Raise your voice
For A More Just and Humane World
I live two lives; I wear two faces.
I have a friend in my first. Her face lies. Steeped in joy but ravaged by life-hardening wrinkles, it screams the age of 65 while her lame body can only claim 49 years — 49 years of abuse. Too often winced in pain, her face complements a severe limp, and in addition to having one leg two inches shorter than the other, her left side has slowly crippled itself thanks to multiple strokes that began at age 5.
I first met her at the illegal homeless shelter that I called home for a summer. While waiting in the coffee line I could not help but introduce myself to the beaming smile with which she greeted me at 6 a.m.
With an eye for the beautiful and an insatiable desire to help in the soup kitchen in any way she could, you would never guess that she lost her brothers to drugs, that her daughter committed suicide after her father repeatedly molested her, and that she wore a beatnik, recklessly-chopped hairstyle because she had just been raped on the streets and wanted to reduce the chances of it happening again by making herself look ugly.
All these stories were told on slow, chilled evenings on a wooden bench in the backyard that she had the honor of calling her bed. We would sit there, huddled close together over coffee and cigarettes, and her wrinkles would unwittingly unfold their solemn origins in streams of consciousness. And as we sat there, evening after evening, feeling some sense of accomplishment and purpose by satiating the incessant need for caffeine and nicotine, she lent her face to me. I began to recognize my own broken nature and my perpetual restlessness spawned from the inability to fill that inexpressible void in my life.
As she gradually went insane with me during those evenings, began to walk in front of trucks and forced me to commit her to a mental institution, my soul willingly walked with her, and her face became my face.
But no, no, no! I have another life, another face — a much more desirable face I might add.
Twenty minutes south of the shelter, I wake up the first morning back from a $15,000 semester and lazily stumble into my kitchen looking for some of my mom's designer coffee. No more, but no problem. I jump into my mother's champagne-colored convertible Jaguar and drop the top. Yes, I could have taken my sister's Jeep Grand Cherokee, but to be quite honest, I find that her four-inch lift and 34-inch chrome tires make the ride a bit bumpy. I opt for the sleek and the speed.
God! I love racing down the palm-tree-studded road with the warm wind sucking at my face and the beautiful sun futilely attempting to penetrate my polarized Oakley lenses.
Ah, a red light and a nice little mustang poised and waiting. I pull up; glance over.
Ha! It's not even a GT; this little wannabe couldn't even think about taking me off the line. Green light; I'm gone and now have a pleasant gloating to add to the warmth of the drive.
Before long I pull up to Amsterdam Coffee House and order myself a café mocha with whip cream, and yes, I do like chocolate shavings on top, thank you very much. I settle into a nicelycushioned seat on the patio, crack open a copy of Catch-22 and sit back to enjoy a good brew, a warm sun and some Miles Davis funk in the background.
Yet despite all of my materialistic pleasures, I still feel that void, that yearning. Is this second face really a face, or just a mask? Both of these worlds are real for me, and if I may hazard a guess, I would suppose that many of us here on campus have similar experiences.
There is hope, though; the mission of the Center for Social Concerns is to bridge this disparaging gap between my reality and my façade, and those good souls who staff it have changed my life through seminars and service projects.
Go beyond the mask and get involved.
"For a More Just and Humane World" is a bi-weekly column in The Observer. Nick Fonte is a senior Program of Liberal Studies major and is one of the Student Liaisons for Social Concern Commissioners at the CSC.
The views expressed in this article represent those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Wednesday, December 5, 2001