I remember the night sky when I was a young boy. A black fabric shrouding us, decorated with fading clouds and a full, healthy moon. The sky of my tiny town extended miles ahead, and I knew it would take years and years for me to reach the end of the world one day and lick the deliciously beguiling stars.
I tore pages from my school books and set out to craft myself a new accessory. I pranced a little to the little hum of the music playing downstairs and made a mess on the floor. Sheets of missing pages lay scattered on the ground, and my feet stuck, weakly glued to the gooey surface, but I continued to dance. I walked up to the mirror and placed my new accessory where it belonged- on my face, my beautiful new mask.
The bad haircut sitting floppily on head, I get unexpectedly conscious as I walk back home. I felt the raindrops hit my skin as I ran, past the big houses towards the smaller, weaker ones. I felt ashamed to look into the mirror again, torn uniform and scraped knees, as I put on my mask, disappearing into someone, no one.
This is all I can do anyway. Pathetic, I lie on the floor, staring up at the ceiling, a sense of regret filling the room; what could have been, all that I could have done. I wish someone would have stopped me in my tracks, grabbed me by the shoulders, and yelled to my face, the ‘me’ that you create isn’t really you.
I pinch my cheeks, once that were plump, and discern how hollow they’ve become, how lifeless. I think I like them this way; the way my hair now falls handsomely behind my ears and how my clothes no longer hang from awkward places, but sit tight on my body, like they belong there.
I’m laughing one moment, then I’m crying the next. The funny thing is, I don’t feel joyous or even depressed. I do it for the empathy, I create for the moment. Manufacture something unreal, build on something artificial. The additional layer of an illusion sits heavy on my face, but I brush the unpleasant feeling off, and absent-mindedly apply a thicker coat of a mirage in hopes that one day, it becomes a part of me.
Growing older but still preserving the unfiltered innocence of the young boy changes my perspectives on the world. On Monday I am the same cocky, outgoing man everyone knows me to be, but on Tuesday I’m the precious son that learns a new recipe and cooks for his family.
In the midst of this endless, painful abyss, I feel caged; it gets difficult to sit and think sometimes, and I wonder to myself, none of this would matter today if I did something as simple as not breathing. When did everything get so difficult?
But growing means learning, and with that comes the greatest power. Control. Life is what we perceive it to be, simple or difficult, simple and difficult.
I remember the night sky as a young boy, but the sky tonight seems clearer somehow. Only a little bit. I’ve only grown so much. If I lick it now, I know I’d be able to taste it.
I dance around the room to the music playing on my phone, legs carrying me to the vanity I’ve been so obsessed with all my life. I open one drawer after another, wince at every creak and bang, and finally discover what I’ve been searching for. In the dead of the night, I remember how I swayed to the beat of a song I never knew, remember how I kissed my persona goodnight, and tossed my mask into the trash.