In the pandemic era, faces are mysterious

A funny thing about the pandemic era is that we now (in some places/cases at least) now have people we routinely see, who in effect have faces that stop below the eyes 

This makes the rest of the face a mysterious, intimate place, much as things must feel in cultures that routinely veil. 

There is a young woman at my physical therapist’s office (one of two who run the front counter) on whom I have a wicked crush. Pink hair, glasses, lots of very well done tattoos. She’s bubbly and friendly, relentlessly enthusiastic. We talk, at least every other session (I do PT twice a week, rehabbing a shoulder surgery), about tattoos, and she can’t wait to tell me about her last piece, or next piece, or pieces she’s planning for future. I’ve told her about piece i’m getting next week, and again, she can’t wait to see it. 

We’ve never seen each other’s faces, in all the months we’ve been chatting. 

Today, we were talking about coffee; someone had just brought her some fancy pour-over latte thing from philz coffee, and she was complaining about it, meanwhile laughing and telling me in great detail about whatever was wrong.

And then she tuned partially away, pulled down her mask and sipped.

Seeing the whole of her face, lips parted as she brought cup to her mouth, was as thrilling as catching a glimpse of accidentally exposed underwear, and to be honest, was nearly as thrilling as a brief glimpse of nipple. 

Because i’ve now been chatting with this beautiful young woman for about three months, twice a week, and never gotten her whole face, it was a wildly intimate feeling. Her face seemed too beautiful to believe, but I think that’s entirely the veil idea; the fact that I should not see it, made it intensely wrong, which is hotter than hell. 

I’m not, to be clear, saying anything positive about cultures that enforce veils/hijabs. It’s indefensible to enforce any such rule on a woman.

What i’m saying instead, is that the side effect of a practical need to protect each other with masks during a deadly plague, has produced a side effect that never occurred to me; faces have become a hidden, intimate place, a mystery. And I do love a good mystery.  

I already wanted to kiss this young woman. But this glimpse makes it a hundred times worse.