Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 27: Libra’s Mask

(I’m sitting at a computer, chatting with someone over text. Libra sits nearby, reading a book.)

Mom (Present me): Hah! Her stories always make me smile.

Libra (College me): Oh, who are you chatting with?

Mom: A good friend… It’s nice having conversations like this again.

Libra: Like what?

Mom: Like this one! Talking about ourselves some, listening to them some, sharing our interests, funny stories, whatever strikes our fancy.

Libra: Can I see?

(Libra scoots her seat behind me and starts reading over my shoulder.)

Libra: Oh neat! Her knowledge runs deep, doesn’t it?

Mom: It does! Sometimes I have to look up a thing or two after our conversations. It’s fun to learn new things! Besides, just listening to someone talk deeply about something they’re passionate about… It’s nice.

Libra: It is, isn’t it? It reminds me of conversations I used to have.

Mom: Oh really?

Libra: Yeah, in college! We had friends that would talk about all sorts of random stuff. We’d get into these pointless debates over trivia, or arguments over tiny minutiae about nothing. We had arguments like that a lot…

Mom: Oh right, we did, didn’t we? It felt like all of our friends back then were like that. We’d talk about everything and nothing.

Libra (listless): Mostly nothing… So many of our conversations were like this…

Mom: I guess they were? I guess that’s what happens when you bond with people solely over shared interests. Or maybe that’s not fair to them… Maybe that’s the only way I could relate to others before transition, so it’s the kind of conversation I was comfortable in.

Libra: …

Mom: This feels different to me somehow. Back then, it felt like the entire point of those what-if debates was to get one over on my friends. To somehow prove my superiority by knowing the most trivia, or being the best debater. We would sharpen our skills on each other as we postured for dominance. This conversation is different — I’m not trying to one-up my friend, and she’s not trying to one-up me. I’m just basking in her passion, and it feels like she’s sharing out of her love for that passion. We’re not just engaging intellectually, we’re connecting emotionally.

(Libra is silent.)

Mom: It’s funny though, this still seems off to me? Something about it feels wrong. I don’t know why; connecting on an emotional level like this is new to me, but I don’t think it’s dangerous. And yet… It almost feels like… Dysphoria?

(Libra doesn’t answer.)

Mom (confused): But why would I feel dysphoric? You’ve been quiet back there Daphne; do you have any idea…

(I turn around to look at Libra, but she doesn’t meet my eyes. Instead, she’s sitting with her legs tucked under her seat, her whole body taut with tension. She’s visibly shivering in place as her hands grip the front of the chair. A happy, smiling mask is fitted over her face.)

Mom (shocked): Daphne!

(I quickly reach over and gently pull the mask up and away from her face. As I do, she slowly relaxes and looks into my eyes, though she’s still shivering.)

Libra (tearful): I had so many of those conversations, Mom. They feel so meaningless now.

Mom (comforting): Oh Daphne… I understand, but this really is different. We’re actually bonding with each other; we’ve never been able to do that before. Doesn’t this feel different?

Libra: It does… But it kind of feels the same too.

Mom: That’s what this mask is, isn’t it? It represents who I was back then. This mask is why the conversation felt so wrong; because back then I couldn’t tell the difference.

Libra: Do you think that mask is like Bloom’s? A coping mechanism?

Mom: I honestly don’t know. I don’t know if I was dealing with something or if it’s just an echo of who I was that I can’t help slip back into. I do think that like Bloom’s mask, it’s really easy for me to slip into if I’m not careful.

Libra: I don’t like that mask.

Mom: I don’t either, Daphne.

Libra: So… How can I avoid putting it on again?

Mom: Like this. Take a seat next to me.

(I slide my chair over, and Libra scoots hers up next to mine.)

Mom: Let’s do this together from now on. You can sit beside me, and if you start to feel the way you did back then, I’ll be right here to help you through it.

Libra: Just like you do with Bloom.

Mom: Exactly. I love you, and I’ll always be there for you.

Libra: Thanks Mom. I love you too.

(We go back to the online conversation, chatting and typing together. After a couple of minutes, Libra leans into my side and rests her head gently on my shoulder, a smile on her satisfied face.)