There’s a place, a city in a faraway country, where everyone wears masks everyday. Businessmen rise from their beds and put on their mask so that they can go to work. Teenagers heading to the beach put on a mask before joining with their friends. No two masks are the same, and there are many different kinds. Masks for children and masks for adults, masks for women and for men. Masks for the rich, for the poor, for artists, for managers and cabbies and doormen and plumbers and scientists.
It started centuries ago, when a particularly frightened and insecure young woman decided to hide her face so that no one would know what she looked like, so that she would always have a part of her that was owned by only herself. She created such a beautiful mask that she immediately became popular. Soon everyone wanted to wear a mask. It became the height of fashion. After years and years of mask-wearing, people found it comforting to know that there would always be one thing that was completely and utterly private, secret. Fashion became tradition, and tradition became mandatory. But life is not so different when one wears a mask.
When two compatible people meet, they will talk, laugh, make dinner plans, connect, share emotions and past experiences and fears and loves and eccentricities. Time will come when they make love, and they must show their face. Love made in mask is clumsy and awkward at best.
Some take off their masks gingerly, as if it were a bandage, as if a too aggressive movement would reveal an unsightly blemish or birthmark. Some rip their mask from their face in a fit of excitement. Regardless, there will be an awkward silence when both masks have been removed, but the organic engines of desire will soon overcome them. When they are done, or when the sunlight shines between them, the new lovers will return their masks to their faces and go about life in the usual way. They will count the minutes until they are able to bare their faces again.
Parents, having placed a mask on their child’s face at a young age, will never know what their child looks like underneath that mask. It becomes the face. They will watch with pride and disappointment and joy and horror as the mask changes throughout the years. It is an old custom that before the parent dies, children will often remove their mask for the parents, as if to say, “This is the person you created. This is my face.” If the child is angry at the parent, they will never remove their mask for them, and will often regret it for the rest of their life.
When you come to this city, you will be looked at with strange glances for your bare face. But don’t worry, because as soon as you walk into a mask shop, the artisans will look at your face and instantly and in unison know which mask is right for you. They are the few people who are allowed to see people without their masks. It is a rare honor.
In fact, mask-makers rarely wear masks themselves. They are artists as well as artisans: they need to sense the world around them completely unencumbered. There are many kinds of mask-makers in this city, and also the rest of the world. They rarely look alike in the general, but when one looks into their eyes, one can easily see… something. Something indiscernible. Well. one can never really see when one is wearing a mask.
As you leave the city of masks, leaving the bridges and overpasses and parks with their citizens and their laughter and their taverns, you will take off your mask and maybe catch a glimpse of your face in a passing stream or the window of the train you’re riding on. You will notice your eyebrows and your lips, the curve of your nose, the precise color of your eyes. And you will wonder why you dared cover up such a thing to begin with.
Created: Dec 26, 2009Document Media