When the Masks Won’t Stick

Many times in my life I’ve wished I could be invisible. Now is another one of those times. Before Dannica’s passing, I held my head high and met people’s gaze with a smile. Especially during the holidays, I used to consider it a challenge to smile at as many people as I could and get them to smile back at me. The closer it got to Christmas, the more of a challenge that actually became. People became frantic and pissy and angry and downright hostile. Watch out for the ones who wear santa hats or reindeer antlers in public because in my experience they are the cream of the Christmas-Warrior crop.

One year, I did experience an exception; a Santa hat wearing love loony like me only in a wheelchair. We were both looking over bags of clementines when he asked me, “What do you think would happen if I said, ‘HoHoHo! and Merry Christmas’ to everyone in this store?” I looked at him and smiled thinking, You’re gonna get yourself shot. Sad.

Sometimes I’d work my way to the center of the store and I’d close my eyes, pretending to inspect something on one of the shelves. I’d stand there with my eyes closed and listen to the craziness all around me. Children crying, parents threatening without follow through, awful music playing too loud, frazzled employees dragging themselves through 24/7 shifts and trying to smile through the dark circles under their eyes, people pushing each other, cursing at each other, trampling each other… to death… for a DVD player. Why do we do this? Because we love each other? Because we love Jesus??

So I started working my way to the centers of stores, closing my eyes and trying to imagine a bright, white, light coming up through my feet from the depths of the Earth and illuminating me until all I could be perceived as by others was light. I moved myself out from my center and filled every space between every molecule of all that was. I emanated beyond the walls of the store and out into the parking lots all the way to the streets. I tried to breathe in all the hostility that was out there. I imagined the spaces being made where the hostility had been and I imagined them filling again with this light that I now was. I pulled all the sludge back in with me, down through the top of my head, through the bottoms of my feet, back down deep into the center of the earth where I hoped it would be composted and used to make this a better world… free from “the Season” of obligatory mental illness. Only 324 shopping days left.

It’s hard to smile right now. When I go to the store I can’t look people in the eye or even in the face. The weight of another’s glance in my direction still hurts too much for someone with a condition too tender to touch. The hardest question to answer is, “How are you?” when it comes from someone I don’t know. I don’t go out if I don’t feel up to it but even then, I never know what’s going to set me off because the wounds are so raw and emotions are flowing so close to the surface of these still waters that also run so deep.

I will probably never see her again, but I apologize to the woman in the grocery line I stepped into without realizing the cashier had put up his closed sign. I was busy patting myself on the back for managing to pick up a few things without looking at anyone or talking to anyone or crying and having to leave my cart and go home when she turned and abruptly told me, “He’s closed!! He has to be somewhere!” I looked at her and immediately started crying.

“Well, thank GOD he’s got YOU!” I squeaked and moved to another line. Instantly exhausted and feeling like I had almost made it so far I wondered if I should just leave. I took a deep breath and dropped my goldfish crackers onto the belt. My diet has consisted largely of schools of goldfish crackers since they’ve been on sale 4/$5.

The next cashier asked, “How are you?”

“Fine,” I choked back another sob.

“Paper or plastic?”

The masks I wore before won’t stay on now. The tears keep dissolving the stickum and then they fall off and I have to make a new one. I wonder where I can trade in many broken masks for an invisibility cloak made of Gore-Tex.

3 thoughts on “When the Masks Won’t Stick

  1. I’ve been more or less in hiding since my son died. I go to work but limit my interactions with most people (except one friend who “gets it” sort of). I’ve become a master of dodging down alternate aisles in the grocery store to avoid encounters with people I know and I’ve perfected the look of someone who is so intent on her business she doesn’t notice those around her. That way I can pretend that I didn’t see people. Because I just can’t bear interactions that remind me that everything is all wrong and will never be right again.

  2. Melissa, It is heart wrenching to read your entry….I am so, so sorry for your loss, and realize that there is no way I can even comprehend it…
    I will keep you in my prayers, and send the light your way…..in the hope that your pain will eventually become a little easier to bear….

  3. Some days are so difficult. The rawness of our emotions can leave us feeling so exposed…there are still many days where I can not look people in the eyes. This vulnerable feeling usually signals some emotionally tough days for me. I try to get myself home where I can just “be” with my emotions. Sending you hugs.

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