Mask balls and a teardrop
I used to read 19th century novels with mask balls, and imagined the long dresses and the beautiful hand made masks, wondering if in the real balls people recognized each other or not--or if they just pretended not to, to have the freedom to do as they wished.
I made masks for me--I was a child--but they never looked good, not as good as I wanted. I wore them anyway, with lots of gold glitter. I wanted the Venetian carnival that existed only in movies retouched by my imagination; masks of papier-mache exquisitely painted in white, black, silver and gold.
I was never invited to such a ball. I never even heard of one.
I once went to Venice (the real one, in Italy), to see the carnival. It was just a trap for tourists, thousands of them filling the piazza and inhaling the bad smell of the channels. I cried the wasted money, and went back home feeling sad and having lost a dream.
Dreams are things that we should never, ever lose.
Life goes on, anyway. One night I went to a party thrown by one of my friends. In a quieter corner, being heard by three or four quiet guests, was a man playing guitar. I sat quietly, listening his smooth playing, pieces that I had never heard before, rich. At one point there was a loud shouting and everyone went to see what was going on. I waited, and so did he. We were left alone.
``Come with me,'' he said.
We went to the back of the apartment, the service stairs, where everything was quiet when he shut the door behind us. He sat with the guitar on his lap, and I sat a few steps below him, looking up.
``Shhh...'' he said, his finger in front of his mouth. I waited, and the automatic lights turned off. ``You don't mind the dark, do you?''
I did, but I just shook my head, then remembered that he couldn't see anything in that pitch dark. ``No.''
``If you do, close your eyes,'' he said. This ridiculous phrase made me feel light, almost laugh, and everything was fine. Then he played a song. The quietness and the close space made the guitar sound much better, almost magical.
``I don't know any of the songs you played tonight. What is the name of this one?'' I asked, when he finished.
``Classical pieces,'' he replied. ``This one is called Lágrima--it means Teardrop. A short, slightly sad piece.'' And then he played for a long, long time, the pieces intermingling with each other.
We started dating. One day, he invited me to his apartment. ``Dress nicely.'' There were two small boxes over the table.
``I'm going away,'' he said. Study guitar abroad, for at least two years, probably more. He wanted an international career. I cried, I couldn't help. He embraced me. ``Don't cry. Here, I have something for you. Pick one of them.''
``Which one?'' I asked, sobbing.
``It doesn't matter.''
I picked the left one, and opened it. There was a mask inside it. A black mask with a white border on the eyes, and a silver teardrop on the right cheek.
``I'll be right back'', he said, taking the other box. In a moment he showed up wearing another mask almost equal mine, but with the teardrop on the other cheek, and a black drape. ``Aren't you wearing yours yet?''
We danced all night, if you count certain things as dancing too. That was my mask ball, and it only costed me one love.