There is a woman washing herself
in the bathroom at the public library
where I volunteer once a week
like the good, affluent, educated
college student that I am supposed
to be. She smile sheepishly
as she catches my eye—not the real ones
but the shadowed bullets in the mirror.
One foot in the sink, she scrubs harder,
quicker, as if attempting to erase
herself. And I wonder what it says
about me that I am inclined to write her
as embarrassed and not just friendly,
how I want to describe her shame
in the perfect, pitying metaphor.
I wonder if this is the real me,
standing beside this woman
with her elbow under the faucet,
or if she sees right through
this reflection. I know nothing of this
woman’s life. In a month I will
receive a piece of paper
that says you know so much
and the truth is I know nothing.