I wore a mask to walk the dog today.
On the surface, it was embarrassing. Here’s me, wearing my mask, more anxious than passersby who weren’t wearing theirs. I felt uglier, and geekier—it didn’t feel like a super hero’s mask.
Physically, it was harder to breathe. Without any scientific knowledge to back this up, it felt like carbon dioxide was just pooling between my face and the mask, and I was only receiving 48% oxygen. Seasonal allergies didn’t help. So that by the end of my walk, I’m throaty and breathless, and ever so slightly panicked because nothing stresses me out more than not being able to breathe. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t have COVID—but after 10 minutes outside with a dog, I missed oxygen. It gave me a modicum of empathy that I didn’t have prior to the walk.
Emotionally, the mask is much more. A confession that we are human and so wildly subject to the winds as they blow. That man is mortal, fallible, and so deeply flawed. Emotionally, the mask reminds me that potentially what stands between me and death is luck, six feet of distance, and a flimsy piece of fabric.
I smiled at a mother and her daughter while putting distance between us. Did they know I was smiling at them? Or could they only see the mask and the distance?
When will we recover from the general mistrust of our neighbor?
What will I tell Hudson about the time where we all—or, well, really only some of us—wore the mask? Will this time be about the masks? Or the ventilators? Or politics? Will it be about distance or quarantine or Tiger King? Will it be about the time that no one could view art or dance or culture, so we made our own instead?
I hope it’s a story about the collective human spirit combatting forces that we cannot see. I hope it’s not about distance; I hope it’s about togetherness.
Wear the mask.