Edwards is an editor, translator, occasional reporter, and book lover living in Beirut. She is the English editor of SyriaUntold, a nonprofit news organization focusing on arts, culture, and society in Syria and the diaspora. She is grateful to writer Haifa Abul-Nadi for sending her Maheera Migdadi’s short story.