Once a week for the next two months, The Crime Report will publish writing by young people incarcerated in Illinois. “Looking In, Looking Out: Reflections of Youth Changing Their Lives” was compiled by the John Howard Association of Illinois and features poetry, essays and artwork.
This week, we feature an “insight” by J.P.,17 -years -old.
Hear Me Out
Don't let me fool you. Don't be fooled by my mask, because I wear a mask. I wear a
thousand masks. Masks that I am afraid to take off and not one of them are the real
me. Pretending is like a hobby to me, but for God's sake – Don't be fooled. I will give you
the impression that I am secure, that all is sunny and well with me. Inside, as well as
the outside, confidence is my name and coolness is my game. You will think that the
ocean of my mind is calm and I am in command. You will believe that I need no one.
But please don't believe me. My surface may seem smooth, but my surface is just a
It is ever changing and ever concealing.
Beneath the mask lies no smugness. Beneath the real me sits in confusion, in fear
and aloneness. Beneath the mask, I hide all that. I don't want anyone to know what is
under the mask. I worry and panic at the thoughts of my weaknesses and fears of being
exposed to you.
That is why I always create a mask to hide behind, a fake sophisticated facade to help
me pretend. The mask protects me from the eyes that know. I want to believe that if it
is followed by acceptance and it will be followed by love.
Love is the only thing that can liberate me from myself. From my own self-built prison
walls, from the barriers that I so painstakingly erected. It is the only thing that will
assure me of what I cannot assure myself; that I really am worth something. But I
don't tell anyone this.
I do not dare, because I am afraid. Afraid you will think less of me and just
laugh. The laughter is what kills me. It makes me think deep down I am nothing. I am
just no good. So, I play my little game, my desperate pretend game with you. I have
fake assurance outside and a scared little boy inside. The parade of masks begin…
The glittering but empty parade of masks walks along, and my life becomes one big lie
to all others around me. No lie is in me (it is just the masks).
But please, somehow or some way, do not be fooled.