Faces

They aren’t masks, these faces we wear. Not all of them. They aren’t things we can take off and put on, but rather slivers of ourselves.

I know my mother still sees the petulant teenager; she’s still there at times, with a streak of indignance at the unfairness of the world. But that face has softened with time. She has new companions: the manticore, for whom rage is sometimes the only glue that holds her together; the mouse, too afraid to do wrong in the world to do anything at all; the gardener, for whom all relationships are to be nurtured like plants, even poisoned vines; the ham, who is always on stage, for whom every action is watched, and therefore holds meaning. None of these faces are just a show; each one is a vital string– strike a few, form a chord, this is me. The gamer geek and the outdoor explorer are separated only by a thin veil, if they are separated at all.

I cannot universalize, though here, I know I am not alone. Friends have told me the same story, fractured selves, a piece here in this category, a piece there in that. We never show our whole face. We show ourselves in slices, artful arrangements, illuminated this much by the falling of that light, a hip bone shown in a thin band by the light from a high window at sunset, the nape of a neck and the expanse of a back under a bare bulb dangling overhead. Like theater gels, like gobos. Which self will we show? You will never see my whole face.

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