STANDING ALONE in the Gotham City Building, so named for its Batman-esk architecture, nothing seemed strange to me.
The State Law Building (as it was more formally known), did impress me,
absolutely. But it also felt natural. It just seemed like what I should be
doing. Nothing was out of place.
Except, in hindsight, this was not how most of my friends applied for university. But I suppose I didn’t know that at the time.
I was a loner of sorts growing up. I had observed people. And a great many of these people did a great many things; things that seemed entirely counter intuitive to me. And I didn’t much care for it. So quite often I played alone.
I noted, around this time, how both of my parents wore masks.
That masks were worn was, and remains, quite normal across all people; but what was powerful in this observation was how both of my parents wore masks. This was what I noted. The way my parents wore their masks.
My parents seemed to posses a sort of innate mask awareness, both of their own mask and of the masks of others.
This was something other people lacked.
The “performing/salesman” father and the empathic “alternative” counselor mother both adapted to interaction; far more than they merely engaged in it. And the metamorphoses occurred swiftly, easily. Like a honed skill more than a trait.
They riffed off each other, reacting to conversation participants in unison with a dazzling speed that, it seemed, could not be matched.
They shifted social dynamics towards desirable ends, or guided interlocutors gently away from threat sites: and with a majesty of effortlessness that I beheld with enthrall.
I mirrored this behaviour. Unconsciously, at first.
This made me popular with grown ups, far more so than with my peers – with whom I could hardly relate to at all.
At birthday parties in primary school I would often sit at the adult’s table with my parents, away from my friends; instead trading quips with their elders.
But then I noticed something unexpected. I was catching up with the parents of my friends, and soon would not belong with them either. For, little did I know at the time; as I was moving forward at an ever increasing pace, they were standing still.
This is why my parents had to master masks, I later theorized. They too had been through this experience.
And my parents certainly appeared to be able to switch masks rapidly. Others, by contrast, not only lacked this skill, but also sorrowfully feared having their own masks removed. Doubly so, if the threat was to have the mask coercively pealed from their faces.
Exposing just the tiniest bit of flesh, at a corner, would engender an exothemic reaction of unequal measure; socially speaking, of course. People could be gently puppeteered in this manner. Steered. Directed. Guided.
What was more, it appeared that most social participants could not see anything except their own mask.
I learned, quite early on, that this was BECAUSE they could not remove their masks.
They thought they WERE their mask.
Very odd indeed.
The eyes on their masks were often skewed. Or badly drawn on with texter felt tip pen and crayon. But, most often, eyes were completely absent.
Well, if you are going to go about wearing a mask without eye holes, I reasoned, of course you will only see your mask.
And quite naturally, I further pondered, you will come to think that you are the mask as well. A Plato’s Cave effect.
The “masks of social participants” was to become a recurring theme in my life. But, again, I did not realise this then. Nor had I yet read any Plato.
Instead, I thought that we were simply of a different kind. A different kind of “thing”. It didn’t mean we couldn’t get along .
I simply imagined that, when I grew up, I would have to go and join the others. Wherever it was they lived, and that I was obviously from.
It further seemed likely that they would be looking for me. They would be all too eager to hear the stories of the “no eyed things” that dwell in other places.
This was to prove a greater distance, and for a far smaller population, than I envisioned at the time. But that would be jumping ahead. We will get to what I ultimately found out about my family, and their relationship with the greater world, in due course.
At this time, it was the simple dynamic awareness of fast shifting masks that proved of most benefit.
This, along with the knowledge of the fear generated inside of the other by the mere hint of coercive mask removal. To even gesture towards partial removal, was to give oneself a natural position of strength on entering any blind social dynamic exchange.
Though this technique had its limitations; it didn’t have many. Very multipurpose/multiterain in application.
In most shallow exchanges “mask threat” and “shifting” allowed for an overwhelming dominance across a diverse set of social landscapes.
And this brought with it a confidence to enter into any social setting,
sight unseen. But there was more to the story.
My siblings lacked this skill, for one. And I knew virtually nothing about my extended family, beyond a few rumours of distant relations.
I couldn’t name my grandparents. I still can’t. Things like this only ring bells once you’ve seen that others can do such things: or at least know why they can’t.
The mask of the other held secrets too. A cause as to why it was fixed to the front of the often eyeless things, is just one example of such a secret.
All the pieces were there, “in hindsight”.
But the perceptual reference frame, there born, allowed for only a certain kind of logic to induce. And as such, at the time, only a certain kind of question could be constructed.
Perceptual referential manipulation was being used to ensure that my feet “hit the ground running” on an, already sketched out, developmental path.
This was certainly done with intent. But the origin of the “first” intent quite quickly becomes elusive, upon investigation.
And it was to further ensure that this path be mine alone, that at no point did I ever attend the same school as my siblings.
Or at least it is plausible that this was a motivating factor in this decision. As I say, intent quickly becomes difficult to place. Except of a kind.
To keep my mask crafted neutral, in order to ply the family trade; those of my siblings had to be “sacrificed” to community arts and craft.
Neither party clearly received the “better” deal of the two.
Meanwhile, at the Bat-Phone back in the lobby…;
“Mr R.?…Mr R, yes…, oh he is?! Actually, I do have that, I do have that… yes, alright. Thank-you Carla. We’ll be up in a moment”.
The Security guard hung up the phone. You see I, naturally, had walked straight into the building, and had attempted to go about my affairs.
This, it seems, was not to be; and I had since become “waylaid” (*read grabbed), while attempting to enter an elevator behind a group of ladies who were dressed in, what appeared to be, matching beige pants-suits.
It quickly became apparent that some form of verification system applied; that the custom of the locals was one bathed in formalities. And far be it for me to go against custom.
But apparently my identity had been confirmed and, for today: that was enough.
“They are expecting you up on level 18. My apologies Mr R., but we can not be too careful, I’m sure you understand. Post September 11 world now, and all that. I was told you were coming, though *coughs*, you are not dressed as I expected. I’ll walk you up. You are quite the intelligent lad I am told…?”
I was not certain if that was an actual question. But I was apparently not intelligent enough to work the elevator on my own.
Though, to be fair, I could have been standing in the lift quite some time waiting for someone to get off on the 18th floor. The lift buttons allowed electronic tag clearance by floor, you see.
Resisting the urge to ask if we could perhaps first go to the roof, so that I may try out the Bat-Signal (just once); I instead opted to go with this “intelligent” persona, which I had been handed effort free.
The Attorney General was waiting for me, after all.
And I, for one, was very eager to find out just what exactly that was.
LSC J.J.R. for QCC-GSI Internal . Staff Focus Issue [SFI Series]: “How Did You Come to Work for GSI”, Series #, Ed 8. [Sept 05].
Follows from:- # *Initial Entry in Series*.
Leads to:- “Known Unknowns”
GSI is the investigative arm of the QCC. J.J.R. is a retained contributor and analyst for inquiries that fall within the forensic or military academic space [since 2005]. He is also a longtime participant in specific field work applications, that fall within his remit, as required by GSI [since 2008].