I'd enter . . . but I'm pretty crap at allegory and have no particular love for it in any case.
Also, I'm confused by it. You kind of have to know it's there to see it and even then it may still be too subtle. I know I would never have caught that the Wizard of Oz was an allegory for economics in the twenties if nobody had told me. Hell, I don't think I realized Narnia was Christian allegory until I read it in a biography.
You sit on a black plastic chair in a white room with no windows. Your shoulders are slouched, and you have a nervous tic in one of your eyes, which you become too aware of over time. The white is quite blinding, so much in fact that you doubt this is a room, even, and wonder that maybe, just maybe, you can’t see beyond that white. However, you become accustomed to it after sitting there for so long and eventually forget your doubts. In the end, you sit in silence, tapping your left foot because there is no surface for you to drum your fingers on.
There is a gun in the corner of the room, which you ignore completely.
An oversized, floral patterned sweater graces your shoulders. You wear it like a dress, so there isn’t any need for pants, and you’re barefoot as well. You don’t bother to wonder why, or even notice it, really. Although you know the room is quite warm, your skin is cold and clammy.
The woman standing in front of you is the synonym for aphrodisiac, or so you might say if you didn’t fear that your voice might tremble if you do speak. She looks smart with her square glasses, pressed suit and high heels. When she runs delicate fingers through her thick blonde locks, you cross your arms and lean back. Head held high, she looks down on you.
You decide that you don’t like it.
Crossing your legs, the tapping of your left foot quickens. You avoid looking into her eyes, thinking they are set too perfectly apart, and study her pores instead, switching it up to glance to the strands of her hair every once in a while, noting how they curl at the ends.
You don’t notice when it happens, but the woman is sitting in a plush red chair, one that wasn’t there before. “Your hair is a mess, it doesn’t suit you,” she begins.
“You should change the style: get it cut and a different colour, too. I think black would do,” she declares in an overly confident voice. You still avoid her eyes, staring at her mouth instead: plump, oversized bottom lip that moves in perfect synchronisation with the upper; polished, straight white teeth. Her lipstick is ruby, her rouge faint. “Also,” she says slightly louder to make sure you’re listening, “your nose is too long, an operation would fix it. You have wrinkles around your eyes. A crooked tooth, as well, right on the left, dear, no, left, this one—” she points out which tooth exactly because you’re a bit confused and don’t quite grasp it— “right here.”
When she lets her finger fall from her face, folding her hands in her lap—you can’t help but note the manicured nails and how thin they are—you try to find your voice to argue back, but it is absent and upon that realisation, your throat feels dry, too. Then her voice comes hammering through your mind once more, stating, “Quite frankly, you’re a bit chubby, too.”
Your hands tremble to tug at your long sweater when she says that, so you curl them into fists—hiding your own bitten down nails with the polish scratched off of most. The shaking doesn’t stop there, though, instead it burrows itself deeper until you can feel it writhe inside yourself, quivering, and you try to look away from her altogether.
“There’s fat on your thighs,” she goes on, “your upper arms, stomach—”
You both sit there for months, maybe even years. She continues pointing out your faults, suggesting ways you should correct them because they are wrong.
Everything you do is wrong. You are wrong.
II.seven minutes now until the veil starts to stick.
“Good lord, child, sit up straight,” she chides you. Of course you wish to tell her that you are, in fact, no longer a child, but you don’t because she’s too quick for you. She speaks like an olympic runner, as quick as the continuous snap of her fingers. “Is that what you call straight? Hold your head high, no, higher, higher,” she snarls, tapping your chin with her fingernail.
You do as she tells you, and you do so because she doesn’t only state these things, she proves them to you. She presents them like a chef, writing it down in chronological order in case you can’t remember, which you don’t because it’s too much.
“Don’t smile too much, you’ll look older later.”
You try to counter, try to tell her that laughing is healthy and that you like the sound of laughter itself. You try to smile even more, then, even brighter to show her, but slowly, without noticing it happen, you swallow your own smile. You press your lips into a tight line to kill it.
“Don’t blink too fast, or too slow—make it look seductive.”
How does that work? You consider questioning, but the stern look she gives you tells you that you ought to know by now—have her teachings been for nothing? You blink like she tells you to.
“Diets aren’t helping.” The woman gives you a quick shake of her head. A softening of her eyes tells you that she is trying to be sympathetic, but you don’t quite believe it because she is smiling, or is she smirking? “They certainly won’t make your chin pointier, which, believe me, needs to be done,” she says, letting out a casual laugh. “You just wait. We can even get rid of your birthmarks. No, don’t worry, no one finds them attractive. They look hideous.”
You still haven’t learned as much as you need to, sitting in the black chair, and she doesn’t mind continuously telling you that. Your way of thinking is wrong, you should listen, she says, because she can change you for the better.
