May 14, 2008
By Corinne Herman, Camarillo, CA

No, I say, and the masks begin to fall. Paper mâché sculptures of emotion, each a different life, different script. Past, present, fluff, tough, anger, fear, love. Different lines, different cast, different fire hot lies cast out, bait for an audience hungry like a school of fish. A masquerade dance of masks, pale face beyond the color, a white flag among the flares. Truth among the lies. Strength fluttering in the breeze.

So not more, you see. No more barbed wire lips and handcuff embraces. The mask of love has fallen, crashed to the ground and shattered, catching you with it. And behind stares the pale, blank stare of truth, white as snow but harder than hail. The face of the actress without her script, without her mask, without fear.

No, lips part and say to eyes that burn like fire behind speckled blue glass. To cherry cheeks sprouting brown shoots on chins and upper lips. To dirt trapped under ragged untamed fingernails. To every part of you, of my cast, of my crew, of my audience. The actress, stripped of her role, her mask, her lies, can play the role she almost forgot. Me.

No, my pale face says without even speaking a word. I venture off the script, defying the choreographed world and creating my own. I don’t love you. Not the rippling blond waterfall, or teeth crammed together like a traffic jam. Not the swears sharp as ripped tin, the air charged with suspense. That is the mask’s love, its job, its life. Its attempt to save the girl with sun bleached hair and a straight metal smile, the girl you were going to break. This is its script, its song and dance.

But the mask is gone, and there is only the thick gaze of truth. Only what you fear, what you roll and tumble from. There is nothing to do but build another mask, write another script, learn another part. Become another piece of the story, fade as one set of eyes and come back as another.

But in this script of mine, in the moment that the actress and I are one and the same, there is one more verse to recite, one more line to read.

I don’t love you. The audience would stand and clap and I would laugh behind the mask if I did. But I don’t. This play is over, come see the next production in line. So here’s the last scene, the curtain call, the final bow.

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