Dear Mask…

Dear Mask,

What a ride it’s been.

Not since way back in my dating days have I had such a rocky relationship with someone over the space of six months.

You turned up on my doorstep uninvited, elbowed your way into my life, and I hated you.

You were too clingy, you were invasive, and you were a burden to carry wherever I went.

The first time we ever went out together was awful, I could barely breathe.

I felt claustrophobic and smothered,

Trying to quickly navigate the new way of breathing with you across the mouth, fogging up my sunglasses.

With you, I had flashes to images of young children in the wars wearing gas-masks I had seen in history class,

Children whose youthful innocence had been snatched away by the cruel reality of the ever-present danger of the world we live in.

But then, like every rocky relationship, we got used to each other, and you became just another part of my daily routine.

You were never a joy to have around, but I understood why you were there, and the purpose you served.

For as long as we needed you, you were protecting those around us,

Both those we knew and those we didn’t.

The vulnerable and the sick,

And ourselves.

Making sure we played our part in keeping everyone as safe as possible, as the insidiousness of Corona crept across our lives.

But now it’s time to say goodbye.

And while you won’t be missed, in retrospect I can recognise that there were actually some good times we had together.

You were there to protect my identity when I dropped that two-litre bottle of liquid lawn fertiliser in the middle of a Bunnings aisle,

Hiding my face from the poor staff member who had to come and clean up my mess as it glugged and glugged, spreading steadily across the aisle and underneath the shelves.

Then maintaining that disguise as I came back the next week to buy another bottle without being publicly labelled a menace to society and barred from entering the store.

Even a walk past an ex was all smooth sailing with you keeping my identity a secret.

You had your moments.

You taught me how to communicate with those around me without words or a smile,

For the first few weeks, I’d continue to smile at strangers with my mouth,

Who were oblivious to the friendliness that lay beneath my cotton covering.

So I honed my craft, perfecting the right level of eyebrow raise so as to come off as a friendly neighbour rather than an unhinged weirdo.

Walking the fine line of not raising them up and down too quickly and coming off looking like a sleaze-bag, and keeping them up just for the right amount of time so as to not look perpetually shocked,

Pairing that with just the right amount of eye-crinkle as a  follow-up, for the perfect ‘Hey, how are ya?’ friendly wordless exchange.

And now, mask,

After 110 days, it’s time for our inevitable breakup.

We’re done.

I’m able to re-enter society barefaced and free,

And you’ll be packed away, way in the back of a dark cupboard, kept only to serve as a reminder of what we as Victorians have fought through.

It’ll take some getting used to, no longer needing to leave the house with the standard routine pat of pocket, pocket, face,

Wallet. Phone. Mask,

And out you go,

But there won’t be any tears on my part.

The only mementos you’ll be leaving behind will be a few pimples and a faint tan-line across my nose of a masked-up, sunny Spring.

But nevertheless, thanks for what you did mask,

You played your part,

And helped us get the where we are now.

So long,

And I hope to never see you again.