We step out of our homes, shielded, and sometimes, armed with coffee, and sometimes, clinging to old pains or grudges. But we feel prepared. Our cell phones are charged and we have our plans for the day.
The world is jagged, demanding, and unpredictable. Anything can come flying our way at any moment. Birds poop recklessly from the sky. Umbrella edges threaten to poke our eyes out. No city is too small for coincidence. And then of course, there’s the weather, and small talk, and gossip, and bullies.
Masks are for protection, sometimes for survival. Shards of words bounce off our masks as we go about our day, and the ones that stick we clean off later with a sponge—when no one’s looking.
Masks remind us that some things are better left unsaid. That nothing at all is what it seems. Masks reassure us that there’s a time and a place for everything.
Masks are filters; not all people will recognize our true value or appreciate what we have to offer, so we only show what we want to show, depending on who is worthy.
But sometimes, masks shield us from what we need. Shield us from those who are worthy. They can shut people out, render us fearful or paranoid, and relationships that were or could have been disintegrate… because we become too attached, too dependent on our masks. We come to prefer them until we forget why we wear them, and who we are without them.
We sometimes forget to take them off at night.
Until our masks dissolve into our skins, slowly, night after night, day after day, infusing into our fibers, discoloring our cells, disfiguring our memories, so that one morning when we wake up, our faces are fixed into the shape that the world wants us to be, and we become nothing but diluted versions of ourselves, fooled into thinking we are safer this way, more attractive, more likeable.