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The Mask
prose [ ]

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by [nedix ]

2010-04-27  |     | 

The other day I was at a party. It was one of my friend’s birthday and the idea of the party just sprung out of nowhere. He wasn’t quite in the mood for it but he got carried away and in a burst of energy, he said: “Let’s all go out for a drink”. Of course, the idea was received with cheers and Hip-hip hooray by the gang; so we immediately jumped in the cars and stormed to the closest bar. On the way, while chasing the Green of the stoplights, we overloaded the GSM network with messages and calls to the other friends, spreading the news of the party. Of course, some of them started asking and complaining. X was asking “Where is the bar, I’ve never heard of it” while Y, more concerned about our friend was complaining: “Why didn’t you let me know earlier, now what am I supposed to bring as a gift? The only thing opened is the T Supermarket; shall I gift him with a 6-pack or a kilo of tomatoes? Or maybe a vacuum cleaner is a good idea?” Crazy gang … I just said “Bring yourselves; it should be enough as a gift”.

Never the less, in a little bit more than a half an hour we were all gathered in a bar, drinking, having fun and celebrating our friend. Some others joined and soon we were quite a big crowd, with mixed nationalities and cultures. I couldn’t help myself from smiling. Almost each and everyone was playing a game, was wearing some sort of a mask, and trying to impress the opposite sex. And I couldn’t help myself thinking of the great absent of the party, at least from my point of view, Ned.

Thinking about masks, these virtual attitudes we use from time to time to cover our inner selves, our fears and concerns, our feelings or joy, I remembered a chapter in Ned’s life, Ned, one the masters in creating masks that were molded onto his personality so well that you couldn’t see any difference. For the sake of story and sadly, lacking the imagination, I will call this the Mask.
Many years ago, my friend Ned decided that he should have a long trip around his own life, the kind of trip that resembles the pilgrimage, the enlightened trip of the believers to a sacred place. I have asked him back then “Why, Ned? Why are you doing this?” The answer surprised me yet I was expecting that from Ned: “Because I feel I’m dying inside. My well of feelings is drying up, and all I get lately are muddy, murky, sad and filthy feelings. I’m slowly sinking in this pool of common beliefs and peculiar feelings that seem to erode my inner self, turning me in a dumb product of our times”.
From the expression on my face, it seemed that I was the one of the products of our times. “Are you playing dumb? Because if you do then you should know you’re very good at it” said Ned looking at me. Well, I have to admit Ned is one of a kind. Among other things, he can give shapes to the most crazy feelings and thoughts. He heard a song once and he fell in love with the singer though he had never seen her. He just liked how she was pronouncing the words “road rage”. Don’t get into ideas; the song was quite happy actually. And Ned gave shape to the voice. He dressed it with flesh and blood, he built a body around it, he pictured the height, the legs, the arms, even the color of her hair; he gave that voice a personality and a story and most important, a past and a future. In a funny way he gave that voice a life and then he stole it, making it his own.
Where was I? Oh, Ned telling me about a pilgrimage he wanted to take to regain the strength of his feelings. So he did in such a way that he got a long vacation from his high-tech and structured job and he left. He simply got in the train one sunny morning and he left. While I was still waving at the train, standing alone on the railway’s platform, his words were still echoing in my head: “My dear friend, this is a journey I have to have on my own. I will build up a mask that will shape my feelings that I still have and I will make it more colorful than ever.”
“Why do you need a Mask Ned?” I asked.
“Because I need to please all my different personalities that lurk inside me, to feed all the shades of my feelings till they start tingling” he said with a mysterious smile.

And so he left, disappearing for more than a couple of months. He returned, and I was waiting for him on the same platform, in the same train station, eager to hear his stories. He came back tired, slimmer (good thing actually about a trip) and with a spark in his eyes that said it all: he succeeded. He succeeded in gaining strength in his feelings, he cured himself. We sat down later on and he started telling me the story of his trip.

