Ripples in the Cracks

by Samanwita Sen

You have always marvelled at the immaculate gloss of supermarket aisles, the shiny pages of magazine covers categorized into pristine, neat little sections which spring out to accost you with a lurid burst of colour; lurid, precisely to compensate for the depthless caricatures they celebrate; lurid, as if in contrived rebellion against the monotony of the aisles when in reality it is nothing more than a blatant display of conformity.

Your eyes scan across the pages, the hierarchy of colour and attention in each issue, and even then you cannot help but find yourself melting into the radiating images, the buzzing words, the sonic waves. Every page erupts with senseless, screeching graphics, vying ceaselessly for your attention.

On one page, you see advertisements for a newly crafted cream, complete with a meticulous formula guaranteed to maximise skin lightening. On another, you see satin dresses clinging onto emaciated bodies with tight grips, especially around diminutive waists you have long given up on. Scattered throughout are displays of new makeup brushes, mascara, …

‘New Discounts on Aisle Three! Come test our company’s recently released foundation with our expert makeup artists. Buy one get one free!’

lipstick, powder, foundation, eyeliner….

‘Worried your skin has become too dry? We’re offering free samples in Aisle Four so you can find the cream that’s best for you!’

jewellery, primer, lipliner….

‘Contact lenses like never before – we have a whole new selection of colours that will help you see the world with a whole new light.’

blush, rouge, eyebrow fillers, lip gloss

You slam the magazines down and storm out.

***

There’s a river that runs in the neighbourhood, a good walk beyond the supermarket, and delicately enclosed by a hearty grove of trees facing away from the houses. Compact, isolated, hushed. Away from the blare of magazines and radios.

You dabble your feet into the water, feeling its replenishing coolness as dusty shafts of sunlight stream down and coat your skin. You feel the lazy sigh of the wind as it retreats for the evening, and gentle whispers of the leaves as they rustle in the undisturbed silence; the entire grove breathing with the relaxed rhythm of a lethargic half-sleep.

Gazing down, you catch the sight of your face looking back up at you. Yet it’s not quite your face in its complex entirety. The otherwise harmoniously connected stretches of skin are disjointed, ruptured by the ripples trickling along the bank. Your face shifts and coalesces, melding from one fragmented whole to another. There is no coherent outline. You are formless, indefinite, carried by the unpredictable waves of water.

You are free.

***

Your socks are now soaked through, but your footfalls are marked by their determined, swift movements as you make your way back to the supermarket. There is one thing you have to do.

The neon glow of the store sign ushers you in with its forcedly cheerful glow, a glow that is itself contrived and dubious. You stride across the store, through the aisles, into the bathroom, disregarding the squelching noises your soaked soles make on the tiles.

Leaning against the stone cold sink, you glare at your reflection in the mirror. You notice all the sharp outlines, the refined shape, the definitive structure, all bounded within the parameters of the mirror. The blotches on your face become especially pronounced under the glare of the lightbulb: your unruly hair, your jagged teeth, all these features are trapped, restricted, immutable, within this one rectangular piece of glass, the piercing corners of the frame.

‘New Discounts on Aisle Three! Come test our company’s recently released foundation with our expert makeup artists. Buy one get one free!’

You remember the lipstick, powder, foundation, eyeliner….

‘Worried your skin has become too dry? We’re offering free samples in Aisle Four so you can find the cream that’s best for you!’

jewellery, primer, lipliner….

‘Contact lenses like never before – we have a whole new selection of colours that will help you see the world with a whole new light.’

You send your fist whirling through the air, smashing the glass and piercing it into a million shards.

Your reflection sprawls across the cracks. It regains its disjointedness, its fragmentation, no one piece leading coherently onto another. And through the cracks, trickling gently down the glass, you imagine the ripples, seeping in and out between every shard.

Now, there are multiple versions of you. Inchoate. Inconsistent, Incoherent. You are plural. You become your own person. You are beautiful.

The Poor Print

The Oriel College Newspaper. Run by students, with contributions from the JCR, MCR, SCR, Staff. Current Executive Editors: Chloe Whitehead, Fanxi Liu, Michael Angerer

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