Her Mask

Her Mask by Gail Hafif – Photo by Elena Eisenstadt

At first it was just a few cuts and bruises. Then it became fractures and sprains. Now it’s broken. You keep telling yourself that it’ll all be over soon. It’ll get better, it has to. So you put on your mask. You walk into school with a smile on your face. They see you smiling, they see you happy. They say you look pretty. Your mind flashes to the previous night which you spent with streams of emotion flowing from your eyes. She asks if you want to go to lunch. You nod and say yes thinking of the time she laughed and said you were incapable of attaining a friend. He asks if you want to hang out. Your mind immediately runs back to the time he rejected you, calling you “fat” and “ugly.” They say they love you and you laugh and say it back. A year ago they shuddered at the mere prospect of you conversing with them. You go home. You walk to your room and take off your mask. You look in the mirror. The figure staring back at you is vaguely familiar. A tear rolls down her cheek. You blink again, and suddenly there is what looks like a waterfall on her face. The whites of her eyes have been stained red. Soon her hand is shaking and she’s doubled over clutching her head. Is she screaming?

You wake up the next day and your mask is gone. You panic. You run frantically around your room. It’s gone. You go back to your mirror. She’s there again. This time she is smiling. She realizes that she is going to be set free. Your fear is escalating. Your heart rate increases. Your breaths become jagged. You go to school. She walks away from you at lunch. He’s with another girl today. They laugh at you. You run to the bathroom. You run into a stall. Before you can stop it, the emotion spills over. You’re doubled over clutching your head. As hard as you try, your screams remain silent. You run home. You stare in the mirror. She’s there again. She looks happy. She sees your face. She is confused. She realizes what is wrong with you. She points to the far right corner of your desk. There lies your mask. You rejoice. She sighs in disappointment.

The next day you wake up immediately and put on your mask. You walk into school. She runs up to you and hugs you. She leads you away to a small crowd. He walks over and stamps your forehead with a kiss. They all compliment you. As you all walk away laughing, you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. You ignore her. They like you. You forget her.

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