I wrote this piece based off of a true story. I'm not going to share which facts involving people are true and which are not, however all facts pertaining to myself are true.
anyway share your thoughts.
The Mask I wear
I feel myself waking up, I try fighting it but there’s no use. I can’t sleep on nights like this, when reality is better than my dreams, the ones that remind me that life just isn’t fair, and nothing goes the way it should. Maybe, it’s the other way around. My head feels like it’s about to implode from the pressure that’s constantly mounting, my eyes are so heavy. I hold them open just enough to see what’s going on, something I learned from watching my lazy cat one day. I’m greeted by the suffocating darkness, and silence that would kill the senses. I feel around for my phone so I can check the time, and accidentally press a button, the darkness is drowned out by one tiny little beam of light that tells me that in an hour I have to be out of bed, 6:15 a.m.
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP 7:20 a.m. I want to throw my phone, I want to shatter it and make that noise stop. That sound means I have to leave the comfort of my safe, warm bed, to face the world, even worse still, myself. I give myself ten minutes to lay and fully wake up. Then like a little old lady I get out of bed with my back hunched over, and my hand on my hip, limping, favoring my right leg. I’m 21, I shouldn’t be so stiff, I think to myself. It seems that there’s always been something wrong with me though. I’ve fallen and hurt myself more times than I could help, I’m clumsy like that. When I watch movies that have the one girl that’s really nerdy, who always drops things, or trips over completely flat surfaces, I relate, I’m that girl. What makes that odd is at the same time I can be the girl she turns into, I walk better in my five inch leopard print stilettos than I can my black worn out converse, I can turn my naturally curly mane into near works of art, when I feel like it, which is rare.
I feel like I was beaten with a baseball bat last night, I’m stiff and sore. The really bad thing about that is I didn’t do anything to be stiff and sore. The only things really taking beatings these days are my self esteem and pride.
7:35 a.m. I don’t look at myself in the mirror while I wash my face or brush my teeth, I don’t want to face the reality yet. Finally, I look up and greet the familiar face that is staring back at me, the face I love to hate. I spend the next few seconds preparing my mask, the one I don’t always wear, but I almost always have ready at any minute. Unlike most women, it’s not a mask of powders, colors, tints, and dye. It’s a mask I created long ago, a mask woven with deceit, and lies. The mask that protects my insecurities from everyone around me, and fools them to believe what I want them to. I stare long and hard at the face looking back at me, and a lifetime of emotions and memories surface all at once, a single salty tear caresses my cheek. Inside my head, all I hear is screaming. Lifelong questions, I never voiced to anyone but myself, why…why...WHY?!?! I really just don’t want to deal with this again today, but it’s the hand I was dealt so I’m playing it the best I know how, bluffing through a lot of it. I’ve had a lifetime to perfect my poker face. I’m good at pretending everything is ok. I don’t talk about the things that make me weak, they are my own personal enemies. Things I’d much rather face alone than in a crowd. So I don my mask, the one that is so transparent. So clear you don’t even know its there, it fools you, which is exactly its purpose. I don’t like pity, I loathe people feeling sorry for me, or treating me different. Behind my mask, I quietly watch.
At birth I was diagnosed with a skin disorder, that causes my cells to reproduce too rapidly and creates an “extra layer of skin” as the doctors and my parents have explained. I always liked to think I was some sort of superhuman, it made me feel better about it. The doctors said a lot of things, they usually do. They told my parents they didn’t really know what would happen, they could only say what might happen. They didn’t really know what to do, my case is the only documented case like it in the world, out of 6 billion plus people, I make being “one of a kind” something completely different. My parents sheltered me and exposed me to the world all at once. They cared for me, and taught me. I was forced to grow up, face, and accept things that some adults can’t accept, and deal with. Nothing could ever prepare me for the things that I would have to deal with though.
I realized how cruel the world was in third grade, at a private school.
The leaves were all gone from the trees, and it was bitterly cold outside. This meant we were stuck inside all day long. We had a daily routine, at my school, the day would start off with prayer, and go straight into Bible Studies. It was more of a Bible history class than just reading Bible stories, that day we read the story of the “Ten lepers”, in the story Jesus heals ten men who are struck with leprosy. I didn’t like where this was headed.
Our teacher explained leprosy to the class, “Its like a skin problem” she states in a matter of fact pious tone, like she does with everything, “you can see it on their skin, and in those times those people were thought to be unclean, so the Jewish people would have nothing to do with them. Because they didn’t want leprosy themselves.”
As soon as the words started pouring out of her mouth, I felt my face turning red hot, not because I had leprosy, but because I noticed the other students in class turning to look at me, including my friends, the girls I ate lunch with every day, the girls I talked with, and played with. My stomach knotted up, and tremors of tears hit my eyes, all at once. I fought off the tears, and took deep breaths, it would be ok, I kept telling myself, I’ll just explain it all.
Lunch time. I was always a picky eater, I brought my own lunch. I went over to ask my friends where they were sitting, I got a cold “We don’t know yet”. I decided that I would just go and sit down, they’d join me once they got through line, wouldn’t they?
Lunch was over, I made a mental note to thank Mom once I got home, she packed my favorite, Cajun Shrimp and Alfredo, with a cookie and a note that said, I love you baby girl always remember that! I hope you are having a good day! Love always Mommy she even drew her signature heart next to her name. That made me feel better, Mom’s are good like that.
After a day of being avoided and ignored, it was time for gym class. We had free time, so I went over to the girls I normally played with, they stepped away and told me not to come near them, that they didn’t want what I had, I had leprosy. I tried explaining that I didn’t, but it just didn’t work like that, it was too late, they wouldn’t listen. I was shunned for the first time in my life. Tears began welling up in my eyes as I walked away. I sat by myself the rest of the class, determining that if they have a problem it was their problem, not mine. I went home that night, and spent what seemed like forever in front of my bathroom mirror building this mask that I wear now. The one that show’s that this just doesn’t bother me. That I’m tough and I can handle anything you throw at me.
A few days later we were doing what kids do, playing together again, laughing & smiling; but I never really was the same.
Years down the line, we were in 8th grade, we had came so far from that day in 3rd grade, we were about to walk across the stage that we had walked across so many times before, Christmas plays, awards, playing, the familiar surroundings would be a faint memory of what used to be, maybe was even forgotten.
I look at the girls next to me, and silently remind myself that people really do change.
My phone buzzes and snaps me back to reality, I hurry and get dressed before I’m late, again. I sigh a deep relieving sigh, I know I really am too hard on myself, and that was a long time ago, but it made me strong, I don’t want to be weak. One last glance and I’m out the door. Facing my fears, and fighting away the memories and emotions that flood over me almost daily.