An Excerpt from Masked Intent Prologue

On the playlist of little-girl dreams, finding happily ever after with your heart’s desire is sure to end up on your Spotify Repeat Rewind. We set out to make these dreams reality and with stary-eyed innocence, we chart our course for the future in search of someone who’ll stay constant and be by our side even when the winds shift. Our love will be genuine and tell it like it is…he even is who he says he is.

What a fairy tale this must be because it’s been awhile since I’ve found hope out there let alone a good, strong, solid relationship. Time after time, self-dealing prick after self-dealing prick, I seem to end up in bed lately with the same mix of lies, deception, and maneuvers, disrespecting and disregarding me for sport, for no reason other than because it suits them and their interests. They think they can dominate and overpower me, and it’s all because of her.

At first, I thought I was simply having a run of bad luck, or that it was bad relationship juju maybe, I’m not sure. Then, I stopped, I listened, and I realized just how much the world has stopped making sense to me. I used to be able to believe in what I saw, heard, and experienced. But I’ve watched Influence seduce so many into doing, saying, or believing most anything imaginable, no matter how heartbreaking, outrageous, or illogical. I simply can’t believe the things she gets away with. She’s real shiny, that one, and she’s almost made me doubt myself a time or two. It’s sad to see, but somewhere along the way, flash replaced fidelity as the standard of excellence. Never mind the consistent, reliable, immutable promise I offer. She’s gamed the system by figuring out a way to manipulate authenticity.

These fools out here aren’t blameless, though. I know I can tend to be stark, plain, and brutal when necessary, but it’s how I’m made, and maybe that’s too inflexible for people today. Maybe that’s why people turn their backs on what’s real and go find someone who’ll say and do whatever it is they feel makes them matter in the moment. If you’re not in a relationship with someone who’s real, why should you need to be your true self?

I remember when the words to thine own self be true warned that we should act and think with our virtue in mind. Now, I think, the phrase, like a meditation, has become a mantra people play on repeat until they walk away newly enlightened, acting and thinking in their own best interests above all else. That’s more of her work right there. I guarantee it.

I learned this the hard way when I dated a guy whom I thought to be honorable. Turns out Honor was just one of the many masks he wore to present his tailor-made self to me. I don’t know about the women who came before, but I have a low tolerance for deception, which he soon found out, but I digress. Masks have never been my thing after all because I am truth. I cannot tell a lie. Literally. I can’t even fudge when it comes to the truth, so it amazes me as I watch people pick up and cast off personas and behaviors with precision, cloaking their bare essence with actions, peccadillos, and habits that they’ve deliberately distilled from some YouTube video or TV show until they learn to affect an aura or attitude they like better. I feel like I’m surrounded by aliens and changelings who’ve shifted what it means to step out of character now that you apparently, literally, can do this at will. More than that, and in a fundamental way, I wonder if all of this means that Deceit is the new normal. But let’s leave that for another day.

I think the thing that gets me the most is that I’m even having this internal discussion in the first place. Some things don’t change and saying that they have doesn’t make it real. I can’t help but wonder if somewhere behind the scenes I wasn’t read in on a major rule change. Somehow, maybe, possibly, that change left her in charge. Maybe she turned everything on its ear just enough that we awoke the next morning questioning everything we thought to be true eight hours earlier.

Who am I kidding?! That would require planning and strategy, and for that, I can’t bring myself to give her any credit whatsoever. I mean, look at her. And then look at me. I’m not one to brag, but a poet I once knew paid me the highest compliment. Though I admit I’m not all that hard on the eyes, the dear young man, who was quite the romantic, caused a bit of a stir when he declared that I am beauty, that we’re one and the same, pure, and constant, never ceasing. It wasn’t a pick-up line, but from what I could tell, the young poet was emotionally intense and felt everything quite deeply – in the moment. Alas, the poor dear was also rather fickle, it seems, when it came to affairs of the heart, so I always resisted any deep connection with that one. Now, I do hope you’ll pardon my tangent, but it goes quite well to my point: Where’s the literary masterpiece she inspired? Where is the good in what she represents? Who’s relying on her to bring consistency?

More likely, then, I wonder if there might have been a catastrophic mutation in relationship DNA, leaving its foundation on a precarious single-helix structure, wobbly, inconstant, and unable to thrive. Lacking the common ground required to prop up the tenuous passion, it dies out, I guess. Could that be why Unpredictability and Inconsistency are a lot easier to find than Constancy and Loyalty? Or, are some people simply made not to care? No matter how many times you show them your heart, they can’t see past their own whims and desires. It doesn’t seem that hard to do what you say you’ll do, to mean what you say, or to say what you feel. But maybe some people just aren’t born to see anything beyond what the mirror reflects even when I’m standing right there alongside.

So, for now, as these uncertainties loom and spell doom for my interactions, I’ve decided to take a break from relationships, at least until I find someone who can see beyond his own hype and be real with me.

I know that I can be demanding. I know it’s tough to face the very things that make us loathe to see ourselves clearly. But I assure you I am more than worth any pain or discomfort you might feel on the way to enlightenment. Because I can show you better than I can tell you, I’d like to share a story of what happens when two people find each other and inner peace as they embrace truth. Masks must be shed, and paths must be discovered before they can find their way forward. And though they will find their way, rest assured, it’s not quite that neat and clean, it being the course of true love and all. When relics from our past resurface, we must find a way to reconcile their records and any hurts they leave behind before returning them to their proper place in our memories. After that, of course, lessons get learned, and lives can be lived happily ever after. The thing about happily ever after? You’re bound to pick up a battle scar or ten on the way to bliss. So, sit back, take heed, and take note. This story that I’m about to unfold is near to my heart, so there are bound to be a few lessons baked in here.

Copyright © 2021 by Kimberly Greer