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Face off

Time check !
45 minutes left.  5 to plan.  40 to write.  The end of the battle is nearing.

But as I look at that blurry visage of person I do not know or cannot care to know.  I begin to spin.


What is it to be a writer... really a writer.  Anyone can put words on a page or pretend the they understand how the most outlandish of metaphors can symbolise the most provincial of things.  Can we call that man a writer?


Writing is terrifying and freeing all at once.  Like jumping from a high place, with knowledge that there’s a crash mat down below but still your heart loathes to have to trust it.  To write a story is to be completely vulnerable to the advances of the world.  Will I allow my heart to bleed out onto this page or will I give them a tase of my perception. One tantalising taste of how my brain spins, how my heart beats, how my eyes stare.

I can’t believe that sometimes I claim to understand my own mind. I can never believe that.  I’m aware of other peoples minds, sometimes I think I can even understand them by the way they look into my eyes.  I do love eyes.  I like they way they smile... there’s a lack of smiling eyes right now... I’ve forgotten what colour my eyes are.  I wonder what colour eyes Mr blurred photograph has.


They’re sad. I imagine them to be deep blue: I look into them and they’re oceans.  But not oceans like anything you or I have ever seen.  This man has eyes like lost oceans, the kind of swirling whirlpool that you could find yourself freely trapped in for eternity. There was treasure buried deep in those eyes.  Perhaps that treasure was the remains of a ship, laden with the secrets of an old world or perhaps they hold the key to the future.  I’ll never really know.


Dammit the time is slipping away.  People write so quickly, they look in pain.  Perhaps they’re just concentrating on the task at hand.  A whole room of people all trying to say something interesting and unique about one man.  One face... One person.

Who is this man in front of me?  I’ve never looked at a face so closely. Who was he?  Who is he?  We’re all more than just a face.  I’ve always believed that, but to be honest aren’t we all just faces.  That’s all we are to the majority of people.  Just faces.

I want so much for this man to be more than just a face.  I want for him to have had a life full and vibrant.


There are deep trenches dug into his cheeks and forehead.  All at once it struck me he could have been a soldier.  The pain in his eyes, the proud cut of his lips and the fine stubble peppering his face remaining as there was no other option but to keep it.
And then I hear him.  This photograph speaks in my head.  He uses a voice I know so well, his words beat like a drum in my head and I hear them as if all at once this photograph has turned into a documentary and I’m a cameraman tasked with doing justice to one man's lifetime knowing full well what his future has in store...

I listen, his voice is breathless now.  Like he’s running and speaking at the same time, like he’s having to chase the words that leave his own mouth to trap them back inside his heart, like I have stolen them from him and the retrieval of them is imperative to his survival:
“I thought I could do it.”

A pause, long enough for his eyes to plead with me to stop. Not long enough for him to believe that he wants to.
“I really thought I could.”

His admissions begin to flow now.  As if his words were wine at a wedding, shared at a cost to those serving it but nourishing those who recieve it.
“I thought I could turn up in my spit shined boots and my freshly shaven head and be one of them.”


I look around the room now, tearing my eyes from the photomaps of the man I am hearing.  Furious faces scribble in what looks to be an incoherent manner across their pages.  Not one of them looks as if they see the man that I am seeing and yet all of them claim to understand his story.


My mind breaks again.  His voice shatters my ‘real’ world and all at once the state of a soldier unfurls again in my mind.


“I thought because I’d read the manuals and heard the broadcasts I too could stand in the lines, I too could be in a regiment.  Me... of all people, could fit in.”

With that last revelation of heartfelt truth from a fictional man, I looked back at his face for my final minutes.  Memories and memorials were scattered along every line of his skin.


For a moment I believed I could see my face reflected in the dark pupils of his eyes, as if he had some sort of black mirror which would attempt to show me my likeness the way in which I needed to see it.  I will complete my meetings with this silent stranger, richer in soul and yet somehow completely empty on the inside.


I stare at this face one last time and feel his magic appear one last time in my mind.

But then something infinitely sad strikes me.  Perhaps there was nothing extraordinary about this man.  Perhaps he is simply just a generic man chosen by an exam board for people like me to pass judgement on and create an indignantly more interesting life for him then the one he lived.

I suppose I’ll never know.


All at once the bell tolled, signifying the end of my budding relationship.  I looked down at my page.  All that I had written was ‘The’.

I was taken in by those eyes.  I guess I was never let out.


Photo by Madhav Rajeshon Unsplash

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