Masquerade came to mind one evening with a soft comfortable breeze sashaying its way along Congress Street, like we hadn’t a worry in the world. Well, from the look of it we didn’t, with a mild smile on our faces, slight lilt to our walk and looking forward to dinner and the theater; a night out was the theme, leaving worries of COVID and the safety of our puppies under lock and key.

So why was I feeling slightly restless, not uncomfortable as that would be too definitive, more vague – chance of rain or trying to remember something you forgot. What I sensed circled around me in the restaurant as we took our seat at the bar. There were only a few others doing the same and quietly nursing their drink, too early and too sparse to invite conversation from a stranger. Don’t get me wrong, the atmosphere was comfortable replete with votive candles lined up on the bar sexily reflecting light on the oak bar. We knew the food would be more than satisfying, and I also don’t mean to give you a wrong impression of my well being. I had no feelings of being watched in some sort of conspiratorial manner. Never the less, there was a slow burn of unease building up around me.

Upon leaving the restaurant, feeling satisfied and more carefree especially after a glass of wine (amazing how that works), that soft breeze guiding us to the theater, we reminisced about the way things changed after two plus years of a pandemic and the re-shifting of service workers, shop keepers, restaurants and how much more expensive it was to now go out on the town.

It was at that moment that it dawned on me, what it was I felt earlier in the evening. I had been looking around at the people on the street, almost automatically, as I have always done, and looking into the windows of the other restaurants and shops that were still open for business. There it was, staring at me all the time, really obvious. After all it was Thursday night, not Sunday or Monday, but that big night when restaurants, theaters, bars are busy with happy people making noises like laughter, chatter, excitement as they looked forward to their near end of the working week pleasures.

No, there was none of that and it occurred to me, it all became a reality, the truth of how we are feeling, not joyous, celebrating the end of a pandemic, because we know, down underneath the pretense we know that it’s not over and the remnants of this insidious virus are facing us on this quiet Thursday evening. Those few of us who were out parading up and down Congress Street were trying to convince ourselves, and others, that it’s okay; hey look at us we’re not worried, we’re not even wearing masks.

It was a masquerade, and so well performed that we almost convinced ourselves that everything was normal.

— Special to the Telegram

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