Ten people in a subway car. Nine masked. One, maybe 19, unmasked. Without a mask in her visible possession. One, in his 70s, wearing not just a mask but latex gloves.

I’m conflicted. On the one hand, I believe we all are safe at this point. In my city, there’s good reason to imagine the odds against even one of us in the car carrying the virus are small. Not vanishingly small. But small. The current known incidence is on the order of 0.007%. Test positivity, on the order of 2.5%. At this point in my city, anyone over 16 who wants the vaccine has it. Well, almost anyone. Except those who can’t afford 25 minutes. Which isn’t no one. And which is an especially sympathetic portion of the population.

On the one hand, I feel quite safe. I feel like we are maybe past the point at which it might be appropriate for the MTA to say either, a) go ahead and take your mask off, if you’re vaccinated, or, maybe better, b) if you want to ride maskless, you may do so in the first car of the train.

On the other hand, it just pisses me off to see an immortal adolescent take risks she doesn’t bear, inflict risks she doesn’t appreciate, on others.

Me, I swelter in my mask, longing for permission to breathe, delighting in the solidarity of compassionate discomfort.


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