By Joy Richardson
I made my second appointment Tuesday to head to the local frame shop to get some of my prints and art framed.
My first appointment the day before, the framer never showed up. She apologized, but offered no explanation. I have a passion for beautifully framed work that matches the prints, and I have some skills in doing this. I haven’t been out for months, so I make a social distance appointment with the framer, and head in with my supplies and my triple thick mask and filter.
I’m nervous going out, but excited to have some work done for my walls. I feel sort of naughty being out. I am diligently working on beating Covid-19 and wish the rest of the country would fucking cooperate.
Hermoine, the framer, is a lovely 30 year old woman who I instantly see is artistic—I can tell from the gems pierced into her chest and tattoos and multi-colored ginger highlights. I’m pretty good with framing as well, so I am hopeful we can get four art pieces set up for my walls.
She says hello, pulls her mask down off of her nose to her mouth, picks up the large Plexiglas partition that keeps our faces from spitting on each other, and sets it down on the ground. I tense. My breathing becomes painful.
My Rolodex-brain starts flipping swiftly.
My partner is a physician. If she infects me and I infect him and he infects his patients…
If I get sick and die and I haven’t seen my grandkids in a year…
If I die before I can have the kind of relationship I really want with some family members…
What the absolutefuck?
I look around the shop; everyone, all of the employees, wearing masks properly. I back up. I decide, as I push my work toward her and back up some more, that I can ask my inner committee to give me three choices, quickly please. So, The Vajrayogini, the Counselor, and the Sheep each step forward and begin to babble at me. Here’s your three choices:
Grab your shit, tell her that you made a mistake, and quickly exit.
Back up 12 feet, hold your breath and hope she notices, and when she does ask her why she’s being a fucking dipshit when she can easily see you’re wearing a mask that is three feet thick and don’t want to cough on her. Tell her you’d rather have an expert who can follow store policy and knows how to wear a fucking mask and use the Plexiglas that is obviously there for a fucking reason.
Do the right thing. Then, do the next right thing.
So, as my heart pounds rapidly, and I see her looking at the choices I pulled off of her shelf yesterday when she stood me up, and I see her light up, I steady my voice by pretending I am in a play, on stage (because I sort of am), and say, “Ummm…Hermoine? I’m having some anxiety, do you thing you could work with this using the Plexiglas partition?“
She looks mortified and says, “Oh of course!” and immediately replaces it and pulls her mask back onto her face properly.
I thank her and step a little closer, and tell her I understand how claustrophobic the masks can be and I’m sorry they are such a fucking nuisance. This makes me feel much better, because I self-soothe by dropping “f” bombs and other forms of filthy language, and this way I didn’t need to direct it at her. Instead, I was able to use it to sympathize. I like it when foul language can bring me closer to humanity.
What we then accomplished together was better than I could have hoped. In fact, it went so well that I was asked to assist another client.
Socializing (which I don’t want to do for another three months) reminded me of a few things.
If you don’t speak up, people are bound to try and get away with shit because they think you are either a clueless moron, or they think you are lacking the balls to call them on their behavior.
It’s never easy for me to point out another’s shortcomings, even when it affects me, but I value myself so much more than I used to, and it is therefore easier to be kind about it (though I am always ready for that woman…my creator… hiding behind the wall with her butcher knife).
I recognize not everyone cares to do “the right thing.” And not everyone is concerned about the pandemic, but I want to see my family someday, and it’s not looking soon, and I’m in the over 60 crowd, which gives me a free ticket to call out stupidity while I wish for masks on every face.
I also realized that while some of my internal committee members are not very wise, they are all looking out for me. It’s my job to keep them all in line and reward them for their enthusiasm and good intentions.
We all then agree to a glass of red wine and the garden.
Joy Richardson retired from a career in Physical Therapy in the Midwest and moved with her partner to the Western Slopes where she enjoys nature and her many sentients. Joy published her first book in 2015, Juanita and the House of Mirrors, a memoir about growing up with an alcoholic mother.
Editor: John Lee Pendall