The magpies have begun their mating call, which means spring is coming. It also marks the start of swooping season. The second-worst thing that happened to me outdoors this week was one flying into my head. Thankfully there were no witnesses, and I kept on with my route. There was no sense cutting my mandated hour of fresh air short.
I walk through the park, past the museum, past the pond, then out and down the street to the State Library. Then down Swanston St and left up Little Bourke, through Chinatown, past closed restaurants, past the place where our show was supposed to be in May, past the Princess Theatre where Harry Potter isn’t playing. Then left, up, back to the park.
I make myself go outside every day. Especially on the days I don't want to. It's cold and it rains and there are more people than you think there'll be. But there is also birdsong and green leaves and the wind on your face and the golden light of 5pm on the buildings.
The worst thing that happened was when I realised I'd forgotten to put my mask on. I got halfway through the park before I realised. A swift bolt to the stomach, then a deep dread all over. That acute sense of panic like right before you cry. I stopped. Checked my pockets. Pulled my jumper up over my face and half-ran-half-skittered home. I worried about all the people who had seen and judged my uncovered face.
Some benefits of masks I've noticed - aside from protecting myself and others and obeying the law - are warmth, laughing freely at podcasts and hiding my chin acne. Perhaps something deeper too. Something about performance or performativity. Perhaps something about the commedia dell'arte section of my degree that I didn't pay attention to.
It's been months since wearing a mask was recommended, and weeks since (in Melbourne) it was mandatory. At first it felt awkward and self-conscious. But suddenly it felt horrific to not be wearing one. It felt naked. Then such sweet relief to put it back on, to fit the wire to my nose. And to emerge into the world correct – fully dressed.