Opposing Moments


“How did you do it? How did you call it again?”

The dishevelled person staring back from the mirror looks nothing like the one who used to be there on so many other occasions… or like the one who can still make an appearance sooner or later. There simply are such mornings, such days… such stages. It might have been a night of crying or a night of drinking and dancing and forgetting, it may have been days and days of exhaustion and despair that have pulled that unrecognizable creature to surface from the depth of one’s being. Those versions of the past and the potential future are simply unavoidable.

It becomes a reflex in most of the cases. Somewhere between several cups of coffee or tee, after all those smoked cigarettes, during those extra moments of applying makeup or whatever other daily rituals, one generally gets one’s face on and they’re once more ready to deal with the world… or at least to hide well enough until they are. We don’t really do it to protect others, or at least we don’t do it only for that particular reason. It’s self-preservation, the need to protect ourselves from the way others might react if they caught a glimpse of all that lurks under that socially acceptable mask. Some do it better; others find it difficult. In the end, it can even be a silent competition – who’s going to fall apart first, whose face will betray them, exposing that creature taunting them from the mirror early in the morning?

“How did you do it? How did you call it again?”

Relationships wear masks as well, not only the people they involve. Silent, sometimes unintentional, sometimes quietly, mutually agreed upon masks. When the mask breaks in two and neither one of those halves can be worn convincingly, you know. You notice the cracks even if you try to look away, so you can “call it”, as my friend put it.

I met recently met a couple I hadn’t seen in a long time. They’re not close friends, just some acquaintances, but it was still nice to see them and catch up. He is a friend of my closest friend; she is his girlfriend. What did I think about them, after all those years, my friend asked… Among many other impressions I was left with after a whole day spent together, I got the feeling their relationship was approaching its end. She would end it, I told my friend. Sure enough, about a week later she informed him she was moving out, my friend told me.

How did I always predict it, he kept asking, as though I was some sort of relationship bad omen. I tend to notice certain details and this wasn’t the first time I had “predicted” such situations. There were cracks in her mask… cracks she was trying to hide, but which were obvious whenever he kept ignoring what she wanted, replacing it with what he thought she should want or with what he needed. Small things, here and there, symptoms of something so much deeper… symptoms he stubbornly ignored. If I – a person who didn’t know her all that well – could notice them, why didn’t he, the man living with for several years? Why was he waiting for everything to fix itself, if he still wanted her to be part of his life, if he still loved her?

But I knew the answer, or at least part of it, because I knew he had behaved the same way in previous relationships. You want the girl, you make an effort and you get the girl. But once you “have” her, that’s it – that is the destination, the final point and from then on there is nothing more that needs to be done. That’s the kind of guy he is… complete with the ability of stubbornly hiding from the fact that she is unhappy. When he forcefully has to accept it, it’s generally too late to do anything to change the outcome… an outcome that breaks his heart once more…

The masks fall – his, hers, theirs – and break into countless pieces. The moment becomes the opposite of what he thought it was. The moment becomes the one she was trying to avoid. The moment no longer inhabits the destination, it becomes yet another beginning – an unwanted and no longer avoidable one.

Many times, the kindest thing you can do is look away from the cracks and allow a person to wear their mask as well as they can… hoping they will show you the same courtesy. But when you share a mask with someone else, staring at the cracks from the inside, what is the best moment to stop ignoring them and start focusing on what they reveal?


In response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Opposites.

10 Replies to “Opposing Moments”

  1. Ana – again I love your counselor wisdom and social intelligence –
    And I feel bad for folks who never are able to move beyond their masks -I know people can have natural seasons of healthy mask wearing – you know where they are moving through changes in identify or core belief systems –
    But so sad that many folks cannot evolve and grow out of this….
    And it takes healthy accountability and whatnot
    – but your post was so rich on many levels – like the opening part about the person waking up and the scene you give us is brilliant – and I want to watch the praise – ha! But the image is so clear!
    Also – cool photo to go with this post and the wpc theme!
    And this post reminded of Paul Klee’s “broken mask” piece – ttys!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The issue is so complex… it fascinates me in some ways, that’s why I’ve touched on the subject before and most likely I will do it again in the future. I took these photos earlier this year and something like this was what came to mind – façade, mask, appearances, work in progress…
      Anyway, you’re the counsellor 😉 I just observe and often have more opinions than I probably should… but that comes with a lot less responsibility 🙂 .
      And I like the Paul Klee reference, I haven’t thought of it, but now that you mentioned it… 😉

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      1. 😉 humans can be so layered Are t times – and the other day this new comedy show was on called “Angie Tribeca” – I was doing misc and caught bits and pieces – and one scene had this married couple talking to the detective (comic mind you) and this couple started berating each other (directly exchanging looks and put downs) – that scene reminded us of Denver where we briefly remembered this couple from the 90s who sorta did this “indirect Berating” – and Ana – guess what? They divorced a year or so after we moved away!
        And so when you oh said that about the couple – well it is amazing what can be picked up on (so we can “call it”) –

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Some things become more obvious if seen from the outside. As mere observers we have no reasons to avoid noticing what’s right under our noses 🙂 .
          It works great in a comedy show, but I always considered it’s a bad idea to put down your partner in real life, in front of an audience (I’m not talking about light banter, that everybody knows and perceives as such, of course, we can still hold on to our sense of humour). There’s a time and a place for sorting out personal issues and humiliating a person like that won’t help.

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