Today I learned that if you’re wearing a face mask and dark sunglasses no one can tell you’re crying.
Not that I ran into that many people when I was out. And not that I spent very much time with them at all when we did, everyone (rightly) keeping our distance as covid-19 ravages Texas.
But I learned the lesson nonetheless. That a face mask and dark glasses can turn into a kind of emotional privacy booth, one I’ve never experienced. Not that I wanted to be out and about. I was doing something essential, the only reason I leave my house these days.
In this instance, it was because my elderly cat hasn’t been doing so hot. The past week or two, he’d grown listless, off-balance, lethargic. Thankfully, my vet is offering curbside service where you pull up, call them when you arrive, and give a health history via the phone to the vet tech before someone comes out to fetch your pet from the car and bring them inside to be seen.
I wear a mask for the visits anyway. I put the mask on as I’m leaving my home and keep it on until I return there, even though the brief encounters where they’re taking my cat to my car or returning him to me are the only time I am around anyone else. I figure it’s safer for both me and the vet techs (who also wear masks). At the very least, it’s polite. Plus, it’s a good way to practice getting my mask tolerance up. Because there could come a time where I have to do something riskier like sit in a human doctor’s office waiting room for health issues of my own.
I note that the mask feels stifling for the first few minutes I put it on. Understandable because Dallas summers are hot. (The other day the heat index here was 111.) But if I just relax, I adjust, and it’s comfortable. You just have to ignore the first few panicky seconds when your body goes WTF. And then you’re fine.
If You’re Wearing a Face Mask & Sunglasses, No One Can See You Cry
On my first visit to the vet they do an exam, give my cat subcutaneous fluids, and run labs. When the labs come back, the issue is clear: He’s developed diabetes since his last visit five months ago, likely due to steroids he’s on for another chronic condition. And his diabetes is out of control. He’s caught up in a cycle where high blood sugar dehydrates him. And apparently dehydration will in turn spike blood sugar.
The second visit, they give him some more fluids. They let me take him home over the weekend to see if a new diet and the fluids help him.
On Monday morning, my third visit, they repeat labs and give him fluids. He’s getting better but not fast enough. He needs more help than I can give him at home. They tell me they’ll have to admit him for a day or two.
I keep the quaver out of my voice as we discuss this on the phone. I know the plan we’re making is the right one. And I know I’m doing the right thing for him. But as I go to drive away from the office, I feel guilty leaving him there. I wonder if he’s worried. If he’s stressed. If he’s afraid.
The tears come. And I note with curiosity as I glance in the mirror that you wouldn’t know I was crying, to look at me. I’m inscrutable beneath the mask and glasses. I even look a little cheerful, as my mask is pretty, brightly colored.
I have my own emotional privacy booth.
These are strange, exhausting times. But I’m looking for the bright side wherever I can find it.