Our theme this week is ‘Many Faces, Many Masks’, and the first piece to feature on ‘Showcase’ encapsulates this perfectly; not just what it means to carry ourselves differently in various scenarios and companies, but also why we create these masks for ourselves in the first place. This anonymous submission is accompanied by a personal note from the author, reminding each of us who have experienced hard moments and tragedies that it is OK (and normal) to feel moments of despair, and it is by recovering from them that we grow stronger.
That is not to say that tragedy is a prerequisite for donning different masks throughout our lifetime. Many of us do so unconsciously, often through fear of judgement or a desire to fit in. This is perfectly normal in a socially dependent society; i.e. humankind. The trick is to not let our masks own or define us. We must learn to recognise when a mask is practical and when it is detrimental.
Our second piece this week is a celebration in two ways. As the coronavirus continues to impact the world, one event to be suspended as a result is the 2020 Olympic Games. However, while we cannot enjoy a summer of watching the greatest athletes in the world competing on the global stage, we can experience the heart and soul of this ancient competition through a recently published collection of poetry called The View From Olympia. One of these works, Sustainable Olympics 2020, is written by our very own Eithne Cullen, and is available to read below. It is my fond hope that this piece, and the other works in the collection, available here, will temporarily allow you to don the mask of an Olympic athlete or audience member; to escape to an exotic arena, somewhere else in time and space, for a little while, at least.
Keep on writing!
Dan (Associate Editor)
The Tunnel by Anonymous
Childhood is a dream, a book of fairy tales. However, growing up for him wasn’t so fairy tale-like, or even the bare minimum of what he imagined it to be. At this point, all he craved was the feeling of peace and the ending of misery but, sadly for him, his journey was written to be a painful one. As for ‘him’, who was he? You’re free to create or imagine your own ‘him’ after reading the rest of this story…
Pain is said to be bitter but, in his case, the bitter was sweet. He just couldn’t see it. And what was it that made him turn a blind eye to his blessings? It was the people around him who unknowingly hurt him.
Right from the beginning, he was always the happiest one in the room, the life of a party, the brightest flame of any fire. He would never radiate an ounce of bad energy; instead, with his contagious lively smile, he was said to be an angel. He wasn’t the richest, nor was he the most academically talented, but he was content with what he had. He knew, even if what he had wasn’t the best, he was living a life that was better than tons of people out there, who had no option but to mute their bickering.
Unfortunately for him, things didn’t go exactly how they were ‘supposed’ to go.
His beautiful smile turned upside-down and, soon after, his life became pretty much a game of dominos. One incident straight after the other; he got back up again and again but was continuously pushed back down. He’d come to school with a mask on, not the one that you could see with a naked eye, but one you’d see if you knew the story of his life. That mask wasn’t made up of plastic or strings; it was one he tailored through his own strength and courage.
Even today, as we speak, flashbacks occur. Four years’ worth of healing hasn’t erased anything, it’s simply formed a scab over the wound. He may have not witnessed it all but the aura, the atmosphere, it rings in his head. The appearance of five ambulances, the blue and red sirens… The unexpected faces, being taken out halfway through his lesson, the tears, the screams, the worries. It formed a dent, a scar. An indentation that refuses to let go. Despite no longer causing him grief inside, these events have left scratches. As for the people who hurt him unknowingly, they were the ones who hadn’t bothered checking up on him.
The sack he carried, it started to become unbearably heavy. He couldn’t do it any more. He couldn’t push through; at least, that’s what he convinced himself to believe. He complained, cried and questioned himself to sleep, hoping that the next morning would be the day he had long waited for. But fate wasn’t exactly planning to give him his desires easily. It weakened him, pressed a stain against his heart but, somewhere inside, from the tiniest of atoms, faith still flickered. Regardless of being stranded, abandoned, isolated and alone, that flicker wasn’t ready to die out. If only he had known that, in a few years’ time, all his composure would be worth it, he would never have shed a tear again…
(C) Anonymous, 2020
Note from the author: Just in case someone hasn’t reassured you today by saying things are going to get better, hear it from me. Things get easier, blossom independently, grow independently but please, by any means necessary, don’t stop. You’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel very soon and, one day, you’ll be thankful for all the hurtful experiences. It isn’t easy. It isn’t meant to be. While you witness others growing to face difficulties, you’ll soon come to the realisation as to why everything that happened to you happened. You’ll no longer question fate or reality; you’ll come to the point where you simply spread your wings, get ready to fly and ready to write a new chapter in your life. Sadness and pain aren’t the whole book, but a mere chapter in everyone’s life. How you deal with it is up to you!
Sustainable Olympics 2020 by Eithne Cullen
In Tokyo 2020 they’re selling
a sustainability sourcing code.
The ancients gave us Olympic values –
respect, excellence, friendship –
all they needed was athletic ability.
The Greeks had it easy –
no kit or running shoes
with spikes or lycra
They just turned up,
stripped off and oiled their
rippling skin and ran,
slept where they fell
after a feast of wine and olives.
No one had to build a village
or employ a fleet of cars.
The Greeks did not destroy
forests or mountain sides.
No need of chemical enhancing aid
when competition was good and clean.
(C) Eithne Cullen, 2020
Sustainable Olympics is part of the collection of poems, The View From Olympia, and is available to purchase here. Congratulations, Eithne, on having your excellent piece selected for publication!
If you’d like to see your writing appear in the Write On! Showcase, please send your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read more fiction, poetry, interviews and author advice in the latest issue of Write On! Available here
That mask wasn’t made up of plastic or strings; it was one he tailored through his own strength and courage.