All Our False Faces

by Victor D Sandiego | Published: Sep 05, 2023

Night. Always night. We applied our masks, raised the curtain, crossed a stage and recited our lines. Instructed words, foretold. Within a dream within a conviction that a thespian forgery of life must upstage the ashen reality we performed outside the confines of the theater.

A play with three acts. Performed to perfection. In silence we thanked the audience as they in cacophony applauded our bows. Forever driven to the accolades of a faithless public. Tragedy. Comedy. Death and becoming. For two hours, we birthed distraction from our human isolation, allowed them and us to briefly both escape.

The curtain dropped. House lights came up. We removed our outer false faces and called out good job and nice crowd tonight. But as our recital in the theater was fiction, so was our ritual duty of blessings. We produced imaginary scenes in imaginary worlds with imaginary words. Only thing real was our avoidance of reality.

Tomorrow another show, another bid to please an exhausted world. I washed my inner false face, dressed in street clothes, left my castmates, exited the theater, walked an hourfull of city blocks to the home of my beloved.

She hung there still, a death shroud portrait upon the wall. Resplendent in the same Victorian dress she had worn on the last night we composed our love before her sickness grew bold. It wasn’t a reunion. A rather goodbye. And I couldn’t stay. Schedules to meet. A reckoning with truth beyond the stage door. A confession that my life outside the theater was also false.

I took her car. She had no say. Or didn’t say because night darktumbled from God’s hand and streetlights glowered. It doesn’t need to make sense. A gun on the mantle must be discharged before the final stage light fades, but not even the playwright knows the bullet target until the script is laid to rest. Ashes of failures, one heap upon another. Blind soldiers marching to the gunner’s nest.

I drove, soon was lost. The streets intersected in patterns I could not grasp. And the signs, though legible, bore no significance. My city, my beautiful sanctuary. I had crossed its stage over and over until each path bloomed a bloodline. But in this moment, my knowledge unborn. An outsider to my life.

Where must I go? I asked a man in a nightcloaked café. My car on the street, I had entered in hope. Please show me the way.

My hand pointed north but not because I knew it was true. A question. An attempt to prove my compass faithful, that I could still burrow my city and find its hidden holiness, that my arm could at least adopt a stance. Is that the way to my life? I asked.

The man in the café shook his head.

My perished role real, confirmed, my allied extras played their part. These hollow bones of thoughts followed me back to my car. But its tires spun in shallow quicksand, threw their vexation into the wheelwells. Though I believed in traction, it had no faith in me.

A woman stopped her car. I’ll help you, she said, and for a moment I transported to an earlier arena of my life. I had been lost then too and an angel had thrown me a lifeline. An angel had guided me through an abyss and set free my mind.

Different this. An urban scene of a Platonic tragedy outside a café on the city stage. Not only myself but a hundred thousand souls lost in isolation. In poverty and desperation. My small suffering could not compare. An actor who declaimed words of another. Consummate words not my own. The player a mere shadow of the creator.

Get in, the woman said. She slid over. You drive.

With unfamiliar hands I drove us to the fringes of the city where industrial streetlights sprawl. Yellowish incandescence provided a milky promise of prosperity on the loading docks.

Where are we going? I asked.

Turn right at the bottom of hill.

To spin the wheel. To have no choice. To follow unmapped streets in search of my warrant. The woman told me left. Then told me right. We wove deeper into the silent industrial corpus, a Goliath without a David, my voice without a mouth.

Lost within the labyrinth of my uncertainty. This maze of streets. I drove on, bested by my barren choices. A crawl through an urban earth in search of God and my lung laced with suffocation.

The woman. My only guide, my final deliverance. Now, over there, she said, her finger extended. There we peel our disguised faces. There our final stage conducts us and strips us of deception.

Stop, she said. Get out. Now stand in the light. Here, in this spectacular light.

And light fell down upon me. More than my eyes could see.

Now, said the woman. Remove all your false faces. Turn from the audience of fools. It’s time to reap the reward of the light, to praise this most singular opening night.

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