"I just washed my hands."
"Good to know," I say, nodding.
"People used to make fun of me for being a germaphobe," he says.
"You were ahead of the trend," I say, nodding.
"Exactly." He smiles and touches his bare face with his freshly washed hands and launches into a rant on the worthlessness of masks. Something something microbe particles. Something something Dr. Fauci, and I keep nodding.
I glance over at my co-worker. She is nodding politely too, while at the same time doodling up a storm. She's a big time doodler.
"I had covid." The patron says. "January 2020. It wasn't a big deal and now I'm completely fine."
"Wow," I say, "you're so lucky." I'm sorta messing with the guy now and I'm not proud of it. It's the situation. How absurdist it is. Nearly two years into a global pandemic and here we are. The signs on the door to the library that say PLEASE WEAR A MASK. The maskless patrons parked out at the computers, one of them presently coughing up a lung.
I'm going to catch this. It's a miracle I haven't already. This week alone three people I know have gotten sick. I send them soup. I should be a paid spokesperson for this soup company. Paging SPOONFUL OF COMFORT people: let me be your official influencer in Columbus Ohio. Meanwhile, I am second-guessing every one of my sniffles, every twinge of throat scratchiness, every sneeze.
I take a home test. It's negative. But can I be... positive that it's negative? I read all the health articles in the news. They range from: We're All Going to Get This! to Try Not to Get This! I wonder if I should be more afraid. But the truth is I am long past being afraid. This is the world now.
"Forget masks." The patron is still going on. "You want to know what the secret is?" He leans over my desk.
I scoot my chair back and nod.
The laugh bursts out of me before I can stop it, and then I apologize. "Good to know," I tell him. He walks off, and I reflexively reach for my hand sanitizer. "What the hell is a nutricicle?" I whisper to my doodling co-worker.
"No idea," she says. She's finished with her doodle. She holds up the picture, and we both laugh into our masks.
|--artwork by Emma Root|