Lovers in a Dangerous Masked-Time

A soup-date at Whole Foods between pandemic time lovers goes terribly wrong.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Cover Image
By Julia Shen

It has almost been a year since my partner and I first met over Zoom. Ever since I heard the sweet, luxurious voice emanating from her Shinji Ikari profile picture, I knew we were meant to be, even with our cameras off. The echoes and static noise that characterized Zoom audio made her voice sound ethereal. And after seeing the top half of her face in person, I strongly believed that we were ready for the next step in our relationship.

Since returning from remote learning, our love has only continued to flourish, even in these masked, uncertain times. Her beautiful hazel eyes were adorned by speckles of eye boogers that shined like little flecks of gold dust. Though the pandemic has prevented me from witnessing her beauty in its fullest glory, I can already visualize the absolute goddess she must look like beneath her mask from her immense forehead alone. Perhaps the veiling of her visage is for the better, for I am certain that my eyes would otherwise be blinded by her radiance. However, sometimes, if she is feeling a little wild, she’ll pull down her mask just below her nose bridge and bless me with the sight of that bulbous masterpiece.

Whenever we kiss through our masks, I like to stare into and get lost in the folds of her mask. As my glasses fog up from my quickened breaths of excitement, my nose searches longingly for any bit of her breath that may have escaped her mask. Mmmm… bacon-avocado-chipotle… our favorite. I can almost imagine the tender touch and sweet taste of her succulent lips, which are unfortunately sealed behind a wall of cloth. Alas, how terrible to have our love gatekept by the pandemic! We cannot even hold hands, as the school safety regulations only permit the hovering of our hands within several inches of one another. But I must confess… sometimes, when I am feeling more adventurous, I “accidentally” let my fingers graze hers, and I find it so endearing when she yelps in surprise and immediately takes out her hand sanitizer. Oh, how she follows sanitation protocol!

Anyway, I proposed to her three weeks ago (I would have proposed sooner had I not had to quarantine for two whole weeks… those were the worst two weeks of my life), and thankfully, she said yes. Since then, we have begun researching potential venues for our “intimate ritual” (our wedding, obviously). We decided to reserve the Hudson Stairwell due to its dim lighting and private atmosphere, making it perfect for this celebration. However, upon finalizing our arrangements on StuyActivities, we received a most horrible email from the cursed Student Union:

“ONLY clubs who have a faculty advisor present for the entirety of the meeting can make reservations. Also, please do not use stairwells for activities.”

Frankly, it horrifies me that the Student Union would even suggest that a teacher needed to be present to witness our intimate acts when they weren’t even invited to the wedding. Haven’t they considered that the faculty member might get jealous by our youthful vigor and fecundity? And why must our affections be confined to the claustrophobic interiors of a room, when in reality, our love has no limit? Why must the world be against our love?

Upon seeing me in my depressed state, my intelligent lover proposed we move our celebration to Whole Foods during finals week. A meal? TOGETHER?! Oh joyous day, how the stars aligned to culminate in this one perfect moment! How romantic it would be to share an overpriced lunch together! I was still giddy with excitement when finals week rolled around, perhaps also due to the copious amounts of coffee I had consumed while cramming for my exams. But when the fateful day arrived at last, tragedy struck.

It was a fantastic day with clear azure skies, and the frigid weather made it a perfect day for sharing a nice, warm bowl of soup. With a large bowl of lobster bisque to share, we made our way upstairs to the Whole Foods seating area, hand-in-hand because we were no longer bound by school policy. And as if by fate, there was but a single table that was conveniently unoccupied.

We sat down across from one another, and I looked away for only a second to fetch my bottle of hand sanitizer. However, when I looked back, my fiancée was gone! Instead, in her seat was a maskless wench—her chapped lips and flushed cheeks were so appalling that I immediately lost my appetite before I had even tried the soup. Who was this individual and where did my lover go? And why was this stranger smiling at me? Surely, an impostor had taken her place. I must admit though, this person did a commendable job matching my fiancée’s hazel eyes and expansive forehead, but that lower-face did not match the divinity of her aura. If anything, it ruined it. The stranger should have done more research before attempting to fool me, the most loyal and faithful of lovers.

I watched as the woman dipped her spoon into the lobster bisque, the lobster bisque that was meant for my fiancée. I felt a part of me die on the inside. I wanted to tell her that her seat was already occupied and that the soup was not hers. I politely excused myself, stating that I had to use the restroom, and used the opportunity to make a swift escape. I had to find my lover!

That’s when I recalled that I could use the Life360 app (a tracking app my lover and I had both downloaded on our phones so that we could track each other at any time, like all healthy couples do). However, the app must have been bugging because it led me back upstairs to the stranger. That’s when she confronted me, asking me where I went. “Honey Buns, I’m right here,” she called. “I heard you shouting my name downstairs from all the way up here in the café.” Though she was an obvious impostor by appearance alone, I must admit, her voice mimicry was insanely accurate. And how did she know that “Honey Buns” was MY pet name? Everything she did reminded me of HER. But it couldn’t have been my fair maiden; I refused to believe it.

I began to wail uncontrollably until the staff threatened to report me to the authorities for being a “public disturbance.” I still had to get into college (we had plans of going to the same school and sharing an apartment to cut dorm costs), and this incident would probably not help my cause. I slumped down in my seat, trying to conceal my cries with the deep breathing techniques I had learned from yoga class. The stranger was really clingy and kept trying to hold my hand without my permission. Could she not? My hand is reserved for my partner only. However, I decided that I might as well stay with this person out of the kindness of my heart because she seemed to like me to an almost pitiful degree, calling me her “future husband” as she fantasized about our alleged future marriage. It would be extremely unchivalrous of me to leave her all alone. As she droned on and on about how the Student Union were gatekeepers of romance, all I could think about was my missing fiancée. Frankly, I was surprised upon hearing her woes. It must have been a coincidence that her concerns were the same as ours, but this only agonized me further. What about our marriage? How could I live my dreams of having a small family in the suburbs with five children (a full Valorant roster) without her?

To make myself less of an embarrassment, I bent over in my chair, resting my head on my clasped hands, elbows propped on my thighs. This position effectively hid my puffy red eyes, and it also prevented the woman from attempting to hold my hands without my permission. I almost fell asleep when suddenly I felt a hand stroke my head. I looked up, prepared to berate the stranger for being so intimate when I was already engaged, but instead I saw an angel.

It was my lover fixing her mask on her nose bridge—one that I recognized in an instant. “C’mon, I finished my soup. Stop embarrassing me and let’s go.”

That was MY angel in front of me, mask and all! My love had returned to me, and I started crying tears of joy as I jumped out of my seat and embraced her. She flinched in confusion from my sudden outburst as I inhaled deeply to confirm her identity, something I couldn’t have done at a distance without drawing attention. Ah, yes, it was her with her signature chipotle sauce fragrance! The other woman was gone, but my fiancée had returned.

To this day, I still wonder what happened to that woman. I hope she finds her significant other some day.