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Muffled Thoughts from a Masked Pandemic

2020 Vision 

Didn’t 2020 used to mean perfect vision? A time to drop the distortions, rose-colored glasses, and racial color-blindness? A time to see the world with clarity? Instead, we saw our birthdays and funerals through tiny video screens. We glimpsed our surroundings from inside a fortress of toilet paper rolls and bags of flour. We eyed innocent groceries with suspicion. The world as seen from inside our bubble was distorted like a fish-eye lens. We got a wide view of a world that was bending from all directions toward the middle, a world imploding toward us, the center of our collapsing universe.

The Gift

We were sitting in her garden with the length of a grave between us. She had sewn 50 face masks as a gift to the community, each made with fabric salvaged from her quilt-making. She offered me my choice. A leftover scrap of log cabin? A bit of double-wedding-ring? I chose the remnant of a flowery blue baby quilt to protect me from bad dreams.

Masked Pandemic | Image by M.L. Herring

The Signal

I notice that some people (not you, of course) wear their masks under their chins. They can't decide to conform or rebel. They probably can't decide who they will vote for on election day or what color ball cap to wear to the polls. They wait to see what their heroes will do. They want to be recognized as part of a team, a cap-wearing club to follow. Perhaps that’s the same reason you and I wear masks fitted snugly across nose and mouth. I don’t recognize you, but I can tell by your mask (and that whiff of Purell) that we are on the same team.

The Empowerment

I have found that a mask allows me to walk boldly into Safeway and purchase a Twinkie without risking shame or ridicule or self-righteous stares from neighbors; without having to pretend that the Twinkie is for a demanding child on the verge of a tantrum just offstage; without excusing the Twinkie as a science experiment or a theater prop that no one will actually eat. There's no need for excuses. No one knows I am the person behind the mask. 

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