Every day I wear a mask. Not a physical one like you would see at a masquerade ball, but one nonetheless. Before allowing even my family to see me, I slip on a smile. A perfect smile drew as if by clown makeup. And behind it, I hide years of pain and agony.
Nobody knows the real me. The real me is dying inside, wasting away like a dandelion in the wind. But no one sees that. To them, I am a joyful person, radiating life and happiness. But it is all a ruse.
Yet, I can never give it up. What would people think if they saw the deep sadness that has taken root inside me? They would be horrified. In their eyes, I represent hope, new possibilities, a promise of good things. And to lose that—to lose the person they think I am—well, it would ruin them.
So, I make sure to hope on to my mask every second of every day. It hurts me deeply. Not just the physical pain of holding the expression of happiness, but to deceive everyone in such a manner.
I am a liar of the worst sort. My very personality is a lie. Yet, at the same time, my lie is for the best. Is it not better to pretend that I am happy than to show the miserable excuse of a person I am?
But I try not to dwell on this matter for too long. It will only add to my perpetual melancholy.
As I go about my day, people greet me, smiling in return, faces brightening as they witness my seemly childlike joy. As I watch them leave my presence, I notice that they seem to depart happier than they had been before.
Take the cashier at the grocery store, for instance. The expression on her face conveyed a look of boredom and the desire to go home. Yet, at the sight of my face, hers seems to brighten. She scans and bags groceries with renewed vigor.
The overworked, tired mother, cradling a restless infant, while calling to two other children, trades a glance with me and seems to draw new strength.
The elderly man sits on a bench and judges people walking by. A man, who never laughs nor smiles, does those very things as I turn my “cheery” smile his way.
And as I pass them all, I find myself sinking further into my sad state. It was as if all the energy I possessed was given to these people, leaving me with nothing but a body as empty as my smile.
Returning home, my job is still not done. I still rely on my father for financial advice, my mother for her cooking, and my siblings for…well, they don’t do much; my family relies on me to encourage them and brightened their day after long hours at work or school. So, I take a minute to fix my slipping smile in the mirror before greeting my family.
Throughout the afternoon and dinner, I smile and laugh as they tell me about their days. I encourage them and tell them the positive things they want to hear, all while my mind fills with dreary thoughts and longings to fade away into the darkness of my bedroom.
For a second, everyone pauses. They turn to look at me and I realize that my perfect façade is slipping. I quickly smile to cover my mistake and the conversation resumes as it had before.
Finally, I can leave as everyone parts to do their various activities.
My room is so unlike my false personality yet, it fits the wretched person that the darkness inside forces me to be. In my room, I keep the blinds closed at the time. Blankets cover the bed, and I bury myself under them, even in the summer. There are no pictures or decorations on the walls, and besides the bed and my nightstand, there is no other furniture.
No one goes into my room. It is my haven. The only place where I can slip off my mask and allow all of my real feelings to show.
I get into my bed, not bothering to remove my clothes from the day. Wrapping myself up in a cocoon, I unburden my weary body and my weary soul. Tears pour from my eyes while a dark cloud seems to cover me completely, stripping away the last pieces of my façade.
Outside of my room, I can hear laughter and sounds of merriment, the results brought on by my previous efforts. But the sounds only drive me further into sadness. My heart begs me to show them how I feel and allow myself to be comforted by their arms. But I cannot. It would be a horrible, selfish thing to do.
Being a joy to others was my fate, and to do otherwise would spell the ruination of the one thing I was good for. So rather than unburdening myself, I slip further into my covers. I cry until my tears drench the entirety of my pillow.
When my tears are all spent and my eyes are red and puffy, I lay still staring up at the faint light of the moon coming through the curtains. The light seems to beckon me, trying to pull me from my dark abyss, but its hold is too brittle. And the dark cloud claims me.
Oh, how I yearn to feel freedom. Not just from my disguise, but also from the darkness that takes over my mind every day. But it is useless to wish for such relief. For though the darkness hides in the daytime, behind my smile, at night—with no one around to witness—it overtakes me. It chains me with unbreakable cuffs, forcing me down so thoroughly.
Sleep, born from pure exhaustion, soon comes, bringing relief from the pull of darkness. Yet, even in my dreams, I am reminded that—though I am at rest now—tomorrow will come and I will have to take up my mask again. And I will be forced to do so, again and again, until the day I die.
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