Not that long ago,
the best part
of the work day
was the removal
of the mask.

There was no more fiddling and adjusting
or inhaling of stray fibers.
Gone was the agonizing beard itch 
and the ears could sound their sigh of relief.
Oxygen became a gaseous delicacy.

But over time, that eleven hour stretch
has lost the punch it used to pack.
The mask is one with me now,
sometimes going unnoticed
as if it never intends to come back off.