Eyes Without A Face

Eyes Without A Face

I am currently on day six of voluntary quarantine. I say voluntary because there was zero authority in the request to do so and no method of tracking for it. The only thing I am doing is going for multiple brisk walks with my dog, collecting the mail and taking out trash. Upon my arrival, I noticed that Germans were totally ignoring any guidelines and were like white on rice for social activities. On my street I could easily observe the usual suspects walking, riding bikes, traveling by train and shopping as any other day. To prevent any asymptomatic spread I am wearing a surgical mask while walking about. I figure I could wait to use something more extreme like an N95 when and if I go indoors. But I am realizing that if it was already difficult to read Germans and align with them on a human level ... it is damn near impossible to do any of that wearing a mask. I honestly cannot communicate to them with just my eyes. And when they too don a mask I do not know what they are giving me if anything at all.

When my husband joins me on my dog walks he doesn't wear a mask. I don't bother him about it as we live in the same household. He does wear one when doing the shopping or at his work which opened back this Tuesday. When he is gone I am disinfecting behind him as his habits have never really changed for the sake of Covid-19. He still wears his shoes past the door in a forgetful manner. He collects the mail and causally places it on the kitchen table. He rinses his fingertips for ten seconds instead of washing both his hands with ample soap. It is as if no one told him there is a global pandemic. I haven't taken in a single item from the outside of my mothers home without waiting and or heavily disinfecting since February. I am not being dramatic or exaggerating. There are a lot of important "theys" that have told me cardboard is harboring the virus for a number of days, people are touching items in stores with zero intentions of purchasing and delivery people are contaminating packages by intentionally coughing on them. He still eats pizza straight from the mass folded box, lick turns pages and puts the kefir direct from his reusable bag into the refrigerator. I can't keep following behind him. But I digress the European sentiment on germs is they are good for you. So out the window with rules and regulations around germs, viruses and other ills of this brave new world. It has always been like this for them. The lack thereof. The purposeful schmutzig.

Then to walk on the street and take cues of who will flank first. It was problematic before but now it is a challenge. If I face a person without a mask they cannot see if I am annoyed or being diplomatic. And as they mush closer I do not want to open my mouth to say anything. I already grapple with the absence of a direct translation of excuse me. Tschuldi doesn't quite cut it. Yesterday I faced two men walking side by side near my apartment. I wished to pass them to go home but it wasn't happening. The speed Germans walk as if they are in a race. They are like Pacman just going along eating infection and frische luft. As they came speedily came closer they never yielded. Both were boomers, one wearing his mask under his chin and the other holding his in a ball in his left hand. Again walking fast, blocking my door and speaking loudly. They actually grazed my left shoulder and there was nothing I could do but snatch up the dog. They were visibly smiling and I was unsure if they were jeering at me or enjoying the pup. Either way I felt violated as I felt they were purposely trying to breathe on me. And there was nothing I could do but be mushed between cars and fences. They were blocking my ability to go home and Köln residential streets don't allow for cowering. I have been dealing with unusually pushy and irrational white Americans in the States since the pandemic began. Them chasing me in the wrong direction down store aisles and grabbing at my things on the checkout conveyor. We had come to the conclusion that they were trying to infect us. I mean everyday the numbers say Black and brown people are just being eradicated. Here I think it is the other way around. I believe Germans want Covid-19 so bad they are doing the utmost. They have just got to prove that the virus is imagined to save spargel and grillen saison. Jeder durch den Park!

There is some silly, sad part of me that believes Sülz has missed me. That I need to get out there and re-introduce myself to my neighbors and local shops. Occasionally, I see someone that I hardly know like the Asian man at the Subway or the trinkgeld collector in front of Rewe. Only problem is they cannot see my silent "Hallo" or understand that I am smizing through my eyes. I am no celebrity and also know it is inappropriate to wave, yell or drop in for small talk Coronavirus or Quarantine aside. I cannot just be American and overzealous about who I am. I am certain it is obvious to them I have been away, returned and I am eight kilos fatter than before and with a dog. I guess I just want human connection and I cannot even do that with the DHL or Pizza man. What I do not miss is someone rushing past me, invading into my personal space, just to catch a train that comes every three to six minutes. And I really do not understand where all these people are going. Where was the girl across the street with the art easel fucking going? I have also noticed the trains are fuller as the day goes on. So many masked passengers standing atop each other in a metal tube going to nowhere. Eight more days and I too am free to subject myself to infection for whatever useless desire. I can enter into spaces to buy my own grocery with no face. I am not looking forward to it.