Removing the Mask
Years later, he would remember that day and wonder why he admired her for her first words to him but continued to wear a mask.
“How’s it going?” were his first words.
“I wish I could tell you things are good, but I’m having a shit day,” were hers.
No details. Where would she start? She felt like a can of soda who had been shaken one too many times. Besides, she didn’t know him. She just smiled.
He smiled back. Not the answer he would have expected. It was like someone snapped the top of a soda can. Cool and refreshing.
“I hope things get better,” he offered.
“Me, too,” she replied.
The mild catharsis of her response made her feel a bit lighter. Not marathon lighter, not even tread mill lighter, but she did feel like something was working itself out.
He ran over her responses. Who answered a casual question like that? His thoughts raced backward, but they only revealed his question to be rhetorical. They slowed to a walk as he snapped back into the moment.
“Mike,” he said, extending his hand.
“Rachel,” she said, taking his in a short but firm shake.
She was used to walking around without a mask. Not to the point of logorrhea over the personal details of her life, but enough to feel that her life was something other than a costume party.
He was more comfortable in his costume and thought the mask, with its smiling face and wide eyes, made him look open and approachable. He was anything but open, though, and there were differing definitions of approachable. Removing the mask was usually accompanied by an onset of logorrhea that simultaneously felt cathartic and unnecessary.
Back to the present. He looked around his room. There was the mask for work, the mask for family, the mask for friends, and the mask for strangers. He looked at his mask-less face in the mirror. At least he knew what he looked like. He looked a little closer. He should probably shave before work.