essays by shé

Essay #32: masks

Last October, I drove to Arcata, where my brother was living, to rendezvous with my father. I hadn’t seen him in 11 years.

While I was gone, someone burgled my loft. They dumped out a duffel bag and filled it with art supplies, jewelry findings, and a wooden sewing box containing a rose-gold bracelet my grandmother gave me.

Last week, almost a year later, I realized they had also taken my masks: two outrageously feathered and sequined mardi gras masks from my mother – one blue, one red; another, made by a fiber artist friend, with intricate paper flowers; and a black, beaded store-bought mask with opalescent feathers dripping down.

To recap? I went to see my father and lost all my masks.
It’s hard to get more metaphorical than this.

“Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth,” says Elizabeth Gilbert’s friend, quoted in the book Eat Pray Love.

After Emmett died, I found it easier to tell the truth. I had nothing to lose.
Don’t get me wrong, I still get anxious, depending on the topic and the person I’m talking to, but I just got so damn tired of holding up a mask.

I dropped the ill-fitting perfect-daughter mask, the perfect-worker mask, the everything’s-fine mask, and the mask with no mouth that doesn’t allow me to say No.

Without one, I can breathe easier and see better.
And – holy cow! – people can see me, which hasn’t been as bad as I anticipated. Has actually been healing.

What a relief that someone came and took them away. And to find out I don’t need them after all.




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