Why is it called "putting on your face"? Why can't the face I have be enough?
The others tell me to be quiet, to quit asking so many questions.
So I lace my fingers and settle them into my lap and listen to the truth handed down from those who know better and try to smile and nod in rhythm with the rest of the flock.
But it's no time at all before my fingers are clutching at one another, my arm muscles straining, trembling at the effort it takes to stop these hands from flying apart and up and my mouth from shouting "What is it that makes your knowledge better than mine" and my legs from dashing down the aisle of the whitewashed building that knew it had better put on its face, too, otherwise someone might get the wrong idea.
In the bathroom, cold water runs its way from the tap and I slap some on my face and splutter at its ice, watching my makeup run down black in the mirror. I help it, smear the mascara and it looks like war paint now. I could be a wild heathen if my hair wasn't pinned so tight.
So I yank out the pins and toss them away and shake down this mane of mine that everyone says they covet, but also say is too big or frizzy or short or long and couldn't I just fix it right, please?
Tears salt my war paint and I am tired of trying so hard and pinning my hair meekly down and getting it wrong anyway.
I am tired of being wrong. When will this woman that is me, that is breathing here and now, be enough?
I let them put the bit in my mouth, took it willingly. They said it would lead me along the way, but it's only cut ever deeper into the tender of my gums and why can no one see the bleeding? It's cutting deep into my God-breathed soul.
I seize a tissue from its box, bend my head and blot the tears and spoiled mascara away. And as shuddering sigh quakes through me, I feel another hand cupping the back of my neck with a tenderness that shatters me. I feel fingers tendriling my splint ends and too-much hair. A breath whispers against the arch of my ear, wafts against my curls, but when I lift my eyes from the graying tissue to the mirror there is no one but me and my ruined face.
I sigh again, a breath of disappointment.
And then I hear the words, "Hello, sweet one."
I close my eyes and pose the question to the empty/not-empty bathroom, "Who are you?"
"I am yours. I am here. I am inside. I am Love. I am the living lion. I am wild."
"Wild?" I ask, leaning in.
"Wild," She said. I feel Her take my hand from within and tug. "Shall we run together through the wilderness, you and I?"
"Do I know you?"
"I have known you for ever." The tug comes again, and I can feel grime from her hand slide against my palm. A musky scent rises from nowhere, acrid and soft and my breath quickens.
"But I thought you were supposed to be . . . different." I look at the sink, at the soap.
She laughs and I hear the howling of wolves and the song of the whales and raven's caw in it. "I am."
"I'd better not, then," I say, heart sinkng.
"No," She said. "Listen again. I AM."
My soul rumbles, screams, screaming for release. I cannot pin it back, crush it down like my hair, like I have always, always, always done. I allow the cracking open. Life rages forth as an ocean. My vision pulses, and light sings from nowhere and everywhere and I can feel its heat on my skin, and it scalds and sears and seals.
"Oh," I rasp, nearly choking on the joy rising up and rising up. "It's You. I've sung to You."
"Yes," She says. "Come. Let's run."
We are running in the desert. I have never breathed so deep as when I am breathless with all this holy.