I had to go to the village today.
On the short drive to the village a couple of cars passed heading the opposite direction, both drivers wore surgical masks.
In the taxi rank in the village a driver leaned against the hood of his car, mask tucked beneath his chin, smoking.
The receptionist and vet wore blue masks.
The middle-aged man with the shock of dark curly hair who passed me on the sidewalk wore a white N95 mask.
The lady carrying two armloads of groceries wore a mask.
The young dude unlocking his car wore a mask.
Barefaced and bare-handed, I felt like a lowlife misfit.
Appearing in public sans mask is the new barebacking. Socially irresponsible, verging on reprehensible.
On arriving home, I decided it was time to buy masks (Amazon orders are delivering a month out, so thanksthefuckverymuch Jeff Bezos, I’m off elsewhere).
Why the previous reluctance?
Because I don’t want to walk around thinking the next breath is going to kill me, or someone else. For the first time, I have an inkling how some men feel about condom use. Yeah, sure fine it’s the most appropriate thing to do but goddamn it, who wants to experience the world through a prophylactic shield?
Cherry blossoms are out, yellow wands of broom, did I mention the walnut trees are leafing? The air is pristine, sharp and Atlantic-cold. Our neighbor trundles up and down the road in an old red tractor, moving wine-sweet hay bales.
I do not want to touch the world with rubber fingers and breathe through layers of activated carbon. Why the hell would I sign up for that? Why not just lock myself in a sterile box and wait to die?
Okay, it’s not that dramatic but something important is being (has been?) lost in all this. Our sense of touch is already degraded from devoting too much of it to digital screens. We rarely breathe as deeply as we should. This
stupid cunning virus is robbing us not just of too many lives but, sneakily, of things that make life worth living.
I’ll probably end up like wearing a mask for the common good (assuming I can beg borrow or steal one) but I refuse to think it is a Good Thing, in a larger sense.
We cannot do without enjoyment, wrote to Jack Gilbert. The ordinary sensual pleasures of filling our lungs and encountering the world through touch are not dispensable.