In the locked box under the loose boards of her bed, hide her masks. Every morning, she locks the door, preys away the board, and pulls out the box. She slides her hand under her shirt and pulls on the chain that hangs over her chest. She unlocks the box and lays each mask on her bed, careful to not tear the thin material.
Some days she puts on the first mask. She looks at herself in the mirror and pulls out her paints. She makes sure the red of the lips hasn’t faded by covering it with another layer of red. She outlines the black holes of the eyes with white so no one focuses on her red eyes. She squints at the mirror and wonders if the carved smile is visible enough. She grabs a pair of scissors and traces over the smile. She doesn’t mind if she cuts her skin too. She traces over every golden swirl to assure that they will distract wandering eyes from the tears running down her neck. She looks at her reflection and doesn’t see herself, so she heads out to school.
Some days she’ll put on the second mask. She grabs the white face with the soft smile and holds it over her face. She has trouble tying the strings behind her head to keep the mask tight. She asks her mother to tie the strings. Her mother doesn’t mind; they’re both wearing the same mask. She looks at herself in the mirror. Pleasant. Unrecognizable. Perhaps one day she’ll wear another mask, a brighter decorated mask, to the same place. She walks to the door and heads to the house of a neighbor or a nice stranger.
The third mask doesn’t look like a mask. It is latex skin. Carefully placed freckles give color to the clear skin. She covers the back with adhesive and presses it over her skin. She grabs her makeup and covers the rough edges until the mask blends into her skin. She puts white contacts to hide the red of her eyes. She cries from time to time in the mask to complete the illusion of not wearing a mask. She looks at herself in her mirror. No one could tell that her skin wasn’t hers.
The last makes she’ll wear only with people she trusts. It is nothing but an opaque piece of plastic. She hangs it over her face like a veil and attaches it with pins to her hair. She tries to look at her reflection but behind the plastic, she can’t. She doesn’t shush herself when she cries in the mask. She screams behind it. She hopes that someone will hear her, someone will understand how blind she is. She wants someone to lift the veil and see her the way she is scared to see herself.
At night she opens the box again and slides off the mask. She places it in the box and locks it. She hides the box under the wooden board. Before she slides into bed, she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Scars cover her entire face, some small, some gaping. Her eyes are dark from the constant tears. She covers her face and slides her hand under her shirt. She feels the beating of her heart and wonders if she’ll ever be able to shed those masks, see her for who she is and throw away the key that covers her heart.