No one knew the truth. I never shared it. How could I? Why would I? What was life other than a play? A charade? And everyone in life just acting. Putting on a face, and makeup, to play their part.
I was no different. I played my part. The gifted, talented geek, who could stare any problem in the face, and beat it into submission. The relentless one that locked on to a problem, and became oblivious to anything and everything else. The one that made magic happen.
My stage was the display screen. The mouse. The keyboard. Where countless people saw my work. What I’d created. What I’d crafted. At work, I was that goto guy. The one with all the answers. The one to depend on.
I poured my life into maintaining that façade. That image. Endlessly studying textbooks, manuals, guides, and examples. Always seeking out a better way. Living and breathing the mantra, “Never good enough.”
Like the actor on the movie screen, where no one knows about his life and how it slowly falls apart, ending in misery and pain. No one knew the truth of me. No one saw the exhaustion. Eating headache pills like candy. Walking endless miles to keep the stress of life under control. Screaming at my kids, my lady. Missing birthdays. Holidays. Anniversaries. School concerts and plays.
Driving the car into the ground. Until the tires became so worn the air in them leaked out. Until the oil was thousands of miles past due for change. Praying the brakes somehow kept working. Never having time to get things fixed.
Watching the ceiling of the bathroom fall through from the water leaks in the roof. Unable to see the flowers in the garden behind all the weeds. Washing the dishes by hand when the dishwasher died. Buying ice to keep things cold when the refrigerator stopped working.
The list went on and on. It was the price I had to pay, so I could be what I believed I had to, every single day. It was a price that was too high.
Now, I am here. In this little room, with no windows and soft walls. It’s quite here, and I can sleep. And everyone takes care of me. At last. I can rest. At long last. I can rest. I don’t ever want to leave.
I wrote this for Anna Meade’s Behind the Curtain Flash Fiction contest. The goal being to create a piece of previously unreleased fiction that provides a glimpse behind the curtain to show the darkness hiding there, and to do so in 100 to 400 words. To view more of the entries in this contest (and I very much recommend you read them all), click here.