“Is there anything behind my mask” he asked himself, wondering whether, if he were writing this, the phrase should have been enclosed in quotation marks.
Had there ever been anything behind his mask?
He seemed to remember that once there’d been a great deal. Once, when most things had been safely abed in the softly yielding world of the inchoate, or, he then wondered, “was that before he’d been born, when he’d been safely ensconced inside of his mother’s womb”?
If a mask, it was a changing thing, dynamic in a negative way. “Yes”, changing quite a bit, getting older, fading, wrinkling, becoming less relevant. “Strange”, he observed, that as one grew wiser, more full of knowledge and experience, one was perceived by those one had parented as more and more foolish and less and less relevant. History seemed to claim that at some point way back when, that had been different and age had been associated with wisdom, and decisions had been made by the wise, but that was probably an inverse temporal mirage, “way back when” a mythical time never to be approached.
He smiled recalling when the shoe had been on the other foot. How much wiser he’d felt way back, well, not quite when, but way back, … back in the sixties when we had all the answers and the “times they were a ‘changing and “you’d better start swimming” (“you” now being “they” or “them”) or you’ll sink like a stone ….” And he wondered at the mask he then wore, and the masks that surrounded him, and the masks of those then so out of touch.
Then he wondered about other people, those whom he knew, those he read about, those he saw on television, and he wondered whether there was a difference in that regard between television personalities who claimed to be real and those who knew their characters were fictional, and then wondered which of the two were most real? Certainly not the journalists, but that was another theme, another story, an anti-reality of sorts.
Masks and faces and masks. He recalled reading about the handicapper general in Kurt Vonnegut´s prescient 1961 novel, “Harrison Bergeron”, and wondered why it wasn’t mentioned in the same breath as George Orwell’s paeans to dystopia, “Animal Farm” and “1984”? They should have been the three musketeers of Cassandric literature he thought, but then, who the hell was he to ask?
“Cassandra”, hmmm, … the Trojan seeress and princess who was always right but never heeded, was she a mask as well?
Interesting that now everyone in fact had to wear a mask. Protection against the pandemic, perhaps a permanent new style given that it might never recede, at least until the Democrats attained the presidency, and the Senate, and the House, and the Supreme Court, and all the state governments too, and all the local governments, in short, the beneficent dictatorship, and, having thrown the rascals out, all of “them”, or at least all of “them” who would not conform, then, as we’ve been promised, as with Nixon and the Vietnam war, the secret solution would be revealed and we’d all be well. Well, of course, except for the millions who’d died. Bad timing that. And it’ll be off with our masks, at least the evident masks, the ones we’ll be fined if we don’t wear, which is fine with me, I certainly want to avoid the latest plague.
Hmmm, so, … about the ubiquitous “they” and “them”? Were they just masks as well, hollow and empty and perhaps, ephemeral?
He laughed, wondering how many people thought of “him” as one of “them”. He walked to the mirror and stared, imagining all those he’d been and wondering how much of that imagining was remembrance. Was any of it real or had he been born just now, filled with false memories, false emotions, false empathy.
“Or” he pondered, was he the dream of an insane plant, were we all?
Then something strange occurred to him, profoundly sad he thought, but he wasn´t sure. Perhaps it was full of hope given what purported reality had seemingly become. Wouldn’t everything be better if we were in fact all just part of an insane plants nightmare?
But then, he thought, feeling a bit depressed, a bit let down:
What would happen when the plant awoke (or was it woke)?
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He is currently a strategic consultant employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at email@example.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.