“You do remember the day I left, don’t you? It was a sunny yet a bit chilly morning, the perfect frame, a gorgeous setup for beginning a journey that you know it will clean up your feelings from the toxic and sickening common, a setup that will make them vibrant again. I was smiling not because I felt good about it but I was smiling to the sun that was greeting me and wishing me good luck in my journey. I was smiling to my memories from the future that I was about to have.
I didn’t choose a city for my experience; I’ve played Faith’s game of randomness so I got off the train few hours later in the city B, having no idea where to go to. While still hanging on this question mark my eyes stopped on a billboard advertising the construction of another mall in the city. “Well, I said to myself, they are bound to need even unqualified workers for this job”. So I took off to the construction site.

A lazy breeze greeted me upon arrival; it was the breeze of the unexpected, bringing the freshness of the unknown. I was lucky enough to spot pretty quickly some temporary offices where I could find a bored, sweat and overpaid HR manager, eager for another day to end which will bring him closer to the fat paycheck he was getting. He treated my with such superiority, worthy of a Harvard graduate, that broadened the smile on my face.
“What can you do?” he asked.
“Well sir, I’m skilled in all kinds of stuff, I can do almost anything, I replied carefully trying to hide my actual job and trying to look as humble as possible”.
“Yeah right”, he said. “I know your kind; you’re nothing but low-lives roaming around not doing anything but working using brute force and drinking till you drop, having neither guts nor brains to do something else to evolve”.
He kept posing in a father figure yet he was so shallow that it was so easy to see the threads of the mask he was trying to wear. I took my face number 47, the one with which I look dumber than a sheep, and I pretended I listen ever so carefully what he preached. Yet I was thinking: “How pinky the life looks like when seen through the company’s car, which by “accident” is a Mercedes?” It seemed in this character’s situation it was very pink. I did however run through the ordeal of a useless preachment because for some reason I felt I should be there. It was something about that place, something in the air, a fetid and old breeze, an ancient stench that smelled so primitive, so pure and raw, that as weird as it may sound, I couldn’t resist.
It seems however that my management courses and people skills acquired along the years have paid off since in a matter of minutes, the ghoul said with smirk on his face “You’re hired”. I couldn’t help but smiling when signing the required papers at his assistance’s desk, who by the way, seemed to be a beautiful and voluptuous woman but in her young age which probably was somewhere in the Cretaceous.

The following months, continued Ned, have been an endless row of brute and exhausting work, agonizing nightmares and crude happiness. The construction crew barely graduated high-school, which seemed ages ago and most of them were talking through a mist of alcohol though it was strictly forbidden to drink during the shift. Rough people, used to hard working, spending most of their lives in construction sites, rented like livestock to different companies.
As a new comer, you realize that I’ve started with all the shitty chores, from washing the closets to carrying sacks of cement and loading sand with a shovel in trucks; I’ve had muscles hurting me in places I never knew existed, and very often I’ve had the impression I could tie my shoe-laces without bending. Hard, exhausting and repetitive work that can easily break the spirit of the so-called modern man, yet it seemed it had no impact on the crew. Day-in, day-out, raising the building, verbally abused, mentally destroyed and physically exhausted I was telling to myself almost everyday that I won’t make it to the next day. Countless times I just threw away the shovel or whatever tool I was using and quit, unable to deal with the difficulties I was facing. Yet, something inside of me was stopping me of doing that every time.

In time, I’ve learned how to clear my mind, how to let go of the pain and started to enjoy little things that we usually take for granted: the sun in the sky, the wind’s whisper, the bird’s chirping. I’ve started looking closer to the crew, seeing that each had its own place in an unwritten hierarchy: the Alpha – the most experienced guy, grayed hair giving advises every time, the Bully – frustrated creation of nature, who was ready to start a fight even while sleeping, the Inventor – smart guy, inventing all sorts of gadgets, the Joker – every time ready to pull a joke on someone, the first impression you had about this guy (and also the last) was that he was unreliable, the Con – ex-convict, tattooed with a weird shape in his right arm, always saying some other reason for why he did time, the Womanizer – always ready to jump in bed with a ho (or not), always telling stories about his ladies, calling all of them the “love of his life”, the Gambler – for whom the story goes the he lost his car and his house at a game of poker, losing with a four-of-a-kind against a royal flush, the Chatter, the Curious, the Lazy, and many others. I cannot say for sure who was the Drinker since all of them seemed to drink alcohol as water. I swear waking up after a drinking “session” plus a good sleep it was still not legal for them to drive; as the word goes, they didn’t have alcohol in blood, it was the other way around. I used to think of myself as a fair drinker but these guys were way ahead of me!

