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It all started as a game.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a people-watcher.
As a child, I would watch people for hours before even attempting to talk to them.
I’d scrutinize how you spoke. What you wore. When you laughed. What you liked. Whom you talked to.
I would watch and watch, try to figure out who you were. What you wanted.
And once I put together the pieces of your identity, I would form my own, making sure they clicked.
It was like a puzzle that only I could finish and it amused me to have that sort of power over you: to control exactly what you see.
But under all of that, I’d ensured that I was that girl:
The girl you want to speak to.
The girl you share all your secrets with.
The girl you like.
I flit from one person to the next, as graceful as a butterfly.
Always smiling. Always pleasing.
You come to me when you don’t have anyone else, and it’s my shoulder you cry on, it’s into my ears you whisper your darkest secrets.
I am as smooth as oil, calm as the surface of lifeless water.
I soothe. I comfort. I encourage. I motivate. I charm.
And when I’m finally alone, I laugh.
I laugh at the world, at how gullible you are, to think you know me, to trust me the way you do.
I laugh till I cry and then I cry till I can’t breathe.
The tears never end, it seems, they flow and flow relentlessly, leeching me of everything.
The real joke was on me, all along.
And I’d never realized.
I look in the mirror and don’t recognize the shadow that looks back into my eyes.
I don’t ‘like’ her.
If I was being true to myself, I would say I despise her.
I see myself wrapping my hands around her throat and squeezing until the light slowly fades from her eyes.
And then, I realize the girl is me.
The irony: I’d gained the affection of everyone else, only to realize that I couldn’t win me over too.
Alone, I’m a coward. I’m despicable. Spineless. A doormat. A hypocrite.
I morph myself to suit the people around me. My very identity is built on everyone else’s desires.
I’m no one without someone to please. Nothing without a task to complete.
And there is nothing left of ‘me’ now, of the person I could have been.
Before. Before all the masks.
When I look back, all I see is crushed dreams, and when I look forward, I see an eternity of nothingness.
But it’s what I see when I look within that truly scares me.
Underneath all my masks, I am faceless.