The Only Guy at the Wedding in Shorts and Flip-flops

Texas is a weird place, especially in the cities where so many ideologies and backgrounds and economics sleep in the same bed, a bed with a conservative box spring and a liberal mattress. Conflict ranges from passive-aggressive bless-your-hearts to street corner rants about gun rights and stolen elections. That said, I had an experience today that at first I thought might be uniquely Texan... but then I realized, people all over the country might be feeling the same thing.

The CDC and their 'shocking' announcement that vaccinated people can go without masks in most public settings is fairly transparent. They want to encourage people that haven't been vaccinated to stop dragging their feet and get it done so they can take off their masks. The reward, we imagine, far outweighs the risk. This intention is fairly clear when the VP drops messaging into her IG like ~ I'm so glad I'm vaccinated so that I don't have to wear a mask anymore ~ I'm paraphrasing.

I don't know if this tactic is going to work. I haven't done any surveys, either, and I have no data, so why would I know anything? My intuition can't tell me anything about a complex system with which I have no experience and for which I have done no research.

However, my intuition can tell me that it's pretty confusing, and if we aren't unified as a country in that feeling, to quote the great Taylor Swift ~ we are never ever, ever getting back together.

My wife and I cleared our two-week final vaccination milestone last night. On the heels of the CDC announcement and the opening of vaccinations to tweens, we decided we're going to keep wearing our masks until our 14-yo is fully vaccinated. He's in sports and stuff, and no matter what you think of the risk/not-risk to his life, he can't afford to be quarantined when other kids aren't.

That said, when I went out for coffee today, mask in my pocket... I was curious. Just the one itsybitsy time, I wanted to know what it was like to walk into that nearly empty coffee shop, fully vaccinated and 'liberated', and order my damn coffee like a 'Merican.

I'll tell you what it was like.

It was like showing up to a wedding during the vows and knocking over the photographer. It was like going to school with a rip in the crotch of my pants.

I walk in and head to the counter. The people sitting aren't wearing masks, but they never are. Some have masks next to their laptops, other masks are missing entirely. The barista is pouring an espresso with her mask down like a chin diaper. And as I reach the counter, I immediately see a sign that reads, 'we still wear masks here. please wear your masks when you are ordering or any time you are not at a table'.

"Be right with you," says Chin Diaper.

As I'm standing there, my fingers twitching near the mask in my pocket, a woman gets into line behind me. Six feet behind me. She's wearing a mask.

Do I put mine on? If I put it on now, do I look stupid? Do I look like a jerk for not wearing it at all? Do I want a cookie? How much time will the cookie add to my transaction? How long does it take to pour one damn espresso!?

This has been the problem in Texas for the last year. You don't wear a mask, someone is judging you. You wear a mask, someone is judging you.

And after all that, I just want to know:

When will this feeling go away?

Christian Andreo is an author of Young Adult and YA Crossover novels spanning contemporary fiction, science fiction, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance. You can find his books wherever you buy your ebooks.

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