In time they accepted me as one of their own, naming me the Quiet and baptizing me by throwing me in wet cement; weird sense of humor that I still fail to fully understand. They did a good job though cleaning me up using a hydrant hose that made me feel like I was constantly beaten up by boxers.

A guy in particular I would like to talk to you about; the Joker. As I mentioned before, he didn’t look even remotely reliable, I was even suspecting the guy that had a mental disorder or something. Simply said, you just couldn’t rely on what he was saying. Most of the times his jokes were good but sometimes you just felt like cracking his head open when he was talking. On top of all, this character, this human device, didn’t have an On-Off button so it was close to impossible to stop him from chattering.

One day, on the other sidewalk, two ladies were walking by. They were indeed fine specimens of the female gender: not that young anymore, long tanned legs, sun glasses, very short skirts, in other words – the works, yet way to much make-up, cleavage to the belly, very revealing. They were “cougars”, bored probably of shopping and spending their sponsor’s money, thinking in their dumb heads that it could be a funny idea to tease a faint-hearted construction crew. Of course that when they showed up, the entire activity stopped and the guys were drooling all over the place, whistling, and speaking obscene words to them, words that didn’t seem to bother that much the two “cougars”. I was on an upper deck with the Joker, watching this sick show, scabrous display of basic instincts.

In all that noise, I’ve heard the Joker muttering a phrase that not only took me a while to realize it was in Latin but also shocked me: Sic transit Gloria mundi.

------------ The Joker

I couldn’t believe my ears. I, Ned, was sitting next to this joke of a guy saying one of the most famous quotes of Christian popes. What was this so famous quote doing in this guy’s breath? I turned to him and had a closer look. He looked different; the wrinkles on his face were different than usual, the expression in his eyes was something I’ve never seen. Even his hair looked grayer, and he looked really old now. I was like he just got out from the endless mill of time. There I stood in shock.

Sensing my look upon him, he also turned to me and I saw the ever saddest expression on any one’s face. There was no longer the guy I used to know, the guy I was working together with for the past months. Did you ever have the feeling of that split second when something happened or it is about to happen and you don’t know if you will laugh or cry? Well, I was exactly here, concluded Ned.

‘Countless times I’ve been there my friend’ I thought for myself. But quite often it happens that you choose to laugh and end up crying. As I always say: Life has a weird way of showing you the mistakes you make and the consequences of the steps you take.

And so I asked him, continued Ned. How come are you saying this? What’s the connection between this and that? What followed got even me by surprise.
‘You do know what it means, don’t you?’ said the Joker. ‘I know you’re posing into a low life worker but you’re far from that. It’s too oblivious that you don’t quite belong here, your attitude is different, the vocabulary, the tone of your voice is out of our little construction world, even your fingernails are betraying you. For who has eyes to see, for who is able to see, the pilgrimage you’re in is quite clear’.
‘I froze’ said Ned. ‘I could almost see the pointing finger and hear the sardonic laughs of the crew’.
‘Don’t worry’ the Joker said reading my mind. ‘You’re safe; I understand what you’re going through and I can even feel your pain. You’re hurt my friend and this is supposed to be a patch for your soul, a healing process that has to follow its own course. You’ve come a long way and you have an even longer one to reach the place you want to end up. Mind you though, it’s a perilous journey, dotted about with things you can’t imagine now. You’ll be hurt even more than you are now, and even if the saying “What does not kill you makes you stronger” sounds rusted and cliché, it still holds some truth in it. It’s a journey that you will want to be endless, a journey in which aside the bad things you’ll experience, you’ll also enjoy the beauties that will offer’.
‘The amazed and silent shout in my eyes’ said Ned ‘made him continue’.
‘Look around you’ pointed out the Joker. ‘What do you see? I believe you have the correct glasses to see beyond the obvious. Sic transit Gloria mundi - Thus passes the Glory of the world; if it doesn’t, we’re making it happen. The quote was used when a new pope was canonized and its message is that everything that surrounds us, be it material or life, will be gone one day. What do we leave behind? I’m not even mentioning the damage we did to this planet; I’m talking about how far we’ve worn out the most beautiful thing of our human nature: love.
I think ever since we learned how to walk straight we had two major characteristics in common with all the other species, features that are so beautifully contrasted: reproduction and survival. Along the way, we evolved and I simply cannot hold myself in saying it without a tad of irony in my voice. We refined these basic instincts into something that seems to be stretched beyond imagination.
We took reproduction and added some chemicals here, some hormones there, we added articulated language, voice, words and mixed them together in a big cup of time and we ended up with Love. We took Love and used it in so many beautiful ways. Think about how many abstract things we did with it, think about the statues carved for women and men alike. Working out the crude and cold stone, forcing the iron to obey our will and creative minds we created replicas of ourselves into these primordial elements. And we didn’t stop here.
Remember the paintings, this mad game of colors that we invented also out of love, paintings that are so sublime that you kneel and bow before them. We mastered the colors and enticed our feelings with abstracts or portraits of people we never knew. And we didn’t stop here.
Think about the old odes and poems, which are speaking about Love; masterpieces engraved in endless layers of wood that say over and over again the twisted story of falling in love and dying for it. Wars were fought in the name of love; wars were fought for women that we, the warriors, crude and rough, were in love with. And we didn’t stop here.
We took animal guts and skin and stretched them onto pieces of wood, carved so they can make the sounds we desired. We invented music and we perfected it in chants that tingles our ears and make our soul vibe, music to die for, music to sell your soul for.

And then what did we do? We simply couldn’t stop this flow of creativity that’s driving us; we invented more words to express what we felt, crafted words written with a golden pen dipped in the fountain of our souls, we reinvented the painter’s brush, found new materials to depict ourselves, and created new chords for our ears.
Now, where did we end up? We ended up in the place where we added money to all these, commercialized them, making this entire process of creation a simple routine. And we still call it art, we still call it creativity. Yuck, it makes me sick just thinking of it! We faked everything and when we didn’t have what to fake anymore we turned to us, we faked ourselves. Look around Ned and see fakes at every step you take. Look at the girls on the covers of the fashion magazines and find out that none looks like that in real life. Computerized software and mass-media is feeding us day-in day-out with what to eat, what to wear, what to listen to, how to think, turning us into numb beings, crippled and mentally disabled just for the sake of the profit.
On top of this, we started faking our own lives. We’re fabricating illusions about our relationships and we believe in them. We’re justifying our ignorance by masterminding complex answers and finding excuses for any action we don’t want to take responsibility. Take, for instance, the simple love between a man and a woman. How many can say that it is real love? How many can say that the passion and the fire that bonded them together in the beginning turned stronger into friendship and respect? A lot will say so but if you look closely, you will see it is actually a checklist, mostly checked. I dare you Ned to scratch the surface, to see beyond the social shell. You will see that in most of the relationships something is not going quite well. It could be a small thing, something that can be ignored for the rest of your life; but what if that small thing, that thin crack in the relationship turns into an abyss?
We have invented so many means of communication yet we forgot how to talk to each other. We refined and added complexity to out feelings yet their value goes to none. We don’t know how to express our feelings anymore; we forgot how to say “I Love You”, we’ve obliterated its meaning. We forgot how to honestly smile, more and more the butterflies we feel inside when we’re in love are just mutated moths. We’re praying love with shallow words; we’re diminishing its meaning and power.’

‘I’ve never seen the Joker in such a state’ said Ned. ‘He was all fired up yet having a shadow of bitterness in his eyes. I asked him ‘Joker, what’s wrong? How can you be all of a sudden at 180 degrees of the way I used to know you? Did you even have such feelings?’

‘I’m sure it will sound nutty you and perhaps out of this world’ continued the Joker’ but still, I will tell you. I was always puzzled by how people are not only thinking but also reacting to the unexpected; most are afraid of it and they want to live in a strict and contained environment where almost everything is governed by logic, and most important its predictability. Well, I’d like to consider myself on the opposite side; I embrace the unexpected, I love and I am thrilled by the unknown. Don’t get me wrong, I like having some knowledge about the things that surround me but when it comes for feelings I was always opened, or at least I tried to be opened, to what I didn’t see coming, for what I didn’t plan or expect.
Some say that Love is overrated, that it doesn’t exist anymore, and as I said before we are just walking check-lists and someone is just marking us with a derogative and cruel pencil. To a certain extent I know we all have a checklist prepared in one of our pockets. However, somewhere on the back of my head there is a thought, a feeling, and a bothersome pinch that drives me crazy, which is more important and more beautiful than everything: really falling in love, without having a slight chance to check the list or to remember what was written in it. You see the person and your heart instantly stops, your lungs forget to ask for air and only one thought gets stuck in your mind: “She’s the one”. You realize your hands are shaking and a mist lies on your eyes and you know, oh – how you know, your voice gets a sudden tremor. Oh, how I love to love! One of the craziest feelings, if not the only one, that can make us insanely happy and sometimes, in an instant, deeply depressed.’
‘Were you ever in love Joker?’ I asked.
‘Oh yes, he replied with broad smile. I didn’t see her coming. I didn’t expect to meet her, I didn’t plan for it, yet it happened. I’ve noticed her around, way before we actually got acquainted but I never had a chance to look into her eyes. She was more of a shadow in the corner of my eye, a vision, so quick that I thought of her as an illusion. She was walking past me and for no reason my heart was beating faster and my knees were clay, refusing somehow to obey my will.
I know why I’ve fallen in love: it was because her eyes and her smile, it was because I have found myself smiling at memories of a past that was still in the future, that didn’t even happen yet. Looking at her, seeing the smile in her eyes, a lump made its way up to my throat and in an instant, my feelings and thoughts started galloping towards a future that I definitely loved to happen. I was seeing her smile in the morning, when being a sleepy-head barely being able to open your eyes. I heard her laughter when happy and it became the fuel that drove me to have her laughing forever. I was seeing her crying when upset and took her in my arms, kissing her tears, in an attempt to have her smiling again.
I fell in love with her because I couldn’t define her, I couldn’t quantify what I felt. The checklist I had back then was long gone, obliterated by how she made me feel. Nothing mattered anymore but what I was feeling inside. She made me become a better man, she made me want more from myself; she challenged my soul and my sheer being in growing higher and higher. I’ve had my dream come true and I think of myself as the richest man alive for knowing her and have these feelings for her. Y’know, we’re all constructed in layers, some shallow, some very deep all the way to the core of our being. Not many can brag about the fact that their core was touched, most are still behind some layers, some barriers that they are calling protection; and that’s where the problem is. Hiding, afraid to show their true feelings, end up in a murky relationship, lost in time, decayed; crippled, drowned in a pool of social conveniences and petty checklists they are too scared and too afraid to take their own decisions and do perhaps the most difficult thing in their lives – deal with their own choices. And that my friend, concluded the Joker, is why only few can say they are or were truly in love; because they’ve had the strength to surpass the social imposed boundaries and give in to the true feeling.
‘Joker, what you’re telling me is way off what I am used to hear from you’ I said. I never believed you could be like this, that underneath the irony and sarcasm lays a soul as beautiful as yours. How do you do it? What is the reason for doing it?’

‘Some would call it split personalities’ smiled the Joker’ and some would say it’s adaptation. Look again around you; do you really see an appropriate set-up for such feelings? Of course not, you would be blind if you did. I simply don’t call it at all.’

‘I was still in shock when the Joker turned around and slowly walked away’ continued Ned. ‘I was speechless; my mind was too numb to be able to come out with a decent reply. Perhaps he sensed the dilemma I was in and gracefully let me munch it in peace. The howling and whistling stopped and I took it that the cougars disappeared since the crew was getting back to the usual chores.
I went to my place, with the Joker’s words still echoing in my mind. I’ve had a tough night and I could barely sleep. His peroration about love was coming over and over in my ears. I knew he was right yet I couldn’t help of thinking of the other feature of the human nature: survival. Didn’t we do the same thing? Didn’t we refine this trait up to an unrecognizable feature?
What if we refined this trait into the ugliest human feature – the ability to inflict pain, the urge to make someone else suffer for no reason? I have to admit we are a cruel race. We did indeed fought wars in the name of love but how many wars were fought in the name of a piece of land that didn’t actually belong to anyone? How many cruelties were done in the name of a deity, in the name of a credo that was forcefully imposed? We did discover love in the past but how much time did it have to pass till we considered women equal? And the greatest problem I see is that we took pleasure in it, we enjoyed clubbing the weak to death, and we found ourselves an excuse to do it. We are mean even today, taking this cruelty to a more refined level, going further into our psyche yet keeping it real. How many times weren’t we emotionally blackmailed for taking decisions that weren’t ours? How many times this soft-blunt tool wasn’t used for accepting things that hurt us and destroyed the love we were proud to have inside? How many times our minds weren’t played for achieving a greater good that we didn’t or won’t live to see it true? How many times did we give in a relationship just because we were tricked by the other one who underlined a past and a history that will never really repeat itself? Countless times. Countless times we been lied at and cheated for the simple purpose of being hurt. Countless times we’ve been abused and tormented with words that gave us more pain than the action itself. And we did the same. And we liked it.
These questions and this debate was hurling in my head keeping me awake. It was a clash of contrasts and I was having arguments for either side. Of course, there were shades of gray, I could easily see them, yet I wasn’t interested in them at that time. What the Joker said was too white and I was looking only at the blacks. I couldn’t wait for the next day to meet him again and continue the debate. What was waiting for me was something I could never expect.
The next day I arrived at the construction site a bit later just to find an ambulance on site and the crew with very long faces gathered around muttering something with low voices. Did you ever experience the little thought that hangs at the back of your mind when seeing something like this? When you know something went horribly wrong and the little thought is already telling you what and you don’t want to believe it? Well, it was exactly what I’ve experienced back then; and the blow was that it was all true.
The Joker was dead. Working accident, they said, he was wondering around underneath a crane, when a girder went loose and fell over him, squishing half of his body under its enormous weight, making it one with the ground. I felt the time dilating when they told me this. I was hearing the words, I was recording the sounds but they simply couldn’t make any difference in the deafening noise that these words were making in my head: the Joker was dead. Someone grabbed my arm but I shook it off; stumbling in my own distrust, I ran to the accident place just to see the coroners picking up the remains of what was once the Joker. I shouted, I lost my self control and kneeled crying out his name in vain. His upper body was intact and his blue eyes were still staring at a merciless sky. For a second I had the illusion he was still smiling, but I thought to myself it was just a fabrication of a disturbed state of mind. Tears made their way into my eyes and two people were needed to drag me away from the scene. I couldn’t make a sound for a very long time and the lost look in my eyes said it all.
Couple of days later we gathered to the chapel to mourn the Joker’s departure to the Underworld. It was a small and simple ceremony with only the crew and few other people attending; it could have been the place; it could have been the thought that we’re all goners, but I was all in tears hearing the deafening silence inside me. Saying a final Good Bye to the Joker I couldn’t help noticing he was buried next to another grave, covered by a blanket of flowers having a simple stone at the end. Looking closer I saw a picture of a beautiful woman, a simple name, and a carved epitaph that sent shivers down my spine: “Here lies Love”. I looked around, mind-numbed, trying to put together the pieces I was seeing. Alpha was next to me and by the helpless look in my eyes he figured out the drama I was in. He approached me and said:
‘Yes, there lies Love. I knew the Joker the way you just probably did. I understood him; he had more feelings inside him than all of us put together. I kept quiet about him because I didn’t want to mock a thing as beautiful as his soul.’
‘Who lies there Alpha?’ I asked. My trembling voice, my knees that were not listening to me, my pale skin indulged Alpha in breaking the most shattering news to me.
‘She’s Joker’s Love. She died many years ago and her death broke Joker to pieces. His beautiful soul never stopped loving her ever since and he was simply incapable of loving someone else. He loved her unconditionally, she made Joker a way better men than he was before knowing her. They’ve had the most beautiful love story I’ve ever known and that is something that only the chosen can say they had. They’ve surpassed all social conveniences and boundaries; she was his life and that life died with her. Whatever came afterwards was nothing but an endless road, stained with pain and sorrow, a pilgrimage to the final destination that he seems he reached. I feel he was happy for dying, for finally being with her.’ Alpha turned around to the Joker’s grave and whispered: ‘So long J, you take good care of her up there’.
‘I crumbled. The dam that was barely holding my tears was blown to pieces and I started crying. I kneeled and embraced her tombstone reading over and over the epitaph while my running tears were paying a painful debt. I loved her for an existence I didn’t have the chance to know, for who she was, for what she made out of Joker’s life. Back then I knew the Joker had been the richest man I knew and he took his reaches even beyond, in a world we can barely imagine. He molded Love into this wonderful world and lived every second of it. I embraced Love and I wished she had never died.
I forgot the flow of time; I don’t remember for how long I have been there, all I remember is that I wanted to be endless, that I wanted to decompose right there, nourishing the old tree that was guarding the two lovers, a tree that in that still afternoon was singing from its leaves a love that could be met only in fairy tales. I could still hear the Joker’s words in my ears and touching her name I could feel the love they’ve bestowed upon each other.
I couldn’t say Good Bye’ continued Ned. ‘I kissed both tombstones and down on my knees I begged for forgiveness. A golden leaf fell down on my shoulder and I knew they are together again wishing me love and strength in my perilous journey.’


