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[2006: JUL-AUG] Plastic and Cloth


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Cara held a white piece of cloth loosely in her hand as she faced a sea of faces that all looked the same to her, identical clothes, who would have thought that assignment would have been useful in a psychology class at the Starfleet Academy? Who would have thought that plastic society would still be reflected here?

Cara felt her throat tighten suddenly as she opened her mouth, then quietly shut it again, feeling a wash of embarrassment as the amusement rippled through the crowd, a wash of yellow-orange, benevolent though... but how easily could that change...

She realised she was standing in front of the crowd silently for a few moments and looked back at the speech from all those years ago, a week after she had lost her control utterly, all the masks she possessed.

All she had to do to speak was to become the performer, they never cared about the audience, or what they were about to do, just let themselves get lost in the music. She started to speak, her voice merging in her mind with that of her memory saying the exact same words...

“Hello, my name is Cara Maria, formerly Cara Maria-Mil. I am a Betazoid-Terran hybrid, half and half. Why am I introducing myself you may ask? I am known to all of you, I don’t need to give my name, or I shouldn’t do.”

She looked at the crowd, “I told you my name because none of you know me, you may think you know me, but how much do you really know? How much do you know about anyone sitting here? Look around you,” she said, watching the crowd turn, just as they had all those years ago. “What do you know about them? Their name? Their favourite drink? What they study?”

Cara nodded, “I’d think pretty poorly of you if you didn’t, but let’s take that further, Why are they sitting here? I am willing to bet very few of you know that, and do you know why?”

The black haired woman paused, “because people prefer to retain privacy as much as possible, they don’t like to tell other people things that are beyond what everyone sees, and quite rightly, it is best if we do not know all the bad things of those around us, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to sleep.”

“But the level of this secrecy changes. On Betazed the level of privacy is reasonably low, everyone trusts each other because they can see each others minds, but here? On earth being honest is telling someone if a t-shirt looks bad on them,” Cara pointed out with a hint of a smile on her lips as she remembered the guilty way most of her former class were shuffling as some did now.

“It’s amazing really how the standards differ from place to place, in Zaragoza I’ve seen a society that is the opposite extreme of the Betazoid openness. This type of society has too many names to count... Plastic, Barbie, Sheep, Clones, Pretenders, Popular... but they refer to themselves by none of these names, I couldn’t imagine why.”

The younger Cara pretended to ignore the whispers and stares circulating the class before a deadly hush, she had their attention now. Good.

“The names suit them incredibly well, I have never known anyone who belongs whole-heartedly to these anything but cold and heartless in public, every single one the same with a sneer to any who are not the same, part of their exclusive group of friends.”

Cara’s friends looked at her, horrified but proud as the colour drained from the cheeks of everyone in the classroom. Cara looked out at the rapt faces in the lecture theatre, a lot of them pale, In them she saw a variety of emotions, fear, hatred, shock.

“I see that you all know what I mean,” Cara commented, “ But I can tell you something you also already knew. These people are not who they seem. These people are locked behind masks, an unwritten code of conduct that they must follow in order not to be chucked out of the group.”

“But when they look in the mirror when they’re alone... they can see the mask, they can see the makeup and dyed hair, the sarcastic words, the sniping comments and they hate themselves. Imagine how you’d feel knowing you were making other lives miserable.” Her head lowered sadly.

“So they pretend nothing’s wrong, nothing matters and that everything in shining and happy because that’s the only way they can go on and not hate themselves. So they get sucked into the cycle. They pretend, they lie, they tell themselves that they like their lives, and their friends, so they pretend more, and they take their anger at themselves out in the only way they can, because beautiful people don’t get angry, they never get angry, they never hate their wonderful lives,” the woman’s bitter sarcasm escaped no-one in the room.

“They capture themselves, they can’t stop it, and others copy them, the ones they snap at convert to the group in order not to be picked on and become like them slowly, all the time saying they can always leave. How many of them are strong enough not to do that when isolated by a seething pack of wolves?”

No-one could escape the words of the girl they had called crazy, misfit, teacher’s pet who seemed to be speaking directly to the dark parts of their mind and making them squirm.

“But of course none of you would ever do that, of course not, you’re decent, respectable people in society.” Cara’s eyes searched the room, noting to herself how her meaning varied, last time she had been sarcastic, they knew she was talking to them. This time she was questioning the people in front of her.

“Face it, be honest to yourself, we all pretend!” Cara said hotly, a rare flash of temper from the mild woman, “the relationship between everyone is a give and take, an elaborate dance where no-one knows who the other people are but everyone knows the steps, so it’s all ok,” the woman was talking at her normal volume again,

“The popular people pretend it’s ok, but so do their victims, everyone acts like everything is alright and yet nothing is, in my opinion it’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. Everyone in masks and no-one there...” Her voice trailed off as memories crowded her mind, as no doubt they did everyone’s who’d been in that situation.

“So sneer all you want at the stalemate, but everyone is guilty, not that we have a choice.” Cara’s past self trailed off into silence, the class staring at her before she bowed and left the front, leaving them to wrestle with themselves.

She was left on her won to say the last part and looked around, “Sad as it is... isn’t it training? Isn’t that situation what makes us ourselves? How many of you could do what you’re doing if you hadn’t been through that? How many of you?!” Her slightly raised voice challenged them to admit it. When she received no answer her hand slid her hair tie off, sending the black locks tumbling over her shoulders.

“The fact is that this bullying has to happen, we have to learn to pretend, to lock ourselves up, to hide behind masks.” No-one could meet the gaze that was silently offering them their pasts.

“If you knew everything going through your commander’s head would you trust them? If they were afraid? Or unsure? Would you?” A pregnant pause, “so we keep up the mask, give others someone strong to look to, and that faith can make or break a person. They rise to fulfil it or they crumble under the pressure.”

Cara held out her hands to show them what she'd been hiding. A simple white half-mask with silver edging like the beautiful moth-like Venezuelan dancers who emerged at midnight.

“So no matter how much you think you do not have barriers between you and the world, you do, because it protects you.” Cara slowly started to raise her hands, “It protects the scared child inside hiding from the bullies and the fears.” Cara halted, the mask a few centimetres from her face as she spoke softly.

“So when you walk out of here... remember that you’re all wearing a mask, and please...”

Cara’s fingers slipped the material over her skin, and released her hair to lie over the tie.

“Remember the small scared child, don’t shut them away and forget they existed, because that’s your strength.”

Her fingers moved away from her face as she walked down the steps to the main aisle. All eyes on her as she slowly walked past, looking to neither side as she approached the doors, then paused, her hand on the handle. Her hair shifted slightly as the masked woman looked over her shoulder, eyes glittering behind white material before turning away.

The beautiful mask walked out, letting the wooden panels swing softly shut behind her.

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