Masked Mercy

August 17, 2010
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The door clicked shut behind her as she skipped down the few stairs and turned left. Her head was hung low, deep in thought. As usual. There wasn’t a moment that went by that she didn’t spend worrying about one thing or another.

Well sure she’s been happy. But the guilt of knowing that somewhere someone else is in pain hides in the back of her mind, resurfacing at any given moment. It’s really more of a distraction than happiness. Her roller coaster of a life had more downs than ups, and during the uphill all she focused on was the dreaded anticipated downhill.

A set of passing car lights reflected in her deep pools of grey-blue eyes. Nevertheless her gaze remained unaltered, fixed determinedly at the pavement in front of her, as if her glare alone could keep the world from spinning out beneath her.

She had been though this sort of thing so many times by now it had become a routine. Just when she could feel the mask slipping off, she would step back, distancing herself, and leave. Just like that.

Now she was out under that same starry sky that had watched her many other breakdowns (if you could even call them that). She ambled aimlessly throughout the hushed streets, the moonlight guiding her. It was quiet; the hum of insects added their own notes to melodies that drifted from parties in the sweet summer air.
She found herself stopping to sit on a curb, burying her face between her hands.

"Damn mask," she thought, "why can’t you just stay on?"

The truth was it was a handmade mask. All things handmade had to be repaired every now and again as they were worn out. And also like all things handmade, it was built from compassion, and for compassion.

Her grey-blue eyes looked up involuntarily at the nighttime sky. She connected the big dipper. She glimpsed the North Star. Her eyes were shimmering with questions that she knew could never be answered. Instead, she wondered about the ancient times, and how they explained nature and events. She remembered how Romans and Greeks explained how the heavens were separate from the earth—the great titan Atlas.

"Oh Atlas," she thought wretchedly. "Just because you had the guts to go against the new god you were punished—have to bear the weight of the heavens on your back for eternity. How were you wrong and Zeus right? Where IS the line between right and wrong, anyway? Hell, this world isn’t black and white."

And she should know. So many complications, so many drama circles, so many problems she had heard, seen, and even survived herself. Of course she’d managed to seem as if she made it through gracefully, like a cat, always landing firmly on her feet within the last few seconds of her fall. But beneath those flashing grey-blue eyes and brilliant smiles lie the heinous scars left behind, not bleeding but far from healed.

In fact, she wasn’t unlike Atlas. Yet she had chosen to carry her load. Well, she hadn’t necessarily picked her fate of bearing everyone’s confessions, but she hadn’t exactly warded it off either. Rather than the heavens, she was struggling under the tedious weight of endless secrets. The words only grew heavier and heavier as time moved on. Although it was a cumbersome burden and a difficult one to grasp, she couldn’t help but to appreciate some of it as her back was put in strain. She knew it could be worse than she had it. She only had to look at her parents’ past to know that.

“And I’m one to complain. My parents had it worse; got shot at everyday, tanks aimed at them everyday, bombs, every god damn day,” she reminded herself painfully through a whisper, her words cracking as the tripped over each other unanswered in the dark. Her burden had to be easier to bear than that. It was, wasn’t it?

Hell, it could be a lot worse. And this way, at least, there were no secrets kept from her. That bothered her the most. When someone’s gaze slid sideways, away from her; an obvious indication that there was indeed something she didn’t know. Fortunately, no one usually hid things from her.

It was sort of amusing actually, in a sick kind of way. How she knew everything about everyone yet managed to keep her own life a mystery. It wasn’t her fault though. So many things had happened…

Her brow furrowed in concentration and her glance followed a car as it hurtled by her, unaware of her presence. She would keep the mask up, she promised herself; starting the walk back home. It would not fade again. She simply could not afford another slip up, with everyone depending on her. She was supposed to be the perfect one.

Opening the door and slipping back inside, the mask veiled itself once again.

“Back into reality,” she murmured to herself, pulling her chin up, bracing as pressure swept over her in a flood, leaving her in a helpless stage of endless drowning.

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thepreechyteenager said...
Aug. 30, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I liked this piece very much.  The middle was intriging, I loved your characters mind and her past, I loved the burden you had her bare.  It's a burden we all bare in a way, so it's easy for a reader to relate, and therefore become sucked into the story.  You carparisn of her to Atlas was also very good.

The ending was pure poetry.  We all sometimes feel like we have that mask, and we just need to touch it up every now and again to keep everything under caps.

more »)
MaddieGr This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 30, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Haha thanks so much :)

And yeah it's ridiculous how many people hide the real them, and it really could be anyone from Miss Popular to someone with the worst luck.

Thanks for the comment :D

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