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Essay “The Sound of the Heart”

September , 2021

At the end of this year, it will be two years since we have started wearing masks on a daily basis. 
We Japanese are probably more used to wearing masks than people from other countries, and it was not so difficult for us to adapt to it, but we never thought that we would be wearing them all the time, every waking hour, 365 days a year, when we eat, play the violin, or even when we exercise at the gym!
These days, young children and teenagers are more likely to feel that wearing a mask is normal, like wearing underwear. More children are saying that it’s too embarrassing to go outside without wearing a mask. I can see why. Younger children are the ones who have been wearing masks for as long as they can remember. If they don’t wear masks, adults would point it out to them, and they become aware that taking off the mask is a bad thing to do.
When the Covid-19 disappears, will the young children ever be taking their masks off naturally or not?
Even for me, wearing a mask has become a routine, and the moment I open my front door and realize that I forgot my mask, I am slightly shocked and feel that I have forgotten something so important.
Sometimes, when I realize that I had walked into a local convenience store without a mask, I feel so guilty as though I have committed a terrible crime, and I cover up my mouth and nose with my belongings, looking down, quickly sneaking into the corner to pick up a mask from the shelf, apologizing at the cashier, and put the mask on immediately. And then I return home, having forgotten the most important thing that I wanted to buy in the first place! It’s as though I’ve used up all the energy for the day, losing all the physical and mental strength.

The saddest thing about wearing a mask is that we cannot see each other’s expressions. So, I try to convey the message “I’m smiling” to the other person by squinting my eyes in an extreme kind of way. On the other hand, when the other person is standing there with a mask on, I often get worried that he or she may be angry or upset.
I realize how sensitive we all were, reading each other’s feelings from our facial expressions.
It is not just about laughter and anger.
We are unconsciously aware of the subtle relaxations and tensions in the other person’s cheeks, and we can read from the reactions to the slight movements of the muscles on their faces and can tell when a person is determined to do something hiding their deep sorrow, as well as catching their reactions to our own words.
We have been trying to communicate with people, about the most important things deep down in our hearts, with our facial expressions, trying to express that cannot easily be said in words.

There are communications that cannot be expressed in words, even between friends or partners, which can only be expressed by touching the hands and shoulders, looking at each other’s faces and reading their expressions.
Nowadays, we cannot do those things, and our hearts and minds are becoming more isolated which makes our society more and more stressed out, even without realizing it.
It is likely that the hateful Corona pandemic will continue for a while longer.
Instead of reading each other’s facial expressions, we might need to choose our words very carefully than ever, and make efforts to put into words, the things we have been reluctant to say.