Masked Strangers; Week 26 in the Time of Coronavirus
I’m not being rude, I just don’t know who you are. Though it seems ill-mannered, I rarely recognize anyone I see. While walking about, I hear my name but have no idea who is summoning me. Even after you tell me how we know each other, I have difficulty placing you. Thus is the dilemma of mask wearing.
Sometimes I recognize the voice. Yesterday my name was called behind me. And, though I couldn’t pinpoint who she was, ultimately her voice gave her away. She’s our upstairs neighbor for about eighteen years. It’s as if I have face blindness, a malady made well-known by the late, great Oliver Sacks.
I used to recognize everyone, even those who had no clue who I was. I’m not great with names, but I remember faces, shared experiences, and my personal impressions. But now that we’re wearing masks, and, for my part, I prefer you wear one than not, I can rarely identify neighbors, acquaintances, friends, and colleagues. It adds to the many moments in which I am caught without a clue during this time of the Coronavirus. My mind is not as sharp now as it was in January. Are any of us as focused or attentive as last year? From what I hear, no.
What I do recognize is modern dance on the bridle path with the reservoir as a backdrop. A man was doing amazing moves as I slowly ran the path. And I can identify a small ballet class on the East River promenade. They were quite advanced. It was pure joy passing them by as they strongly and gracefully leapt in the wind.
I also recognize the dogs I know. They remain maskless for now. And in that way, I know the identity of the owner. I also recognize bees, butterflies, turtles and horses. Most importantly, I can recognize smiling eyes. They say the soul can be seen in the eyes. And, the beautiful creases that adorn perfect strangers is a welcomed reprieve from the stress of the pandemic. It connects us even when I don’t know if I know you.
-Buy 2 masks, give one away.
-Shake things up, try a new hot sauce.
-Whatever you forget, whatever mistakes you make, whatever embarrassing moment you. might have now, remind yourself you’re living through a global pandemic.
-Smile at a masked stranger.
-Dance indoors or out, bringing joy to yourself and perhaps others.