Faceless Folk

I was offered a special treat yesterday — a visit to the big city! No, not Denver, but close: Colorado Springs.

Some friends were going to do some shopping at Costco and the Asian Market, and they invited me to go with them. The only drawback was that they were also going to the commissary at the base, and because of The Bob, the military has some sort of Defcon number in place, which means no one but authorized personnel were allowed on base. (It’s just as well — on the way back home, we saw a freight train heading our way loaded with all sorts of army vehicles and machinery and shipping containers transporting who knows what. And that in itself was enough to get my imagination going about military actions — I certainly didn’t need the extra stimulation of being on an army base to turn that imagination into actual fears.)

While my friends did their shopping at the commissary, I stayed at the Asian Market, which gave me plenty of time to watch all the faceless folk. It really is spooky seeing all sorts of people hidden behind masks and sunglasses. (Almost as spooky as seeing the army materiel on the move.) I mean, anything could be hidden in all that facelessness, and it wouldn’t have to be anything nefarious. Smiles and other signs of goodwill and connection were also hidden. No one seemed to be spending any time on the courtesies normally afforded when passing by others who were shopping. (People don’t seem to think the 6-foot rule applies to grocery store aisles. And apparently, if you take a step back and bump into someone, it doesn’t count, either.)

I did end up getting a few things at Costco, using my friend’s card (dried cherries, pistachios, cherry tomatoes and figs, if you’re curious), but mostly, things at places like that are not for women who live alone, or at least not this for this woman. I’m not fond of stocking up, for one thing, and for another, I generally can’t get through large stocks of food before it becomes outdated.

Still, it was fun seeing things I hadn’t seen for a while (or never, as in the case of a lot of the merchandise in the Asian market). And it was truly delightful being able to visit with my friends for the day.

It’s sort of interesting, but in each of the two days before we went, I got the ten of swords card for my card of the day. If you know anything about the tarot, you know, to the extent that any card is a death card, it’s the ten of swords that presages tragedy rather than the death card itself. The death card generally means a change of some sort, perhaps the death of the old you, but the ten of swords is more ominous and speaks of death, sudden misfortune on a grand scale, betrayal, and anything else not good. But since we can read anything we want to into a card, I tend to think it means that no matter how much we try, we cannot control everything, which can either lead to a defeat of the spirit or a letting go and accepting our present circumstances, no matter what they are. But, even in acceptance, we can take precautions. And, like the death card, the ten of swords ultimately can mean change and renewal. (Because nothing stays the same, any disaster almost by definition will eventually bring about a renewal.)

Considering The Bob and this ominous card, I must admit I was a bit worried about going on the trip — after all, at home by myself, I am safe, but out among the faceless folk? Not so much. Still, I took precautions — stayed away from everyone except my friends, and wore a mask out in public.

A side note — on the way back, after we saw the military train, we passed a mural of a group of people waiting for an old-fashioned train. I had to laugh at the painted fellow wearing a black bandanna as a mask because so many people I’d seen earlier had worn that very thing. Such masks sure mean something different today than they did a hundred years ago! Oddly, when I saw that mural, I had a brain hiccup, and for just a second I thought we were driving through Delta, three hundred miles to west on that very same highway, because Delta is the self-proclaimed “city of murals,” and I’d driven through that town perhaps a thousand times over the years.

Now I’m back to isolation, and grateful for it. At least when I’m by myself, I don’t have to wear a mask, and oh, do I hate wearing those things. They give me sinus headaches because they block off even more oxygen that just the stuffed sinuses do, and it’s hard to take deep enough breaths. And just as bad, they make me so very hot, which is not fun when it’s almost 100 degrees and humid besides.

Am I complaining too much? I don’t mean to. I really did have a lovely time. And it really was wonderful being not isolated for a day, even if it meant being around too many faceless folk.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator