That morning Ernie woke up and stared at the writing on the wall until the words started to lose meaning in front of him. He decided to take a walk. He threw on a pair of well worn jeans, his tattered checkered vans, and a purple hoodie that had seen one too many winters. He felt as worn as his clothes.
His mom knocked on his door to announce lunch was ready, and he remembered something he hadn’t put on yet. His mask. It lay there on his desk. The mask that let everyone else think he was just fine. The mask that kept the questions and people at a distance. The mask that let him go unnoticed through the world. He picked it up, held it in his hand. It felt heavy with the burden of things unsaid and feelings that demanded to be felt. He put it on. It made breathing harder, he adjusted a bit and headed downstairs.
His jet black hair peeked out under the hoodie. He had boyish features with eyes as blue as water to boot. Hands in his pockets, and headphones around his neck he started towards nowhere. Where do you walk, when you don’t know where you want to go.
“Where are you going?”, his mom asked.
He just didn’t have the energy to lie. “I don’t know”, Ernie said in a faint ghost of a voice.
The mask started to feel tighter and heavier.
“I’m meeting John for coffee”, the mask said.
“Oh well, don’t be out too late. Tell him I said hi”, and with that his mom quickly turned around and headed back to the kitchen.
The mask once again had served its purpose and he wandered out of the house.
His house just one more clone in a neighborhood of identical residences. Perhaps he was just one more clone in a world full of identical people. What made him any different from the others? He tried and failed. Just like many before him.
Fill myself with love, he thought, but I am so full already. I need to empty myself first. He sat down on a bench in the playground and just watched them play. When exactly did life change from living in a surrounding where things around you never seemed to stop surprising and astounding you, to a world where you didn’t want to get out of bed.
What was bringing him down? His failure. He had talent and it all went to waste because he was not good enough. All those hours and all that effort and he couldn’t make it. He failed himself, at 22 all he had to show for his hard work was several failed bands and a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance, which he took out solely for his father’s peace of mind.
As he was deep in thought a ball rolled to his feet and a eager looking girl in a football uniform was staring at him waiting to get the ball back. He stared at the ball for a second and picked it up. The girl was absolutely stunning, just standing there with her ponytail and sweaty strands falling over her face. The eager look started turning into impatience. Her gaze seem to penetrate and look right through him. She walked over to him.
Could she see what lied beneath the mask? He shuddered at the thought and looked away. She reached for the ball. Her touch electrified him and as he looked up into her eyes he filled himself with love.