My 2019 encounter in the grocery store with a young man wearing a Venetian plague mask is so uncanny. Here we are in 2020 and I shop for groceries wearing a plague mask. Hand-sewn, for COVID19. It’s all funny in 2020. I wonder if Venetian plague masks are on-line for ordering? Here’s my sketch of the incident last year:
It is a lovely spring day. As I approach Metropolitan Market, I spot girl students wearing sandwich board signs to Save the Wolves. They want to add me to a list to endorse their cause. I smile, desist from lecturing that wolves like to deceive girls such as them and belong in fairy tales.
A tall, slender youth strides by. He wears a long, black leather coat, black boots with spurs. His face is hidden by a Venetian Plague Mask. It covers his entire head.
Why the mask? What or who is he hiding from?
This is West Seattle, not Venice. The 21st century, not the Dark Ages.
Oh wait: maybe I’ve got that wrong.
He walks past the Save The Wolves girls into Met Market.
“Unusual, eh?” I call out to the girls.
“Maybe he is in a school play or something,” one of them says.
“Hadn’t thought of that.”
I had not thought of that.
No. My first thought, as I enter Met Market: is this guy packin’?
We live in strange times and what is this guy trying to say or prove with the Venetian Plague Mask, the dark leather coat, the boots? It’s not Halloween. Does he have a concealed weapon underneath the costume? Should I even go into the store?
Maybe I need to lighten up.
I grab a grocery cart, brave going into the store.
Plague Mask peers at me from over a pile of fruit as I squeeze an avocodo. He turns and walks down another aisle. The echo of his boots rings in my ears.
Now I have been to Venice but have never been to their carnivals where 16th century Plague Masks are part of the festivities. To my knowledge, Venetians would not be wearing them to grocery stores.
Again, I wonder: is this guy packin’? Will he pull out an AK47 and start shooting?
I better find the store manager.
“There’s a guy walking around here wearing a long, leather coat and a Plague Mask.”
The manager looks at me like I am daft. “A plague mask?”
“You know. Venice. Plague masks. Carnivals.”
“Well, it’s weird. Kind of wonder about him. Hiding behind a mask. And his long coat. Maybe he has a concealed weapon. Just thinking about safety, community.”
“Maybe he’s an actor.”
“That’s what the wolf girls think.”
“The wolf girls?”
“Yeah. The ones that are outside the store.”
The manager shakes his head. “Lady. Is that the guy?” He points to the espresso stand.
The young man has removed the Plague Mask. He holds it in his hand as he chats with the barrista.
“Huh. OK. Just another day in West Seattle.” I smile at the manager and exit.
“Fairy tales,” I declare to the Save the Wolves girls. “That’s where wolves belong.”