Lucia Rhiannon Harrison
12 December 2022

“Nothing is more important for teaching us to understand the concepts we have than constructing fictitious ones.”
Wittgenstein, Culture & Value, 1980, p.74

Every day was the same for Agnes. She woke up, stayed in bed for a minute while she stared at her closet, trying to decide who she wanted to be for the day. Unsatisfied with her stance, she picked a Cramps record from her collection and moved a big red velvet chair to face the closet. Sitting with her back perfectly straight, she stared intently. This process was part of her morning routine; she could never quite match her clothing to her mood. Today, she hoped the music might help her decide who she wanted to be. A cover of “Fever” came on, and she was sufficiently inspired. She donned her favorite black mini skirt, the one with the velvet flowers, a black sweater with flared sleeves, some tights, and her Mary Janes.

After picking out her outfit, she walked to the bathroom. Today, her walk felt longer than usual. The hallway seemed bigger, and she felt smaller. After what seemed like ages, Agnes finally made it to the bathroom. Illuminated by the sun, the bathroom’s orange wallpaper looked as if it was glowing, reflecting onto her black hair. The sun gave her hair more of a red tint than it usually had. Agnes rehearsed her morning routine. She brushed her teeth, washed her face, and combed her hair. As usual, she spent some time examining her face. She touched her cheekbones and made sure they were in the same place. She stared into her eyes for a while, but her face was blurry. However, she did notice that one eye was bigger, and one side of her face was flatter. She tried to remedy this unevenness by sleeping on her left side instead of her right, believing that sleeping on her preferred right side had flattened her face. Agnes couldn’t tell if she recognized herself this morning, though she didn’t think too hard about it – she never really had a clear image of herself regardless. Taking a break from her face in the mirror, Agnes looked out the window to find that her tree–the one she checked every morning to ensure she had put her contacts in properly–had turned deep purple. She thought it was a spectacular, unreal color for nature to produce. “It must just be the dream wearing off,” she thought, accounting the color to her fuzzy morning brain.

Agnes had started wearing contacts again after a year-long pause. She had initially stopped because she didn’t like seeing all of the eyes on her. When describing it to her housemate, she called it “le regard,” or “the look” – the feeling of eyes on her constantly. She had trouble putting the sensation into words, how she felt eyes on her when she walked down the street. It was more than a seeing – it was an internalization of the eyes, and they came to be how she saw herself. At one point, she would wear sunglasses everywhere she went. She figured if no one else could see her eyes, then maybe she wouldn’t feel so affected by theirs. This solution only worked for a brief period, and soon she started to feel “le regard” again. The sunglasses never stopped the eyes. They just made it easier for her to ignore them. Agnes felt as if she was made through the eyes of everyone else; she saw herself how other people wanted to see her. This caused many problems for her identity. She had trouble figuring out “who she was”' amidst all of the outside pressure to define herself– she didn’t feel like there was some internal core, some deep interior self that was itching to reveal itself. She dedicated many hours to pondering her identity, but she could never understand herself outside of anyone else’s eyes.

Agnes continued on with her makeup, spending a few long minutes trying to achieve a smudged eyeliner look that appeared effortless. Then she tried to mix her lipsticks to match that one time she had made the perfect color. After settling on her makeup, she moved on with her day, heading down stairs that wound in a way they never had before. The stairs’ new appearance made her feel uneasy, and she started to suspect that something might be different today. They were a lavish black metal with swirls on the railing, and they spiraled down from her bedroom to the foyer. Agnes lived on the third floor. To get to the kitchen, Agnes had to walk through a long corridor that seemed to grow and shrink as she made her way through.

Finally, she made it out of the hall. She kept thinking about how today felt unlike the other days. She hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary, but somehow, everything seemed different. She felt unnerved by the slight changes in her surroundings, and she relied on the constancy of her home to keep her routine. She tried to shake the feeling but couldn’t, so she ignored it and kept going through the motions of her day. She was now in her kitchen deciding what to eat for breakfast. She decided on an omelet. As she cooked, her eyes were glued to the clock. She had to make sure she wasn’t late for work. Yet, the clock seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace.

Agnes kept telling herself that things would eventually return to normal if she kept doing her routine. She put the coffee pot on the stove and sat at the kitchen table. She chose a mug and matching plate and had her breakfast. Nothing had changed, but she kept thinking that today didn’t feel right. She decided to break out of her routine to try to effect change. She decided to sit in a different chair than she usually did. The uneasy feeling was driving her crazy. Usually, Agnes loved mornings; she sat in solitude and listened to music or read a book at the kitchen table that she had found on the side of the road. She loved her kitchen in the mornings, before anyone was up, but today it didn’t feel the same. Instead, she wondered why everything had moved from its usual spot, why time was passing unusually slowly, and why everything still felt fuzzy. That fuzzy early morning feeling never lasted this long.

Some time passed, and Agnes realized she was back in the bathroom. She had a new outfit, black pants, the same sweater, two braids, and a new necklace. “Catch” by The Cure was playing on her turntable. Her makeup was gone, and she hadn’t brushed her teeth yet. She looked out the same window and the tree had turned red, the same color of her bedroom chair! She didn’t know what had happened, so she rehearsed her morning routine again, walking down the stairs and sitting at her kitchen table for an endless number of days. Each day she felt more disconnected from the time that seemed to be passing her by. Her days felt the same as she appeared – like she was an observer watching herself across the table, sitting perfectly in the same spot, drinking coffee from the same mug, wearing a variation of the same outfit, with the same color scheme and the same smudged eyeliner. She changed very little each day.

At the kitchen table that morning, she thought of Sisyphus. She wondered if she was the man pushing the boulder up the hill every day, falling asleep each night to start over tomorrow. She wondered how she could feel so alienated from the world, stuck in such a mundane cycle of life. She performed the same tasks over and over each day: waking up, going to work or class, coming home to eat and watch a movie or read her book, sleeping. And repeat. Agnes felt lost in her routine as she did the same movements like clockwork. She felt like she was playing her assigned part perfectly, yet was unaware of what she was doing. She mindlessly moved through time; the weather changed around her without her even realizing it.

Feeling that maybe this time would be different and everything would go back to normal, she rehearsed her morning routine once more. Today she was listening to The Slits. She looked outside at the same tree, and it was barren. The tree had gone from purple to black. It was a color that fit the gloomy weather outside, and the freezing temperatures inside her home. “Is it winter already?” she asked herself. Taking cues from the weather outside, she grabbed a winter coat and a red scarf and brought them down to the kitchen. She produced the same breakfast and coffee, chose the same mug, and sat at her original seat. Sitting at the table it hit her that a year had passed. She had this strange feeling, one of being disembodied like her body wasn’t hers, but she didn’t feel in control of her brain at all. In fact, she didn’t feel in control of any part of her life. Her job made her brain numb, repeating the same steps over and over. She had the same conversations with her coworkers, the same weekly meeting, each week was structured like the one before. She felt like she was just watching time go by, as if she was watching her life through the lens of a video camera.

Everyday was the same for Agnes. Feeling like she wasn’t really making her own choices, she blamed her body, her limbs were betraying her. She could not control the routine that she had gotten so used to. She was unnerved by the days passing by without noticing it. Then suddenly, she was back in her bedroom, wrapped up in her bed, trying to decide who to be for another morning in her endless cycle of days. It was now spring, and the leaves on the tree were starting to grow back.