Black Masks

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Black Masks

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I was looking at pictures from a year ago, and I see one from when I first evacuated my college campus. I was on my flight back home, the look on my face was clearly upset—but what stands out to me more is that I wasn’t wearing a mask. It’s blurry when I try to think back on details, but I guess at the time, mask wearing wasn’t yet mainstream. When exactly did that happen? I don’t really remember specific dates—does anyone anymore?--, maybe it was on a Someday or Blursday. All I know is that day, I was in the airport and on an airplane, breathing in other people’s air with no filtration.
But about as soon as my previous statement became something to cringe at, it occurred to me that, “If this how it has to be for a while, I should at least make the best of it.” I wish I were referring to learning to bake bread or even watching Tiger King, but no, no, nothing that productive. Instead, I just retail-therapied the heck out of this new necessary accessory. If wearing a face mask meant I would be safer, I might as well find some pretty ones and enjoy this chance to hide my face behind some artsy patterns. Rumor had it they would be around for “a while” anyways. So, I called them an investment and spent too much time scrolling through Etsy shops. Those guys were on it!
First, I ordered at least five masks off of in patterns with colors I liked or wore often, or the purple in my hair. They were nice, but the thrill wore off. That was the hardcore “stay at home stage,” so there wasn’t much need for them. Then I returned to school, glorious to be back mostly, but also to actually show my investments the light of day, while it was still seldom, in the first two weeks. Then something shifted. It was perhaps in sync with when I got the coronavirus. It was lonely. It was just me on the covid floor of my college, and a bunch of standard blue surgical masks. Believe me, I’m not trying to get pity, especially when I realized how I am of the luckier ones. But it did give me a new look on the not-so-novel (at least to me, now) virus. At that time, I wondered why I never “invested” in any neutral or plain masks, especially with it being such a generally somber time and all. The next time I was out shopping, I picked up the very first black mask I saw. Eventually I’d usually lose it, since I wore it out so much, so then I’d just do it all over again.
My next “investment” was somewhere in the middle. A multi-pack or solid masks in five colors. I could probably count on one hand how many times I actually wore these. I was trying to bring back some color, but my heart wasn’t in it. They remained untouched. Instead, I started opting for the disposable masks my mom had found. That was when I learned that they make them in black.
More recently, I ordered another set of solid masks. Three of the same, all in one color, just plain black. I’ve managed to keep track of all three for a while now. On especially good days, I might break out a brighter ones. But today is just regular, and I’m wearing a black mask as I type.
I’ve noticed recently that many others seem to prefer a black mask too. I can’t help but think it’s representing a collective sorrow, or individual jadedness like myself. Maybe they just like the color black and all the social-distancing is just making me overanalyze the mere presence of others and their face masks. This is cliché, but I really am longing for the day we can see each other smile again.

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This item was submitted on February 15, 2021 by [anonymous user] using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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