Fiction

Mask

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 FICTION











Mask  
by Daniel Hayes  



At the time it was nothing new: I’d gone through this
before — pulling down the boxes of old photographs, shuffling through them, achieving some semblance of order. Handing
them over, one by one, to the new boyfriend. Sometimes the boyfriend would show a
modicum of curiosity — he’d nod his head gravely, using two hands with a particular picture,
pinching his mouth into a paltry smile — and sometimes not. Sometimes I’d try to
resist the temptation to initiate this ritual — the boxes, the open exhibition of my entire,
photographed life, the subtle test of the new boyfriend — but I was never really up for
stopping myself, any more than I’d been able to stop myself, just minutes before, from
allowing this Josh or Martin or Todd or Chuck or Tony to squeeze my breasts, get into
my pants, stick his fingers inside me, and then, eventually, his larger self. While other
girls I knew insisted on gifts or flowers or excessive, exhausting foreplay to shore up the
illusion beforehand, I typically fucked the boys first and then, as in an act of reckoning
(or was it revenge?), wheeled out the boxes of photographs. With the semen still oozing
from their dicks, I wanted them to at least see who I’d once been — a succession of
selves. This is me, this is me, this is me.


    

By the way, I should mention that by myself I take no pleasure in looking at these
pictures. Alone on a cold night with the logs aflame and Bessie Smith on the stereo, I
wouldn’t once think of bringing those unruly mounds of photographs out of the closet.
Predictably, I guess, I only wanted to do it with someone else, and what I really wanted
was for the new boyfriend in question to take an interest in me, in my past, where I’d
been and how things had unfolded and what I’d looked like in my awkward adolescence,
my blissful childhood. I wanted him to see the whole story, right from the beginning.
(One of my favorite pictures: my mother, wearing an improbably bright red skirt, holding
me in her arms in front of our house when I was just five days old and had a face like
cookie dough.) Maybe I wanted the new boyfriend to see what he was getting into —
the legacy, as it were, assuming that the past somehow added up and foretold the future.
Or maybe I couldn’t help giving up the idea of a man wanting to devour each and every
picture — the whole set like a box of exquisite chocolates. Insisting that I hand him more
and more. Poking out his lips in disappointment after being handed the very last one.
I’m sorry, my love, but you have every piece of me. No more.


    

Needless to say — or needless to say if you’d happened to have lived with me for
your entire life — the disappointment was always, first and foremost, mine. Often I had
the feeling, right then and there in seeing the new boyfriend’s reaction, that I’d made a
mistake. Not just in showing the pictures but in ever having let this particular idiot have
his way with me and my body in the first place. What had I signed up for? And maybe
most disturbing was how the new boyfriend was always, on a relative scale, most curious
about the most recent pictures, the ones closest to his sphere of influence. Often he
seemed more interested in the ex-idiots, showing up in the pictures like a cast of cardboard
cut-outs, than in me. Where did you meet the guy? Was it weird going out with
someone bald? How long were you with him? Did you like sleeping with him? Do you
usually like guys with pony tails? What did he do for a living? Did you like sleeping with
him?
But as we dug deeper into the box, down into the years of high school, junior
high, and even before, the new boyfriend might barely touch the corner of each picture
before dropping it back in the box. No apparent interest, a few stray comments about
orthodontics or the length of dresses or the make of the family car in front of which,
poised for perpetuity, I stood. What was disturbing to me was the lack of manners, the
failure to even act interested; I ended up wanting to retrieve each picture and
shove it back in his face and, like a mother, demand a disingenuous, polite comment for
the neighbors. After all, I’d put on a mask for him, and so why couldn’t he return the
favor?


©1999
Daniel Hayes and Nerve.com