“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “The Lower Half of your Face” Chapter 53
By Bruce Williams
So I took the mask off at work—finally. We were given the okay from all dictums, and so off it came without drumroll or flourish. I would imagine it was as liberating as a woman’s late-evening bra removal, and as there wasn’t any perceived customer apprehension at my skulkily approaching bare puss, I think I’ll just leave that sumbitch off for good. Seeing a variety of people in my daily life for the first time without their face coverings—ones that only entered my purview post-shutdown—I was taken aback a little bit by what was revealed as the bottom half of their face. It was like when you’ve read a good book and in your mind’s eye you’re picturing a crumpled Richard Dreyfuss as the protagonist and then they finally get around to casting the movie and they’ve opted for a chiseled Ryan Reynolds to play the curmudgeonly lead. Now I like Ryan Reynolds and all, but he wouldn’t be what I expected. Much the same when I go to get my coffee and the tall gal with the distinctive voice that’s been in place there for the past year takes my order for the first time without her covering. It’s not until she calls me by name that I realize it is, indeed, her, and the lower half of her face is nothing like I imagined. Not shocking or anything, just…different.
Same goes for another tall male employee I thought at one point might be transitioning because of their shoulder-length blond hair and a pink mask (I middle-aged-man asked someone so I wouldn’t clumsily mis-pronoun them). Once the lower half of his face showed up—with its wispy mustache and concrete set jaw—I realized that I’d been way, way off.
I suppose it’s been a bit of a godsend for those with long, warty witches noses and others sporting little baked bean teeth. Makes me think about all those cultures still operating with arranged marriages and mysterious veils—thankful fathers with insufficient dowries pawning off their snaggle-toothed daughters to unsuspecting grooms who’ve become bewitched by those fetching eyes all a’twinkle. And think of all those unfortunate gents with undefined chins who’ve been hiding behind that swath of fabric for so long who will now have to go back to trimming their pencil beards to outline where their jowls end and their necks actually begin.
One of my friends with an immune deficiency pointed out that there’s still a lot of danger to be had for our most vulnerable. In many cultures, they wear masks as a courtesy to their fellow humans when they’re sick with a cold or the flu…maybe we should adopt that custom here as our own? Who am I kidding, though—some folks couldn’t be bothered with them even during the most infectious peaks because of the perceived infringement upon their freedoms—I always kind of saw it like the seat belt law…good for everybody, no? I usually just followed the lead of Julie B.—a friend of mine from my old neighborhood who’s now a medical technologist at UW whose exhaustive defense of science I found heroic, even if I could only support her full-throated and tireless explanations with one of my tepid thumbs ups.
So, many are removing their masks this Father’s Day…I will no longer have to guess who’s calling me by name behind a hat, glasses and a Seahawks gaiter. Though, 19 pounds of extra Covid (or Netflix—you pick) weight might make it tougher to decipher who it really is. I’m looking forward to seeing your whole face again (as long as you’ve had both shots), as soon as you’re comfortable with it. I have to admit—when out in public I tend to mirror the majority, whether with or without as there are no hard wired rules and every establishment is still a little bit different. Here’s to coasting down the backside of the pandemic, though, with a nod to those we’ve lost and an appreciation for all we’ve learned from it.