My Father Wore a Mask

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I was around seven when I first started to really remember things, not little things like the ball pit at McDonalds or Chucky Cheese. I know this because I can remember Halloween. I know I can remember this episode as more whole and complete than any...

I was around seven when I first started to really remember things, not little things like the ball pit at McDonalds or Chucky Cheese. I know this because I can remember Halloween. I know I can remember this episode as more whole and complete than any other glimpse of memory prior. My father thought it was nonsense to go and buy costumes when he had someone at his home that could make them for him. Not out of love or enthusiasm for the holiday but of fear of what would happen if she didn’t. I remember this because of the fascination with the holiday as a whole. It was an excuse to dress up like an idiot and go door to door asking for treats as a prize for looking like the biggest idiot. I remember this.

I remember this one particular Halloween something was different. The first true memory. The first glimpse of the haze in his eyes with that unmistakable odor that comes before, or maybe after, the haze develops. It looked like it was being emitted from his jet black eyes. From his soul. They were macabre, more so than the movies that come out in short order every year.

My father wore a mask. It was as red as a clown’s nose and just as ridiculous. I can only describe the ears as being elfish. I remember this; the facial structure –chin, forehead, cheek bones-- was slightly elongated to accentuate the features of this devilish face. The eyebrows were in a provocative position that simultaneously represented mischief and seduction. An odd choice in my mind but I was young and had no idea of the true nature of the mask. Now that it seems like mischief and seduction go hand in hand. It was frightful as much as it was intriguing. I remember being staring intently while I trembled, while I shook.

He would dawn this mask rather often as my memory allows me to remember more completely. The eyes would roll slowly and appear hazy and red and I could smell that odor, his walk would stagger and he would stumble into walls or anything of real tangible support. Sometimes he wouldn’t and we had to stop ourselves from laughing. He would say nonsensical words and phrases that a baby may have understood. Every time he put the mask on it was Halloween again and we were all required to dress up, to put on some façade and hide behind it in lieu of real life.

I remember the house would feel hot. We would sweat but weren’t allowed outside because then the red lights would come. I remember panic and my heart racing to find my sisters or mothers eyes. I remember I hid behind them, instead of in front.

I remember being scared. I remember the first time he put it on and we all hid. We could outsmart him rather easy for a devilish figure, but maybe the haze was further behind the eyes than I thought. I wasn’t supposed to be scared though. No. I would get in trouble if I was scared. I had to sit beside him in a field and look at the stars with wonder even though I didn’t wonder what was above me but rather what was beside me. I had to sit by a fire as flames would venture closer and closer to my knees but I couldn’t move. I wasn’t allowed. I remember I wasn’t supposed to be scared though.

I remember Halloween as some bullshit holiday that gave the excuse to get dressed up and act like an idiot. I guess I understand where my disdain for the “holiday” came from. And I remember I truly understood why it was the Devils holiday when he would wear the mask.

Sometimes it was Halloween for a week straight. Then it would simmer down to a slow and quiet fallout in the house where we would clean while he watched NASCAR or a repeat football game. We would recover for a short while only to be submerged into it again. Imagine being dunked under the water of a pool and let up to breath for one large gulp of air and then shoved under again. Don’t breathe the water. I remember. Don’t breath under water. Can’t.

I do remember one day when things seemed fine. And then he took the mask off and I knew what fear was. I remember.

 

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