At work, I stand out on the playground
in a Carhartt and tattered tights,
face stitched together,
lips painted red
like fire engines or cherries, like
my own warm blood pumping feebly against the cold.
I try to step into someone else’s skin.
I pretend to be someone else for a day, but
no one recognizes me and
the required explanation
kills all excitement and
reminds me too much of an average day.
I try to make small talk with the fox who works my shift as
she perches on the picnic table. I start to tell her a story but
she bounds away towards the basketball court,
hot on the trail of some misbehaving fourth graders.
Later, I wander through a crowd of tiny superheroes and princesses
feeling for all the world like the freak I am.
The only person who recognizes me is less than half my age so
I pretend I have somewhere very important to be and then
I hide behind a stack of dusty, cobwebbed Nora Roberts novels
in the library next door.
My hiding spot doesn’t last long;
I’m quickly handed a black pointy hat and told to behave by a robot
dressed like a librarian.
Try not to be too scary are my only instructions,
and I try to recall a time in my life I’ve been scary before,
suddenly wishing the warning was necessary.
In the general fiction section, two mad scientists discuss their golf scores and
I stare at them menacingly through the fog. They laugh and ask me my name.
I stay silent, worried that I’ll shatter the illusion,
but a snowman clinging to her father’s chest screams at the sight of us anyway so
I tell them.
In my crystal ball
they hang from the ceiling,
the severed limbs tucked in the pockets of their lab coats somehow
the pull of the earth below.
I lean in and stare into the heart of the crystal to try to see their future,
but it’s an overturned fish bowl, and all I can see
is my own faint, distorted reflection
staring back at me.
When the last family has left,
I slip away through the dark, abandoning my hat on the circulation desk.
I stare at my reflection in my rear view mirror as I scrub off the makeup, revealing
my old self underneath,
though in truth,
I felt the same either way.