A light breeze in the warm Pennsylvanian afternoon greeted my skin with summery freshness. As I strolled through the heart of the university, with my hands casually tucked into my pockets, the deafening silence around the empty campus staggered me.
Not a single student rushing to class. No food-truck vendor calling out passersby with fervent enthusiasm. None of the annoying clatters of skateboards getting reluctantly dragged over concrete. Absolutely bizarre.
From a distance, I could see a lonely soul walking steadily towards me. His distinct, auburn hair was flaunting a light glimmer as the golden afternoon sunlight fell on them. As he drew closer and we looked at one another, his face mask failed to shield the courteous smile underneath. I smiled back and walked on.
Ever since the lockdown was mandated and we started wearing masks in public, these random acts of kindness of smiling at one another was long lost. Frankly, it is quite easy to think that masks shield people’s facial expressions and hide their emotions. However, in reality, masks do not hide people’s expressions. Rather, they ARE the new expression. Each mask has so many stories and emotions suppressed beneath them that if one were to look below the surface, one would see the overwhelming truth.
The socioeconomic chaos of the past six months needs no introduction. They consisted of things we never saw, and probably of things we will never see again. Nonetheless, we managed to chug through. We learnt how to survive in so many different ways. Although we still keep hearing alarming news of “second waves”, “new cases rising”, and “lockdown extended”, deep inside we all know that we can survive the coming challenges just like we tackled the ones so far.
The first six months of 2020 brought about panic, tears, and a traumatic blend of bewildering emotions. However, as we evolve with this new world, it is safe to say that the better half of the year may well be on its way.
Written by KAZI NIAZ AHMED (ABIR)