Unmasking wonder

After COVID, one thing I have to relearn is how not to walk around with my mouth open. Behind my mask, my jaw hangs like I’m constantly amazed, even if all I’m doing is choosing a pasta sauce. 

In the early days, when I noticed I was doing this, I’d shut my mouth. Images of hollow-eyed old men at the care home terrified me. I didn’t want to look like one of them, shuffling toward a visitor with a gaping jaw and a urine smell. But then I’d remember I was safe behind my mask.

Out in front of UPS yesterday, a man stepped right into my personal space to open the door. “I’m in line,” I said.

He snapped back, “I’m going to the mailboxes, so don’t even.”

I would have been totally justified in snapping back, I didn’t know that. But it’s hard to snap when your mouth is hanging open. A customer left while he was in there, so I was about to move to the inside line when the man came back out. “You’re also blocking the door,” he added.

I’m following the rules, I could have defended myself. I’m six feet back from the next person. “Thanks for letting me know,” I said instead. “Have a great weekend!”

He scoffed and pushed past me. The person in front of me commented, “Some people.”

She hadn’t heard my earlier snippy comment, but still, it made me feel better. Behind my mask, I marveled at the man’s insistence on correcting me, the other customer’s kind defense, and a new customer approaching with two huge bags of packages. How do people prepare like that? This was my second shipping trip in three days.

I will learn to keep my mouth closed again, but I’ll miss the privacy of my mask. It reminds me of the yoga lesson about how turning up the corners of your mouth can change your state of mind. Cultivating a half-smile can actually cause happiness. What if all these open mouths are teaching us wonder?

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