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LOVE IN THE
TIME OF COVID
TIME OF COVID
A subway is an unlikely place, things aren’t meant to happen here, and strangers know not to buttonhole or be buttonholed. Extended glances are instantly regarded as indecent, and you never know who the stranger is. Still, you wish you could say something, something humorous or mildly bold. How often have you let moment kike this slip by, either because something wasn’t right, or because you were shy, or someone stood too close and could hear, or because a better moment might come soon enough again, better moments always come again—so you hope. Life, they say, is what happens to in the here and now. But life is no more than a series of better next time. So you rehearse dialogues: To “Do you always stare at strangers this way?” your answer might be “No, never, but I have to because we may never meet again.” Or you’re asked which is your stop, and your answer would be a clever “It was two stops ago.” “Why did you stay on the train then?” “If you ask it’s because you already know the answer.”
You want to say simple words, even if they’re totally flatfooted. But you can’t even find the words.
Can you think of anything?
Maybe it’s because everyone seems to be staring at you. Or maybe because your words might unleash a torrent of rebukes. Maybe you fear that un mistakable No, which has been dogging your entire life, because life’s Yesses always disappear; the Nos stick forever after.
But then without thinking: “Would it be totally wrong if I asked you to remove your mask?” you ask.
“Because I want to remember your face.”
“Because something is happening and I’m scared to know its name.”
The mask is quietly lowered.
“Yes, very happy.”
But now comes the unexpected, the one you’d put down a million because it’s the last thing you’d ever have imagined anyone asking.
“Your turn now.”
“My turn what?”
“To remove your mask.”
We burst out laughing
“Do you believe something is happening?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. Where do you get off?”
“Two station stops ago.”