The Mask We Wear

Dear Friend,

I took off my mask and laid it aside,
And you didn’t cringe at what you saw.
You didn’t taunt,
You didn’t chide,
You didn’t shudder,
Or turn away from me.

Instead, you sat down by me,
And eased my pain with poor attempts at humour.
You pulled my leg,
Punched my arm,
And displayed those awkward gestures that are second nature to people who’ve never found any acceptance.
But I knew those expressions well.
They’d been familiar companions my entire life.

You didn’t mouth platitudes,
You didn’t quote wisdom borrowed from fortune cookies.
You weren’t a ghastly WhatsApp forward bursting with sunshine and joy,
Any more than you were Facebook’s ‘Inspiration of the Day’ set against a Lily of the Valley.

You didn’t belittle my pain,
Or tell me to rise above it.
You didn’t tell me how your life was more miserable than mine,
Or how I had it better than most people in the world.

You walked into the murky swamp with me,
Sometimes behind me, and sometimes leading me by the hand.
I didn’t have to face my monsters alone.
You stood by me, just as afraid as I was,
But stubbornly resolute and unwilling to abandon me.

Tired, exhausted, broken, when I laid down my arms
You picked them up and pushed them firmly back into my hands.
You gritted your teeth, heaved me up, and set me on my feet
Tottering, wavering, but standing, nonetheless,
Because quitting was just not an option.

And when we made it to the clearing,
The darkness behind us and the light ahead,
We spoke not a word, but exchanged a look that said a lot.

Dear Friend,
I took off my mask and laid it aside
Next to yours
And in our vulnerability, we found the courage to be ourselves.

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