HEY! Where’s your mask?

This COVID-19 is toxic. It’s not just that every time someone sneezes, you look at them like they have the plague. Or the overflowing hospitals and the insane divisive politics, and the mad wannabe king. Or the insane decision whether or not to send your kid to school, knowing someone is going to get sick and die.

And we can’t even kumbaya together, because that would be a matter of life and death.

COVID has infiltrated our easy-breezy relationships too, not just our political ones. Example. I see some school parents I know. We haven’t seen each other for a while, so it’s exciting. But, we haven’t seen them for a while, so I don’t know what they’ve been up to. Are they 10%ers, 80%ers, 100%ers?

I give the cursory wave. When they walk towards me, I walk backward. No masks. They are not wearing masks. I have a little heart attack. I hope they don’t hate me, but I don’t want them to kill my older relatives either.

This happens daily. See person. Search face for a mask. Freak out. See person. Search face for a mask. Happy.

Every time I go for walk, masked up, hot, and giving my lower face that daily steam, I see people I haven’t seen for months. I’m happy to see them, but when they’re not wearing a mask, I wonder. What if, in that brief hiatus, they have become serial killers by complacency? Who knows? Do I ask? What do I ask? Whose business is it? Is it my business? Is it the government’s business? Should I call the police? Or the mayor? Or the alderman? Do I go home, order some canned food, and live in my basement?

The street perpendicular to mine is filled with people not wearing masks. Their kids are all glommed together, and their motto is “It’s wine O’clock around here.” It’s true. They’ve posted their motto on the old Buckeyes that umbrella the parkway. There is one neighbor on that block who is adamant about wearing masks. She has become troll-like in her fear of her neighbors. On social media, she posts the statistics of COVID, mask-wearing, and social distancing. She fears she has lost many friends who have COVID-fatigue and or just don’t see themselves getting it. She posts images to explain how masks work. Some are funny. Some are terrifying. She is scared shitless, but in my opinion, she’s also correct.

What’s the big deal about covering half your face? Oprah says, “Just do it.” Tom Hanks says, “What’s the big deal?”

Most people don’t love the way they look anyway. Most people would change something about their faces and bodies. That’s why advertising still exists.

What if, all of a sudden, we could all walk around in barrels? Barrels might be uncomfortable, but what about a lightweight barrel? Would it matter then, if we’d gained the COVID 15? We could walk around in barrels and masks, having authentic conversations with each other, unburdened by who the prettiest thinnest person in the room is. Content would be king. As Americans, we could evolve.

I have heard many people gitty about not having to check the spinach between their teeth, wax the hair off their upper lip, or pull the hair out of their mole. I’ve heard people so happy that the only person who smells their bad breath is themselves.

So why no mask? You can be as nasty as you want and isn’t that liberating? People are buying fewer clothes, less makeup, less deodorant, less tooth floss. Isn’t there a kind of freedom in that?

I miss you all. I want to go right up to you and talk in your face, and tell you what a drag this is, and tell you everything I learned from this, but we’re still in this.

I hate ignoring people. My husband always says, “Why do you say hi to everyone? You act like you’re from a small town.” And I still do say hi, through my muffled mask. But I’m smiling just a little wider to my masked friends, whether you can see it or not.

When I see you marching up to me, maskless, all confident that you’re COVID-free, I’m flustered. When you dart my way, like you don’t know you’re kerosine and you don’t know I’m a match, I’m going to turn the other way. I hope we can forgive each other later, but we’re not there yet. We’re still stuck at the starting line.

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