I can't feel my face
searching for fire
victim of the cold heart
empty burning in the snow
every brisk breeze needles on my skin
I woke up this morning and punched myself, right fist across right cheek. It didn’t hurt, I was already angry. Waking up beside Klint, the love of my life that doesn’t acknowledge my presence while he is on Facebook looking for the next love of his life. I pretend I don’t notice, but I do. It doesn’t make it any easier that last night when I came home from a 10-hour day at my corporate robot job, I found a pair of XS lacey black underwear beneath the bedside table that he and I painted together six long months ago. I hid them and pretended they were mine from when I was 16.
I threw my black curls into a knot on my head and put on the least amount of makeup required for me to look awake and presentable, paying extra attention to covering the bruise I left on my right cheek. I put on a potato sack of a dress to cover my curves along with a pair of sensible black flats.
“Time to go to hell,” I chuckled, attempting to joke with Klint.
“It could be worse,” he tells me, making me feel bad for pitying myself to begin with.
“Yeah, I could be dead,” I said sarcastically.
On my hour drive to work, Klint called. He made it all better. He told me how beautiful I looked before I left for work, he told me how much he loves me and gave me a pep talk about how to get through my long workday. This makes it all better and worthwhile. This gives me a reason to keep pushing through.
I scanned my key fob into my corporate hellhole.
“Hey Michelle! How are you doing today?” The secretary asked with a big smile on her face.
“I am just wonderful, Miss Wanda. How was bingo last night?” I asked smiling, full of interest in her 82-year-old life.
This is my work mask where I’m a team player, I’m there to get my work done and be sweet along the way. I’m there to be the employee they all want me to be.
I float through the workday the best I can while people talk about their insignificant lives, and insignificant facts about the world while I am sitting there trying to get work done for a company that has no clue what my name is. I am a slave to the man and to society all because I need to pay for food to eat to live. It’s cruel, but as Klint says, it could be worse. I just enjoy the self-pity.
Finally, the clock strikes 5:30pm and I leave corporate world and zip back into the life of whoever I am. The quiet drive home makes me think about what mask I am wearing when I drive. It’s me, by myself. Who am I? Who is “Michelle?” I don’t smile at each passerby. I don’t wave when people let me over. I just drive and enjoy the silence. I am not a person I don’t want to be at that moment.
Klint and I meet at my grandma’s house for dinner with my family. This is where we wear our relationship mask. Together, we appear to have it all together. Married for two years, live in a beautiful home in a great neighborhood, both of us have well-paying jobs. We talk about how we went to Colorado last month for a work convention, leaving out the incessant fighting we did the whole time. Klint talks about how great his work has been going and how business is booming, and my family smiles at how amazing and charming he is. My dad looks at me and asks how I have been doing at work. I tell him it has been great, because I can’t complain but I’m not happy either. It’s just what I do so I can eat. Klint has offered for me to quit my job, but then I loose the little amount of freedom I have with my own money. Then comes my mom, constantly asking us when we are going to give her grandkids. The answer is never, but we let her think it is still a possibility just so she doesn’t have an early death.
When we leave, we still have some of our relationship mask on, so we hold hands on the way home and talk about how stupid we have been for fighting so much. He kisses me and touches me on my inner thigh giving me his look. At the house, we go inside and on our way to the bedroom I almost automatically point out the tower of dishes he made that day. I yell. He pushes me away and goes on Facebook, wearing his mask. I do the dishes and try to figure out what mask to wear next.