It's almost spring, never mind the snow on the ground. The pandemic is over, everybody says. Today I am going out to brunch with a friend.
Yesterday my husband and I ran errands like we used to in the Before Times. Columbus lifted the mask mandate a few days ago, but my library has hung onto our masks-required-for-employees rule until tomorrow. Tomorrow, I'm not sure what I'm going to do.
Errand number one is the post office, and I see a guy walking out bare-faced and decide, Oookay, here I go, mask-less myself. But when I walk inside, the handful of people in line are masked and so is the clerk, although, she's wearing hers like a chin strap. I fumble my mask out of my purse and put it on, and when I reach the counter, the clerk's got hers on properly too. I don't know what to make of this. Peer pressure?
Errand two is the pet store to buy the ridiculously expensive pet food we serve to our dog, who let me tell you has a very sensitive stomach and every time we go into the place and the cashier rings it all up, I can feel my husband tensing beside me and I remind him of the crazy high emergency vet bill we paid a few months ago and this is the food they recommended and we both take a breath under our masks, except this time, we're not wearing masks.
We decided on the car ride over that we'd go with the flow, based on what the employees are required to do.
No masks, on any of them. It's like this for the remainder of our errands, everything back to normal with the bare faces, but jarring to me. I realize that in most parts of the country (Tennessee, for example, where we visited my husbands' parents recently) the pandemic was Declared Over long ago. But up here in our little Columbus bubble, many of us are still paying attention to case counts and hospitalizations and the death rate. For example, for the past two weeks in Ohio, ninety-one people died every day from Covid.
Which seems high? Except it's so much lower than the several hundred people a day average from last month, so we're all good now? I guess?
When this is all over, a friend told me way back at the beginning, I never want to think about it again. I don't want to write about it. I don't want to read about it. As soon as it's over, I'm done.
Well, yeah, I told her. Me too. For sure.
Because believe me, I've been there with the wanting to forget, the frantic desire to move on, to let it go, to get on with it. I have been reading books on living through trauma, how it affects the mind, the body. And what has all of This been, but collective, mass trauma? The books have more to say about the After part, the part when the trauma's in the past, or we think it is. But I don't want to get into it with you right now.
I'm taking a few extra moments to fix my hair before I leave for brunch. Scrounge around in the drawer where I keep my earrings. Dab on a bit of make up, the first time I've done this in two years. Out the door and just watch me, I'll be baring my face like the best of them.