by Kurt Newton
When Mercedes first came up with her mad cross-promotional scheme to showcase writers and artists wearing masks, I admit I thought it was a bit silly, a variation on the child’s game of dress-up.
But as the weeks unfolded, and Mercedes’ blog presented people in gas masks, clown masks, masquerade masks, even a World War II deep-sea diver’s helmet, I began to realize just why I was reluctant to participate.
Masks scare me.
These blatant misrepresentations of oneself, ironically, exposed for me the subtle, near-invisible masks we all wear on a daily basis. None of us are truly who we present ourselves to be…
The church-going family man who goes hunting with “the boys” every other weekend, in reality belongs to a private militia preparing for the believed impending race war…
The next-door neighbor who politely waves from his well-groomed lawn, but behind closed doors eyes your children with unnatural intent…
The woman who lies next to her husband at night, the memory of her lover still fresh between her legs, the mask of her fidelity carefully affixed…
What scares me isn’t the lie or the falsehood. What scares me is the truth behind that lie, the face behind the mask.
But not all masks are hiding something evil. The truth is we wear many faces, many masks. The mask we wear at our workplace is not the same as the one we wear at home. There’s a mask reserved for loved ones and one reserved for those whom we despise. Masks to hide our excitement, our nervousness, our sadness, our grief. All are necessary if we are to navigate through this society we live in.
But I couldn’t bring myself to slip a mask over my face and take a picture. The safety, the comfort — the freedom — of that simple act might have brought forth something perhaps I did not want to see reflected in my eyes.
So I chose a photograph of myself instead. I manipulated the shading, colors and contrast to produce four images. At least, that way, my eyes could not change.
Or so I believed.
If you look closely (something which I now refuse to do), you will see four different sets of eyes staring back at you. One of which is me…the other three I do not recognize.
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