This wasn’t supposed to be some artsy photoshoot. It actually lacked any intentionality. I don’t even know what a lip mask is for, really—it just came in my FabFitFun box, and I put it on obediently so that, you know, beauty could happen.

It is coincidental at best that I am wearing a lip mask that presents me from speaking while I have been shaking out my bedsheets, trying to find where my voice is hiding. I’ve been thumbing through the pages of literature, like Peter Pan looking for his shadow. Scrolling online to see if my voice is lurking on a like button.

It isn’t.

So, with the absence of my own voice, I’ve been reading a lot, the type of reading that gives me wild thoughts that currently have no outlet. Most of those thoughts have everything to do with the audacity (and privilege) of voice.

Literature is supposed to hold up a mirror up to whoever you are, and let you know that you (metaphorically) forgot to pluck your eyebrows for the last decade or so. It’s supposed to show you where you’re weak, it’s supposed to show you where you’re ugly. Literature hands you tweezers and says “Pull! Yank! Shape! Be better.”

But the tweezer metaphor, and I guess perhaps the lip mask too, are laced up in this quandary I’m having about the vanity of performance through writing. Why do we tweeze? Who are pristine eyebrows even for?

All this reading I’ve been doing is exposing my weaknesses, but not in a way that’s giving me a crisis of self-confidence; more so, it’s making me intellectually self-conscious. What is another white voice in the vast canon of navel-gazers? What’s the difference between authenticity and virtue signaling? Why do eyebrows matter when the soul is ablaze?

It’s a bit of a buzzkill to realize that your maybe only real talent is a bit vain in its execution, or at least the promotion of it is. It’s laced in a grander argument of the merit of the female voice, that also happens to intersect with a white one.

I’m stymied, though I’m reminded that I don’t need answers tonight. Tonight, I put a pen to paper timidly with questions rather than answers: What’s the value in another voice in the void?