The 11th of December 1994 – San Francisco

(found tacked to a corkboard in the lobby of the Bank of America on Powell Street)

Dear Yasmine,

What an Unmasking!

All in all, it was a rather typical event, except for one particular scene that might have ruined the whole thing. Unfortunately, it happened right in the middle.

As you know, the Initiates to the Society gather in the lower chamber, where they are expected to bare themselves completely for the order.

We all wear masks, all day, every day. We all wear masks, whether we know it or not. The Unmasking gives the new members a chance to reveal their true nature, not just to others, but to themselves. The Initiates uncloak their faces, then march in front of each member of the Society. Then they pass by a mirror and see themselves, sometimes for the first time.

But last week the whole ceremony was almost ruined. Although it involved some Initiate named Reginald, it was mostly the fault of Thompson.

Ah, Thompson! What a twerp! What a jackass! You’d think someone so close to a leadership position in the Society            would have the decency to keep his mouth snapped shut if he didn’t have anything worth saying. You know Thompson, and you know people just like him. He’s one of those who stands alone in the shadows of the room, cloaked with high-minded, pretentious philosophical statements and inflated with the futile hope that his flatulent intellect will provide him with some padding and protect him from the thundering, nihilistic blows through which the cold, unforgiving universe forces all human beings to suffer.

So Reginald gets to the front of the line. He’s about to walk through the gauntlet when Thompson shouts out:

“Get that off. It’s an Unmasking for a reason!”

Reginald flinched. Through the drooping eye slits of his fake face, I could see his pupils flare in shock. So he spun around and slid the mask off his face. He turned to face the crowd again, and Thompson only laughed.

“Rub off the makeup,” he ordered.

So Reginald spun around again and rubbed his cheeks, chin and forehead with his sleeves. Then he faced the group for a third time.

More than a few people gasped. Thompson himself cried out, yelling about how Initiates better take the Unmasking seriously or risk being removed from the Society.

And Reginald stood paralyzed. His lower lip drooped away from an empty gum and quivered. His upper lip curled into a smile and revealed a pair of jutting, buckteeth. His nose did not exist. One eye, his left, twitched uncontrollably. The right bulged out from its hovel and challenged the room incoherently.

Slowly Reginald turned around. I saw him reach into his sleeve and unfurl a pale piece of rubber, which he placed over his face. Thompson congratulated the Initiate after he turned around and revealed to the Society a serene, calmly smiling expression. Reginald walked down the room, looked into the mirror and bowed his head. Then he left for through a back door, to a room where the other Initiates were waiting for the reception to start.

I don’t understand how Thompson failed to believe that something so grotesque and so disgusting could actually be real, honest truth.

After dismissing Reginald, the Society proceeded through the rest of the Unmasking without any interruption.

What an Unmasking!




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