"The Woman Behind the Mask"

Her name is Zelda. To us, she is a warrior.

Silky, wavy tears flow down her. She uses them to cover her face, so much that she cannot see who she is.

But, when she has time to stop for a second, and look in the mirror which has metamorphosed into the form of a piece of blank paper, she is struck by what she sees.

She sees the yellow of happiness, of being grateful that she can feel the warmth of humankind in this time of struggle.

She sees the orange of duty, for she has been called a team member… but wait, next to the orange, she sees the blood orange. She cannot understand why that color lives on her face. Blood orange is the color of a “martyr”, one who serves in times of danger. A soldier. Is she a martyr?

Then there is the other half of her face.

On the other half of her face she first feels the green of earth; the cycle of life that only leads to death. And next to the green of earth, she recognizes the lighter green of suffering. They are too familiar.

She can also easily recognize the red of emergency near her eyes. The red is the only power keeping her eyes open with stress and anxiety, when is not able to herself amongst her fatigue. Magenta lies next to the red, as there is some yellow happiness and fun mixed in those spaces of emergency. However, there is also some purple, a mix of red and blue, filled with the sadness in moments of emergency.

And then there is the worst color of them all, the lines of white in her eyes. The mix of all; the constant struggle of emotions when she sees death and suffering most of her days.

However, a lot of her eyes are still blue, like her hair. The source of the tears has not emptied within them.

But, there are spaces in her face which hold emptiness. They live between the halves of her face. She cannot seem to understand the merge of her yellow, orange, and blood orange with her green and purple. How can the feelings of happiness, warmth, and liberation come from the same that brings death, suffering, and sadness?

She feels a need to fill the spaces up. And she is suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of dread and emptiness.

She quickly covers her face up with a mask.

What she could not see in the mirror, is all that is beyond her face. When one looks at her face amongst the background, one sees that her surrounding, her community dilutes the red of COVID-19 emergency with yellow.

- A fourth year medical student at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

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