A warm sigh frosted on to the glass window as she looked out of it, watching the railings run past her as the car whizzed through the relatively empty streets. The summer afternoon did little to ease the dullness of the dry surroundings as the sun shone in all its oppressive glory, while the world helplessly went about its business. She had always liked the window. It gave her company, and she could drift off to her own mind-world – as she liked to call it – without anyone distracting her.
But she was bored now, and the weather was atrocious. The air-conditioner was on full blast, and yet she felt uncomfortable and suffocated. Switching the song with a clean swipe of her finger, she settled into her seat once again, her eyes fluttering shut against the harsh light.
The pretence, it would begin again soon. And these were her few moments of relief. She remembered a time when she’d been surprised by its thick presence, around her. It had been introduced to her slowly, and surely. Almost as if it was an addictive drug coursing through her veins. Her lips curved up wryly. How apt the description seemed now.
For the initial effects had worn off and she had, in fact become just that. Addicted to the facade. And not just her, was it? She had seen it around her, noticed the screen of pretense obscured by deceptive whiffs of strong perfume, the conscious pulling down of sleeves, or the sensual show of skin that concealed scars of self-harm.
One could say, that by now she’d become a master of judging these ‘acts’. But she knew what they were, what they really were. They were simply desperate attempts to stay afloat. Attempts made by individuals flailing about in deep waters, as they gasped and quaked for breath to survive. And to fit in.
She recognized these attempts at first glance, for she had closely seen what drowning looked like. Even experience it herself. And she knew what the world did to those who dared to be different, and challenged its conformist authority. She’d fought its vicious reigns and they said that she’d survived, thrived even. And she scoffed at them for appreciating a half-truth and basking in their limited knowledge of what actually went on in her world.
But she let them be, allowing them to revel in their naiveté. She had always been different, but she’d known when to accept defeat. And she had done just that against the power of pretence.
She opened her eyes as she felt the car begin to slow down, and sensed that the destination was about to arrive. Sitting straight in her street, she watched the buildings begin to gain height and prepared herself for what lay ahead. It was time to select the pretence she would wear that afternoon.
From years of practiced and careful selection, she made her choice. In perfect tandem, her chin rose and her features translated to perfect composure. She arranged her hair to fall flawlessly over her shoulders and her lips settled into a gentle smile. The transformation was complete, her armour worn. She was unrecognizable now, and no one could point it out.
As the car glided to a smooth halt, she braced herself. With a last, fleeting glimpse at her face in the rear-view mirror, she slid out and strode towards the brimming crowd. Her carefully designed mask donned and her flawed facade in place.