Your eyes flicker to the gun, but you cast it from your mind.
With her help, you’ll be as perfect as you need to be. Sometimes, when she says this and you are trying to focus on anything but her—but there isn’t anything, it’s just you and this comfortable chair—you wonder what exactly you need to be perfect for.
You get so tired of her telling you to listen that you eventually do.
III. five minutes left, only five until it clicks.
It is only natural to listen, after all, that is what you tell yourself. That isn’t all, though, you realise, wringing your fingers. The ever-quick tapping of your left foot is slowly diminishing as well.
You eye the gun, it seems to have moved further away.
You would think nothing much has changed, but you’re sitting up straight, which in itself should say enough. The woman, she is smiling at you, a broad smile that shows all her teeth and her eyes gleam with a spark you could probably never hold. For a moment you consider her a hypocrite because she forbids you to smile too much, but then again, she doesn’t smile very often so you must have been doing something right. In the end, you think she makes a lot of sense.
And with that thought she leaves the room.
You don’t see her walk out of the door because there is none, but she is gone—and so is her red cushioned chair. It’s just you again, you and your black chair in the white room. With her out of the picture you’re finally able to take deep calming breaths, and your voice suddenly finds its way back as well. You wish to speak immediately, but who would listen, now?
Your mind races, speeds, rushes down roads that her words have built and slowly, but surely, you begin to believe. You believe her—her presentation was solid over the months, or years. The tic in your eye leaves. You sit up straighter, noting how you shouldn’t be judged now.
The woman is right.
Then, you change completely.
IV. you’ve got three minutes to open your eyes.
You walk out of the white room with short hair now, black as the woman had suggested—you even begin to fix it the way she deemed the correct—and you hold yourself just like she said to as well. You are wearing a short black dress that the woman would surely approve of. Your head is always held perfectly high, and you do not bother with people you’d think she would find unfitting of your attention—a simple nod is all you give them.
You walk straight on.
For the first few days you constantly look over your shoulder, but the nervous fidgeting of your muscles has stopped the moment you felt this new sense of freedom. Still, you can’t help but look out for her—there is a possibility that there are some things she still hasn’t taught you. For an example, how long should you look the other person in the eye? At what angle do you turn your head when someone from the side speaks to you? What tone of voice do you use with certain kinds of people? You continue to wonder about these things, things she would find important.
Soon, though, you forget about her and her influence.
You take everything on as your own. This is your skin now, your quick smile because too much of it will cause wrinkles around your eyes. You get out of the bed on the right side, you put your pants on right leg first now; you brush your teeth circular, no longer up and down, and you start greeting people with a quick nod of your head. You finally do what is considered right, what you have been taught over the last months—years?—and you’re quite pleased about it.
Although, you are quite sure it really has been years because everything is so different now, but you find yourself happy that you managed to correct your ways.
It is easy to please others now.
V. two minutes, all but two to forget it all.
One day, sitting in a small cafe around the corner, you can’t help but take your time to observe the people around you. You glare at the people who, clearly, haven’t had any training in behaving themselves. You watch a couple that laughs too loud, the girl’s laughter sounds more male than anything else and you shake your head.
Doesn’t she know better? She should just giggle, and that is it.
The man sitting by the table next to yours has the wrong posture as well. He should know better than to slouch, and he shouldn’t hold his coffee the way he does. It is wrong, and you only feel right to tell him so. You turn in his direction, smile sweetly and then point out all the little details someone once told you were wrong. He gives you a strange look while you do so.
You don’t let that deter you, though. Instead, you continue telling him about how he should not cut his nails so short and that it is fine for a man to go pluck his eyebrows if they are as thick as his. By nodding every once in a while you assure yourself that you are doing the right thing.
The man never looks away, and you can tell he is confident in the ways he is wrong. When he invites you to sit in the chair next to his, with just the smallest of gestures, you accept the offer. After all, if he is willing to correct his way, why shouldn’t you help him along?
But that strange look never leaves his eyes, and when he leans forward to place his hand underneath your chin, you pull back, alarmed. You are uncomfortable with the way he chuckles and brushes your hair back, telling you it would look nice longer. What frightens you the most is how wrong he is with these gestures, how he should not do these things and how he should just listen to you. The man doesn’t seem to care, though, because he is looking directly in your eyes as though he means to challenge you—and, quite frankly, you find the look demeaning.
When he asks you why you have become so haughty, you freeze.
The nervous tic in your eye is back. You tap your foot.
VI. you’ve got—you’ve got ten—ten seconds to...
Frantic about being judged, you slap his hand away and stare at him wide-eyed.
Surely he must be wrong? You’ve become right in all the ways possible. The woman, you
think, she taught you her ways and how to think and act and be. Then you realise that you have reacted rude by hitting him and you straighten up to apologies, but he’s gone.