Ned stopped in a deafening silence, a tear still running down his cheek. I became him, speechless, pale, and barely able to mutter anything. Unspoken words were crowding on my lips yet I was silent. Was the Joker real? Was it possible that he could love that much so he could create an inexistent world where his lover was still alive? What strength and what heart you need for this? How many indeed can say they loved even remotely close to the Joker? Ned’s story was heart breaking and though I never met the Joker I felt the same as Ned, I wanted to embrace their tombstones and pay my debt in tears for their love.
I looked inside me and asked myself: Did I ever love like that? Was I ever loved like that? I remembered my past loves that now, in the new light, were pale and meaningless. I remembered the checklist I used to have, hidden in the back of my head, complicated, though still a checklist. I remembered how many times I’ve made a checklist just because I knew how to wear my mask. I remembered the joy I had I playing different characters and pleasure I took in hurting just to be sure I end up on top. And for what? For an illusion of love eroded by our own ignorance and blindness; for the irrational fear of being alone, for a social convenience; for a split second of the Joker’s lifetime. I’m tired; tired of having to run through the same scenario over and over again. I’m tired of playing the checklist game, tired of pretending we’re something we’re not.
Though sometimes we’re blind as bats, I believe life has its own way of showing us who’s the one. But the twist of the game is that we have to take the decision of going further; and we’re afraid. I decided I don’t want to look back in years or in a life time asking myself ‘What if’. What if I was strong enough and took the decision of not being afraid and live with it. What if that was the only chance I would get in my lifetime?
Hungry for the endless love, I wand to find the meaning of ‘I Love You’ said with no remorse. Three words to burst out of my sheer core, three words that I will say to the one that I won’t be able to find a checklist for. Three words that will mean the world to me, words that will define and redefine who I am; words I miss saying, words I miss living, words I miss dying for. I take a deep breath and realize that whatever happened in my life lately could easily be my share of Love. Is it worth waiting? I believe it does.

Will I ever love like that?

I do.

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