I am standing in front of the mirror, contemplating. My skin shows a slight flush, my hair is plastered to my forehead; both results of a thirty-minute session of mixed martial arts that didn’t go too badly. In fact, to quote the perky instructor at the end of class, I crushed this workout! Must be the endorphins kicking in.
I am actually on the way to the shower. There is a sandalwood shampoo waiting for me whose comforting scent always reminds me of sunny walks on warm sand by the Indian ocean, a perfect autumn day on the other side of the world. Timing is crucial, which is why normally I don’t like to linger. But today, something caught my eye. Maybe that look of satisfaction. Maybe the fact that my shoulders are beginning to show definition. ‘Maybe’, says a voice, ‘that roll around your middle that hasn’t budged after four months of working out. Better keep wearing the big tees.’ I’ve hesitated too long. The troll has arrived. That voice belongs to her, and if it sounds just like mine, it’s because it is mine. The troll, sadly, lives inside my head, and she never sleeps. The brief last glimpse I throw at my reflection is enough for her to point out all the ways in which I look nothing like I did a year ago, even if some things haven’t actually changed. ‘You’re starting to show grey hair, you know. And that ruddy complexion… part of getting old, I suppose. Sure, just try to suck it in! Posture alone won’t fix that gut…” I manage to just slam the shower door into the troll’s face, but when I rinse the shampoo out of my hair, all I see is a vision of a deserted beach and black clouds driven by a cold, empty wind.