You never saw him get up and leave. You worry.
You try to adjust to his ways, to his thinking, so you could find a way to excuse it all, but the woman taught you well and you know he was wrong to act so...different. That was most certainly not the way to approach another human being. Did he say his name? Maybe you could find him and—
A waitress interrupts your thoughts, one that looks dangerously familiar. The long red hair and hazel eyes are the same as your mothers, you think. You scan her face for any signs of recognition but she doesn’t seem to know you, and when she asks if you would like the bill you say: yes, please.
Then you realise this is your sister.
How long have you been in the white room exactly? “Veritas,” you say quietly when she returns. “It’s me. Hey, Veritas.” But she doesn’t hear you say this because that isn’t what you are supposed to say. That is not what the woman taught you. You reach out quickly when she grabs the money, but your hands go through her. She doesn’t hear you.
The picture of the cafe fades.
You’ve acted wrong by panicking.
VII. you’ve got one second to save yourself.
The scene gets scratched; the woman doesn’t like it.
You find yourself in the white room again, it is still ever as bright, but you are crying this time, still trying to blink the image of your sister back. You are leaning against the black chair once more, your shoulders trembling.
“Crying in public, how ugly is that?” the woman questions you. “Must we do this all over again? What about your posture? Along comes one person and you drop all you’ve learned. Was it not better to think yourself much higher than all of them? Your hair is starting to turn red again.” You can see the disgust in the glimmer in her eyes, but she never lets it merge into the rest of her face. After all, a lady should not lose her temper and this woman most certainly was one. Right?
The gun is still in the corner of the room, and you eye it critically.
“Look at that: you are becoming a peasant again. This is not how society wants you to be. We need to change you back .” The woman places her hands on her hips. “You listen to me now—”
“She doesn’t recognise me anymore,” you whisper. This is the first time you’ve spoken to the woman; the first time you dared to look her in the eyes. It’s like you’ve shed your skin, you think.
But the woman just scoffs and shakes her head. “Such pity,” she mumbles.
“I liked my birthmarks.”
“But I like my hair, too.”
“Well, society does not.”
The gun is in your right hand. It is heavy, you think, heavier than you would have imagined. Your fingers squeeze around the trigger, bracing themselves just as your shoulders square. You eye the woman critically, but she does not seem frightened at all.
“You broke me.”
“We fixed you,” she counters.
You realise that you love all the wrong things. That you like your hair being battered by the wind and the tangles it leaves behind, and how the starlight looks when you are allowed to smile as widely as you wish and laugh louder than half the people who’ve always been around.
The woman only shakes her head while she starts writing you a new script, a new dialogue, new actions and transactions and things you ought to change and do and say and be. She—
You feel the cold from the steel crawl underneath your skin and it is the first time anything feels real in the white room. You can see the outlines of a world beyond it, but it’s still too blurry. It is then that you remember the sound of your heartbeat, which you now realise has been silent for so long. You haven’t felt it for a while, since the woman came to visit in fact.
She bites her chapped lips, pressing her rosy little cheek against the glass and staring longingly before her breath fogs the image. Beyond the glass, there is light and warmth. She can see the mouths of customers transform with smiles of delight and imagines the tinkling laughter that must fill the cheery little shop.
It has been five months since she was able to go beyond the glass.
She stares as the shop bells ring and women in pretty coats shake off the snow as they enter. She can almost see the little train she knows is chugging merrily around the tiny city in the center of the shop, but the window is too high and the glass too reflective for her to make it out.
She has watched that same train go around in circles for hours, but that was before.
No one even missed her this morning.
She had been there for hours, imaging the train. She wishes she could ride the train. She wishes she could go in circles. She wishes she could go inside.
If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.
Her mother would say that one day they would go on the big train and travel far away. She had still never been on a train.
She supposed she never would.
She watches mothers lead their children inside, hand in hand. She puts her hand to the glass.
The people passing behind her scowl at the grubby, dirty child with holes in tangles in her hair and holes in her shoes standing in front of the toy store; The glass refracts their images, turning their frowns into grotesque pieces of faces that make her gasp and giggle and strain her eyes to see past them and their scowls into the shop.
She lifts her hand and frowns at the finger streaks on the glass, rubbing at them with the hem of her scarf. It has holes, but she still loves it. It was a present, after all. And mother taught her to always value presents. It was the proper thing for a lady to do, to be thankful.
She was right.
The owner of the store has seen her there before. He knows her face, even if he doesn’t remember her name. Lilly, Lilac, Lilura? It has simply been too long. He has waved at her before. He notices her today. There is no time for waving.
She knows that if she enters the cheery place she would be welcome. She is tempted to press beyond the glass, to open the door. But she won’t go in today.
She never will.
Mother had told her never to go in without her, and she has always been a good girl.