Reality by Hailey Payea
 I was on a date at a pizza shop on Main Street in Dobbs Ferry, New York with a guy who has rightfully earned the name of politician. George is a long, lanky character with a great smile and luscious hair. He seemed to be one of the most well put together, interesting, and smartest people I would ever meet. His resume is one of the best for young men at the age of twenty, and he is one of the most successful politicians I know. He is the definition of “try-hard” and constantly says, “I don’t lose.” He is a sophomore at Georgetown University, the assistant to a prestigious, award-winning columnist, a member of an elite debate society named the “Philodemic Society,” and he holds multiple positions of power around his school. During this date, George described an interview he conducted with one of Westchester’s most influential politicians, who told him, “Perception is reality.” First impressions serve as an immediate reality. When you first meet a person, you see their mask, or what they appear to be. Masks are what they want you to see, a better version of that person’s self and what hides negative details that lie underneath. George’s mask is his political face, what the public sees, what the voters see. My first impression of him was that he was perfect… and with his mask, he is. Masks are what we call “face value.” You don’t see into people’s souls, you see what people believe themselves to be or want to be. For all you know, George could be a serial killer, but you don’t know this because he hides it under his mask. As humans, we identify things differently and react to things differently. Some may hate George, others may love him. As a politician, it is his job to tilt the scale in his favor. In order to win an election, he needs to be admired. George would need to keep on his mask in order to achieve this. The public eye sees him and takes him at face value. If and when George runs in the gubernatorial election, he will need to remain with his mask on: a bright, handsome, thoughtful young man who cares for the greater good of the American people. However, when I asked one of George’s classmates about him, he said, “George is a slimy politician who has a silver tongue and you need to be careful.” This negative implication of “being a politician” would not sit well with the public. They want a family man, a warm-hearted, stable being. George needs to keep his mask on, and in order to win, he would need to hide the reality of who he actually is to keep his reputation. Public perception is reputation and your reputation is a kind of truth. … A close friend of mine wears a different sort of mask, though it took me awhile to find out. She is the strongest person I know. She is always resilient, talks too loud, and has a large personality. With a strong stance but a feminine figure she speaks from her throat. Her voice is steady, and she doesn’t hesitate to speak. One day she told me that she could not love. I asked why, she told me, “later.” I was walking alongside her and once again, stubbornly, asked her why. She sat me down on a staircase. I looked up at her and her voice stayed the same. She stared me straight in the eye, “It has a backstory, okay?” “Okay,” I hesitantly responded. “So my mother was born to a deaf couple and she didn’t learn how to speak until she was eight. She wasn’t able to communicate properly until she was a teenager. My dad is extremely dyslexic and barely graduated community college. They met when they were teenagers or something and he basically married her because she was hot. “I think my older sister was an anchor baby because they ended up just fighting all the time. Then when they had me it was just a mess. I’m probably an accident as well. Shit happens, it hits the fan and then my mom decided to kick my dad out except I never really understood what was happening until much later. I was young.. maybe seven or around there. My sister and my mother would get into big fights… and not just verbal; it would get physical a lot. She is bipolar, and not just the ‘oh lol she’s so bipolar’ but really, bipolar. They would start screaming and I just got very good at falling asleep wherever I had to. One night I had one of my terrible migraines and I asked my mom to stop fighting with my sister and she locked me outside when there was a few feet of snow on the ground. “And you know what? I just fell asleep. “My dad started seeing someone else but he wasn’t really open about it. They would always keep things from us and we were like their messengers. As much as they wanted us to tell the other something, they also wanted us to keep a significant amount of things from the other. “Once the lawyers were involved to finalize the divorce we also had a lawyer create a contract with our mom that she had to abide by or else she would lose custody of us or something. Literally all she had to do was not hit us. She hasn’t really kept with it. One time she was yelling at me and I was literally so done that I pushed her out of the way and she came back to me and I punched her in the face and walked away and locked myself in my bathroom. “You know how in my bathroom the frame is kind of broken? The dumbass decided to kick in the door when she could have just fucking opened it. She went after me again and I just put her in a chokehold and was like ‘Are you fucking done?’ She said she was done.” I was silent throughout her monologue. I didn’t have a response. She would hit me if I said I was sorry about all of it. I felt too uncomfortable to ask questions. As much as I was flabbergasted by her story, she never went into much detail of why she couldn’t love. However, I didn’t notice because her presentation was smooth and flawless. She held this story as if she never needed to explain it to herself anymore. It was part of her and she didn’t need to hide it. But who wants to portray themselves as an “accident”? She just didn’t care. The key to her story is her composure translates to all aspects of her life. She does not let others affect her happiness or resilience. She holds onto her heart so others cannot. No one can break her because they are not given the opportunity. She does not put herself on the line, and no one can love her romantically. She lives with her past. It is no longer an obstacle. It becomes a part of her, wanted or not. The idea that we should “take our masks off” is not only inconsiderate but wrong. Masks are put on for a reason; they cover up wounds and protect the wounds from further damage. She is strong because of her mask; people take her at face value. This girl needs to wear a mask not because she cares about what others think but in order to keep the mantra that she is strong. If others believe you are strong, that makes it your reputation. Reality is what is seen in the world but with separate perceptions. As the politician said, “Perception is reality.” Thus, masks, or illusion, are a form of reality. Her mask is what hides her story, and her mask is also her truth.