Staring intently into the mirror, he took up his brush and began to paint. Slowly, his eyes unfocused and it was as if he was staring through the mirror, gazing at memories, past and present becoming one.
People had always assumed that he and his sister must be identical twins when they were little, had been unable to believe that one was a boy, the other a girl. Two separate eggs simultaneously fertilised, yet the similarity had been uncanny.
Of course, the similarity did not remain. He had grown, matured, transformed into a man. She, on the other hand, remained perpetually a child, frozen in photographs and trapped in memory replayed to infinity but never advanced. The reflective surface of the mirror reminded him of the pool in which she had drowned. The first time they had not acted in unison and the final severance of their fates.
Now, his sister was a half-forgotten memory, forever denied the life that he lived without conviction. Her absence ate away at the secret parts of his soul. Without her, he was only half a being. Without her, all he could do was imagine the might-have-beens that never were. In his dreams, she came to him a faceless figure, an eternal reprimand.
He had to know: what would his sister have been like, had she lived? That was the question that he was attempting to answer as he painted her portrait, attempting to discern her features hidden amongst his own, attempting to divine her image in his face. Silently, he prayed that he would identify her and, at last, give her the face that she deserved; that she would no longer reproach him in his dreams. He prayed that, on canvas, he could give her the life she had been denied.
19th century photograph by Alexander Gardner