The Mask Maker

All I saw at first was the vision of the room. Then, the rest seemed to follow from it naturally. I've been thinking about this subject a lot recently, so I'm not surprised that something like this popped into my head.

The room was a tangible brown shade, with flecks of golden orange light seeping through the print on the window curtains. A sturdy work desk stood in front of a wall of tall shelves, crossed with a crack of light. The shelves glimmered with fascinating blues and purples, seeming to overflow out of the darkness. Ribbons, thread, yarn, materials, and bows hung like tapestry from the walls. On the workman's desk his instruments lay organized and ready. The green velvet material was already cut and work had already begun on the purple detailing and orange sequins around the eyes. This was the mask-makers workshop, and he was the mask-maker.

It was solitary work, requiring inspiration and deep insight into people. He spent most of his time watching the people who he was creating masks for, observing their interactions with others, looking for the best possible combination, the note that would complete the social chord. Then he would wait for inspiration. Sometimes it would come in the middle of the day, sometimes late at night. An image of an already-completed mask would appear in his mind's eye, and then he would immediately drop everything and rush to complete it, before the vision faded.

He had had failures before, when he was younger. Sometimes people were in a rush, so he went ahead without a vision. Even the memory of these failures made him cringe. The masks were awkward for the users to wear, and it was painful for him to see them struggling through life with ill-fitting masks. He felt the responsibility of his failures greatly. He could have given up. He could have decided that, despite all his innate talent, he wasn't suited or able to do the job. Instead, he let his failures push him to try harder, to be a perfectionist.

People had to be comfortable in their masks. They had to be protective and yet flexible, something to work with and something to hide behind. His work was fine and meticulous, every detail had to be perfect, nothing left out and nothing added on. Hours were spent in silence, undistracted, focused, before he could emerge with another creation. He gave them away, they were always a gift. Masks were invaluable to other people. Most people had more than one, some had many. They were for protection. Everyone had faults, so they used masks to cover themselves. They thought the masks were to hide their flaws from others. However, they didn't know that they were really to hide their flaws from themselves. To unmask someone is considered taboo, because then they have to look at themselves honestly. Most people find themselves looking at something they do not like.

He knew how the masks worked. He had built them, knew every detail of their shapes, and knew what the specific curve of each one hid. He did not wear a mask. He had nothing to hide. However, he was more mysterious and confusing than other people, simply because he was so transparent. With no mask, other people had no idea how to grasp his essence.

The door opened. A young girl stepped through the door and into the pool of light from the window. He watched her closely, already planning a mask. She had impersonal blue eyes, but hidden beneath them was a sea of simmering fear. He body posture was calm, collected, and assured. Her long hair looked like it was used to hiding her face. She looked into his eyes, then spoke.

“I need a mask.”

He scanned her body again, for clues. He turned up nothing. “What for?”

She glanced away for a second. “Apparently other people are not comfortable with my social awkwardness.”

She seemed deeply drawn into her own world, fascinated by what she saw there, and yet, attuned to the external world in a unique way.

“You do know that if you wear a mask, while it will limit other people's perception of you, it will also limit your perception of the world.”

“I know.” She paused, and stared into space, her mind running through past experiences from this new perspective. “I know. I have seen it in others, all the time. I'm optimistic that they can see more than they let on, but that they just feel like they must follow through with their mask. Sometimes, though, I find that hard to believe. I...“ She thought again. “I would not want to give up that ability for anything. I would have to tear the mask off if I wore it too much. And then, that would come as a shock to people who know me.”

“I think you have your answer then.”

She looked him in the eyes. She nodded, but said “I might be back.” The door gently shut as she stepped out.

He doubted that he would ever see her again.  

The End

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