The Masks We Wear – A Poem

I used to10417562_482268951908946_5954391710414037910_n

know someone who

insisted we wore

many masks in

our lives. We

wore one mask

at work, a

different one with

friends, another with

lovers, one more

with parents. I

imagined a closet

filled with all

sorts of different

masks instead of

shoes or clothes.

“I don’t wear masks.”

I told him.

“It’s easier that way.”

He became belligerent.

“Everyone wears masks! How else would we survive?”

I looked at

him with the

strange feeling that

I didn’t really

know him. I

wondered what kind

of mask he

wore with me.

“Would you behave the same way at work as you do at home?”

He asked me.

I nodded yes.

“I am always myself.”

He scoffed at

me, his tone

full of derision.

Please. At work, you wear a professional mask. At home, you wear another.”

We agreed to

disagree. I thought

he had the

wrong of it,

that you didn’t

have to wear

masks to get

through life. I

pointed out that

you could be

yourself, but just

another fraction of

who you were.

“So it’s a partial mask. That’s all it is. I’m wearing a mask with you.”

He said. I

was shocked as

I hadn’t known

he needed a

mask to be

around me. I

asked him quietly:

“What mask do you wear around me?”

He scoffed again.

“You don’t want to know.”

He was right.

I didn’t want

to know. Later,

I searched my

face for a

mask, a crack

that ran along

my skin. I

saw a thin

line that ran

along the edge

of my face,

down along my

jaw. It was

a thin mask,

almost like glass

made supple and

bendable. It was

almost me, but

I was still

hiding. Still locking

my true self

behind another face.

I dug my

fingers under the

edge and gently

pulled. The mask

came away easily,

the glue holding

it on turned

dry. I wondered

if I had left

it on whether

it would have

just melted away

on its own.

When the mask

was free, I

looked at myself.

There was a

light that shone

from my skin,

bright like the

morning sun. I

thought that this

was why I

had worn the

mask, so as

not to make

him uncomfortable with

my light, as

he didn’t have

one. He didn’t

shine. I resolved

to find someone

else who shone,

who burned brightly.

I went out

into the world,

without a mask,

to see what

I could see.

Other men wore

blue masks, grey

masks, red masks.

They carried the

marks of their

souls on the

surface. They

were hiding behind

themselves. They were

locked behind their

fears, their worries,

their perceived weaknesses.

They didn’t just

wear them as

masks, but as

shrouds, mantles and

cloaks. The only

difference between them

and myself was

that I no

longer wanted to

wear a mantle

of needles. I

wanted to live

as myself, not

behind my pain.

They weren’t ready

to shine as

themselves. I despaired

about ever finding

someone who wore

no masks and

had given up.

It was when

I had given

up that he

found me. I

walked into the

coffee shop, not

thinking anything would

happen but when

he turned towards

me, I was

struck by the

light that poured

from him. I

stood there for

a moment, searching

his face for

a mask, for that

tell-tale sheen of

glass that ran

along his skin.

There wasn’t one.

“Hi.”

He said. I

was almost speechless,

unable to find

words accurate enough

for an introduction.

“Hi.”

I said, thinking

that the word

was lacking. I

had finally found

someone who didn’t

wear a mask,

or he had

found me. That

didn’t matter. What

did was that

we had found

each other. There

were no coloured

masks on his

face, no blues

or reds or

black glass or

or green. There

was only him,

shining brightly like

a star or sun.

There was only

him. He smiled

and the light

from inside him

grew only brighter.

My light glowed

in response and

the air hummed

with possibilities.

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