The strings tugged at my hand. I resisted the movement. I could now feel the sharp stabbing pain as the Master pulled harder. A tear trickled down my cheek and I succumbed. I was being commanded to perform, like always.
It feels like ages have gone by since that unfortunate day but the memory of it is crystal clear in my mind. The sky was a steel grey and ominous looking clouds drifted by. I looked outside the window but nothing could bring my spirits down, not even the baleful air. The day had finally arrived when my mother would gift me the costume that I had waited for, a gift that every child my age had waited for with bated breath. It was made of exquisite silk fabric with intricate brocade craftsmanship. It was a rich blue, grand and resplendent. I ran my fingers over the dress, admiring and soaking in the beauty of it. The smile on my face reflected the immense joy I felt that day. My mother taught me to care for it, to keep it smelling fragrant. It was ingrained in me to be what I want and the costume would only grow more beautiful to match me from the inside. I smiled, naive and innocent and thanked the Master for the gift.
I went about my days, nodding, turning, moving my limbs as my master ordered. I loved the new life. It was a life everyone seemed to have and one which I had always yearned for. I was carefree - did not have to think of where I was going or what I needed to do. I was secure. I was guided and controlled. My life was steered and maneuvered in directions unknown to me but the magic of the experience had me awestruck. Gradually the appreciation for the new life that I had always longed for seemed to fade. The strings were really beginning to hurt me. My mother consoled me; I was being shepherded after all. I would get used to it soon, they said. Like all new things. "We have strings too sweetheart", she said. Wiping away my tears, I smiled and embraced my marionette life.
Time has a way of unraveling the darkest of truths. As I wore the costume and grew accustomed to the constant twerking and pulling, I began feeling more suffering than joy. The fabric made my skin uncomfortable. I thought to myself, every one of us is doing it. It was beautiful to be a marionette, a fortunate life I had heard… I learned the way of life for a puppet. It wasn't easy but I was taught to count my blessings.
Days went on to become years. I told the new ones at the threshold of this life, all about welcoming the existence of being a puppet. It was hard and tiring at times but it was always worth it in the end.
"Mom, but what if I don't want to be a puppet?" My little girl in her new beautiful pink and yellow attire asked me. I couldn't see my little girls eyes from inside her costume but I knew she was looking at me with a piercing gaze, hopeful and scared.
"You want to be one honey, you just don't know yet". I cringed at the lie I told her. I wanted to scream and tell her the truth, to ask her to escape the life of a puppet. A lump formed in my throat, so hard I couldn’t swallow my words or sorrow.
It was a crippling affliction. I wanted to rip the skin off of me to rid me off my pain. Beads of sweat constantly trickled down. Sweating, panting and choking I performed. The tears and the sweat mixed together with no way to distinguish the anguish and torture from drudgery and grind. The mask suffocated me. I felt stifled and choked. My string master tugged and yanked the strings so hard on days that my limbs were sore. I wanted to scream out in the excruciating pain but I couldn't.
My puppet family asked me to give up, to remove my costume and run away. I knew they loved me. They said they would work the show for me. The suffering was tangible. It had taken on a physical form. The tears were rolling down my cheeks but no one could see me cry. My agonizing screams were so loud but no one could hear me. My bruised skin was bleeding and scarred but no one could touch it. My soul was crushed from inside. If I removed my mask and costume, I could walk away from the torment but I'd be forcing my loved ones to move on without me, adding to their pain. The irony weighed heavy. I could walk away from this, unrestrained to breathe the fresh scent of unimpeded freedom and independence. Would the cold harsh world outside be any kinder without the sense of direction or the luxury of blame, I wondered.
The once beautiful dress was distressed, faded and threadbare. I couldn’t escape. My tears are dry and my spirit is crushed, my strength shattered. It was too late for me. I smiled at my little one, a smile she would never see.