IN MY imagination, the world will not end in cold or fire but dust.

Nearly each day, I cross a bridge to go to the city to visit my 80-year-old mother. The sun has yet to rise when I cross the bridge; the disc’s ascent is at its highest when I return by that bridge.

One day, the sun wasn’t there. Or it was lurking in the haze that originated from Indonesian wildfires and spread by the Southwest monsoon, reported Wenilyn B. Sabalo in SunStar Cebu last Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019.

The greyish sky blanketing the cityscape didn’t merit even a blink from me until my mother took a sudden chill while undergoing dialysis.

A long-time diabetic prone to fluid overload that causes respiratory difficulties, Mama recently began hemodialysis (HD) to reduce the excess fluids accumulating in her lungs. One moment we were chatting while she was being prepped for her HD session; in less than an hour, she vomited twice and required emergency measures to improve her access to oxygen.

As phrased by medical jargon, “respiratory system disorders” are “standard complications” in “end-stage renal disease” patients undergoing hemodialysis.

For personal protection, a mask, particularly the N95 facemask, is prescribed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect the wearer from liquid, dust, and other airborne contaminants.

N95 refers to the industry-tested capacity of a respirator or facemask to filter out “at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles,” according to the US FDA.

Masks became newsworthy after the Department of Health suggested its use for the protection of “toddlers, the elderly, those with allergies, and those with respiratory illnesses” in the haze covering parts of Metro Cebu, reported SunStar Cebu.

The daily also reported that the Environmental Management Bureau 7 recently conducted the particulate matter (PM) 2.5 test, which found “unhealthy” levels in Metro Cebu of the dust “particle measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter or about three percent the diameter of a human hair.”

What can be more vital than breathing? Communication.

Mama and many of her HD “classmates” wear masks, haze or no haze. Yet, my talkative mother often lowers her mask when she chats with us, doctors, nurses, and orderlies. She singlehandedly breaks the FDA injunction that facemasks should have “very close facial fit” to achieve “very efficient filtration of airborne particles.”

Isolation and silence are the steep cost of infection-control.

Yet, in the subdued, energy-sapping atmosphere of the renal center, where the whirring of machines interposes more often than the human voice, my mother’s voice is a silver thread illuminating each moment, haze or no haze.