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The lights flashed behind the curtains, music coursing through the openings of the tattered fabric, loud to drown out the voices. It was warm, the heavy fabric draped over my body adding a good ten degrees. I couldn’t see anything. My eyes were closed; the proverbial window to my soul was shut, blacked out, frosted. But that was usual. My eyes were always closed, or most of the time. Sometimes I didn’t get a choice. Sometimes I had to smile, though you couldn’t see the pain behind my mask, only my eyes could be seen. But I was so practiced even that was fake. Even my eyes were glossed over. No emotion. No fear. No pain.
But I was always in pain.
I turned around, opening my eyes to the crimson cloth before me, worn and used. Just like me. Trite. Jaded. I sighed, assuming position, mask covering my face, eyes glazed over, body limp, lifeless. The curtains began to open, creating a picturesque view, the proscenium framing the scene before me. I set my foot in the dust and gravel, putting on my best smile, my best face. The only one I had anymore. The thought shook me. I smiled anyway.
I had to.
It was loud, but I was used to it. It didn’t make me like it any more, though. It was still hard to handle. Not the volume. I was used to the volume. It was the laughter. The noise stung my senses, made me flinch. Maybe it was because I was always sensitive to noise. But I knew that wasn’t it. It was jealousy. I knew I’d never be happy again. The laughter was a painful reminder of my endless suffering, the prime example of why I hated my melancholic life. It wasn’t always so bad. My smile wasn’t always so rehearsed. But dwelling on the past was pointless, only a “what if,” only a “used-to-be.” I suffered in silence. No one listened. No one was there to listen.
My feet carried me through the crowd, one step at a time, my boots crunching in the gravel. I smiled, my teeth sparkling under the multi-colored lights. They were bright, colorful and pretty. They blinked and flashed in time to the music, everything synchronized perfectly. A small boy stopped me, a happy grin on his face. I didn’t want to smile but I did.
I had to.
But I didn’t have to mean it. And I didn’t. But I smiled anyway, bright and cheerful. It was a performance. I was in character.
“Mommy, Mommy, look! It’s a clown!”
I sighed internally, a smile still plastered to my face. As people went, kids were on the bottom of my favorites list. Next to love-struck teenagers. But I always smiled. It was an easy part to play.
I wasn’t a clown. I was a performer. I played a part. But they didn’t know that. Not that I wanted them to know. I was selective about what I allowed anyone to know about me. But my problems didn’t matter. I just had to smile. And that’s all I did.
The stars sparkled in the sky like the flecks of glitter tossed across my skin. The sky was broad, vast and perfect. But I couldn’t watch long. By the time the stars unveiled their soft glow I was gone, hidden away behind a mask of paint and glitter covering the truth. But sometimes the truth is just a cleverly designed mask, a façade portrayed well enough to fool anybody. So what I think of as a lie may have actually been truth. But, then, all my truths would be lies. Everything was a lie with me. That’s all I could afford.
I was broke.
But I had nothing. Material things, but no substance. Nothing worth anything. I didn’t want it, though. I didn’t want anything. I didn’t need anything. I didn’t deserve anything. But that bears no meaning in the story of my life. The story of my life would focus on the positives. It would be short.
A bright flash shook me from my thoughts. Fireworks colored the night like paint splatters across a canvas. Every night the fireworks went off, drawing the attention away from me and my, shall we say, maudlin emotions. But it was nice enough. It brought me out of my character making me a child again, brightness in my eyes. The fireworks had always fascinated me. I’d always loved the way the bright colors exploded from nothing, popping and crackling against the black of the night.
The nighttime was always a curious thing to me, so whimsical yet mysterious. When I was a kid I’d stare out at the sky from atop my father’s shoulders. I’d watch the brilliant colors in awe. Then my dad would set me on the ground, pat me on the head no more than once, then amble off through the shouting crows, leaving me to myself, alone in a sea of bodies.
I smiled at the memory – really smiled.
At that moment you could have noticed my eyes light up, but no one was watching my eyes. I was invisible in the crowd just as I had been when I was young. Some things never change. Some things stay stagnant. But sometimes things will never be the same.
Sometimes things are destroyed.
I was destroyed, broken beyond repair. But no one could see that behind my mask. I suffer alone.