The Tainted Veil

After more than two and a half months of being trapped in the house, we’re allowed outside without masks on. I think I was ready to make the leap anyway, as I’ve been having a series of distressing dreams in which the cat is holding a can of lighter fluid and a lit match above my pajama collection. I took it as a sign.

We celebrated with a long walk. “Long” is by relative standards and here actually means “past the local shop.” Later that day I noticed that despite a 5X a week HIIT workout schedule, my legs hurt. Surely they were getting used to the movement of traveling on foot, moving forward and stopping me before I could plummet to the ground. Or perhaps it was the speed walking I did to avoid contact with other humans. (NB: “contact” in this case means coming within seven feet of someone else and then washing myself down with sanitizer).

We’d been out before, but it was on little field trips. Two or three times we went for a short walk and then Burke grabbed up one of the benches across the street from our building while I went off to the local shop for bottled beers. I came back, we wiped them down with sanitizer wipes, we set them in the sun, and then we gobbled them up while staring in a paranoid way at others. But, in our defense, they were staring at us. Subsequent walks have ended at a pub with an outdoor drinking quotient. Sometimes that bar is within eye shot of my flat. And the bench.

Being out with no masks is wonderful, but no doubt the experience is tainted with a bit of worry. On this Friday we take a nice long walk which ends at our local pub. The pub has six long tables outside to accommodate drinkers and eaters. We sit at the last table and decide that since we are outside we are probably fine. It’s unlikely that more than two people could join our table, but we certainly exude a bit of concern. We prep. If joined by someone other than our friends or my cat, our game plan is to allow them of course and then move to the far end of the bench while muttering politely. Should those people cough once, we’ll squirt hand sanitizer at them while screeching “the power of Fauci compels you!” If they cough twice, we’ll run home and go through our self-developed four part disinfecting process involving a toilet brush, a bottle of white tequila, and Band-Aids. But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

I go into the bathroom by way of my elbows and tips of my shoe. I use the side of my hand to squeeze out soap and my courageous elbow again to lift the nozzle of the sink. When leaving, I walk through the pub I have not been in for three months and I miss it. There are groups of people sitting inside at distances. I wonder/marvel at their bravery/stupidity. I get outside quickly.

To be able to sit at my local pub and relax while a waitress brings me draft beer and cold shots is like a little piece of heaven. There’s the pleasant chatter of a pub and talented waitresses carrying ten pint mugs in two hands. There’s a mug holding down the menu of daily specials, (the best) two of which are scratched out with pen. People at the next table laughing and drinking and smoking. Our waitress knows our order by heart. I have been looking forward to this for three months.  

However, it’s mildly tainted by the glaze of worry and stress. The waitresses all wear masks and I obsessively note how close their fingertips come to our mug rims. I begin wondering if it’s safe to have my mug mingle with the other mugs. Where have those other mugs been? When was the last time she washed that fingertip? Can corona travel in cigarette smoke because that lady at the next table is like a chimney!

A few guys come outside from their inside table to smoke. The waitress brings us beers and a shot and Burke and I use wipes to clean our mug rims, mug handles, and shot glass before drinking. One of the inside guys notes this and has a chuckle. I don’t care, it affords us some peace of mind before I’ll be brave enough to drink in a pub again.

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