Thursday, July 26, 2012

Are You Fine?

Samara G. was the daughter of our English teacher. Students made fun of her because they thought she received easy As from her mother. I admit, I thought it once or twice. She was Puerto Rican and I had a small crush on her. I got nervous whenever she talked to me (the few times that she did.) She had long light brown hair and wore glasses. The prettiest girl I had ever seen. She asked me if she could borrow a pen. The next day, I saw her chewing on it. “Ugh, is that my pen?” She turned red and apologized. I didn’t really care, I was glad I had something to talk to her about. Even if it was about saliva covered pens. The next morning she gave it back. “I put it in some boiled water. My mom was like, ‘what are you doing?’ and I said it’s Efrain’s pen and she just walked away confused.” She was smiling and I took it. I was smiling. That’s the only memory I have of her personally.

But she had trouble with the other girls. I don’t quite know the story, but I didn’t even know until Ms. O’Neal told the class one day. She would go home crying every day. I pictured her face in my mind and I was sad that I couldn’t see her pain before. She masked it so well. Almost like she had a clone and they switched places every time she asked to go to the bathroom at the end of the day. In went the fake Samara, the one that wanted to look perfect for the world, and out came the real her. The one that went home crying. 

Then there was another girl. Anissa. She came in the school in the middle of the year. Her new eyes brightened the room as she walked to the back. “You want some gum?” I said. She declined. Only thing I ever said to her, for the very next day she began crying right in the middle of the classroom, right when we were leaving for lunch. We all stood up from our chairs, but she remained seated. Her dark hands covering her face. Her tears and frown distorting her face like a muddy kaleidoscope. She did this almost every day. She didn’t want to speak. Eventually she left, I never saw her again. I wondered what demons had followed her from her old school. The emotional baggage that also transferred with her. The ones she thought stayed in her old locker.

I’ve never seen those two since then. But they always remind me that we all have problems. That the faces that we see in the street, job, or school are never really real. Some just have a more convincing mask than others. Some wear a cheap plastic one with the rubber band on the back, like Samara and Anissa. The ones we wore for Halloween when we were ten. Eventually, the rubber band snaps and we can see the real you. But others use Hollywood-like effects. So convincing that you call them Alex in the street, but when you get closer, you say, “Oh, I thought you were someone else.” And you walk away, but you keep turning your head back because you think it has to be him.  

Demetri Martin: "I was on the street. This guy waved to me, and he came up to me and said , 'I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else.'  And I said, 'I am.' "

I wonder what mask I have. I have my own problems, but I wish I didn’t have to hide them. I wish that when I was sad and someone asked me how I was, I would reply, “Terrible, and you?” Instead of the constant lie of always being fine. No one’s ever fine. Like George Carlin said, “Hair is fine. That makes more sense.” I wish I didn’t have to hide who I really am. To have the innocence of a new born. To them, everything is as it seems. Every person is good in their eyes. Every story book true. But then they grow older and people hurt them. They are lied to. Made fun of. So then they start to fear the world. It’s foggy. They ask their friends, family, and colleagues to fill in the puzzle with the missing pieces. Until the puzzle doesn’t match what’s on the box and instead you have this ugly 50,000 piece puzzle of a question mark. Because they don't really know. They think they do, but they don't. I don't ever want to let someone else put in the pieces for me. 

I want to be naked. Take a shower and cleanse myself of the lies. I don’t want to go home crying. My name is Efrain M. and I am not fine. Sometimes I’m happy. And sometimes I wake up at 3:00 a.m. worrying. But I’m never fine.


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