the unknown is often worse than reality. i had all kinds of monsters in my head battering my nerves, just thinking about having a covid test. i wasn’t feeling well and, with my symptoms aligning with the utterly vast myriad of symptoms attributable to coronavirus, i was checking the list and checking it twice. worried and already quarantining for 14 days since we had been exposed, we scheduled tests. and i started getting nervous. it felt like we were living inside a sci-fi movie.
my adrenaline was rushing before we left the house. i felt shaky. it was a big response to what must have been a letdown for that adrenaline rush. the test itself was easy, painless. it was a rapid test and we knew we would find out our results in a mere half hour.
david’s came – “negative,” read the email. my email asked me to come back inside for a confirmatory test, a specimen that would be sent to a lab for results that might have a slightly lower degree of fallibility. we went back in, standing on the dots stickering the floor, slathering with hand sanitizer, speaking through two-ply masks. and now, we wait.
we have been inordinately careful. we’ve been wearing masks, washing hands, our fruit, the bottles of wine gift-delivered at our front door. we’ve wiped our groceries and kept our mail separated. we have distanced and not gathered. we have worried about ourselves. we have worried about my girl and my boy. we have worried about david’s parents and all our family members out of town. we have worried about the people in our community, the customers and staff at the corner store, the people in line at the grocery. we have tried to be respectful. it has mattered.
a friend re-posted a meme today that read, “it shouldn’t have to happen to you for it to matter to you.” this feels like the baseline, a low bar of compassion, the starting gate of people taking precautions to protect other people. it has been stunning to watch people of this country ignore all cautions about a pandemic raging across the nation. a dear friend, way earlier in the year and in the early arc of this devastating disease sweeping the world, wrote that the lyrics “you would cry too if it happened to you” were on replay in her mind. a number of people were quoted as saying, “i don’t know how to explain to you why you should care about other people.”
what does it take?
there truly are no exceptions. we have been instructed in the use of masks, the advantages of social distancing, the merits of proper handwashing. as things have been escalating up the devastation scale, we have been encouraged to limit our gatherings, to not travel, to not have parties, to not make exceptions. because, truly, there aren’t any. every one of our lives is valuable. every single one. to be cavalier is to take chances. big chances. it is all an unknown.
healthcare workers and hospitals are overwhelmed. they are at the brink of collapse. yet, households of people are gathering together, playing a russian roulette covid game. citizens of this country are dying in situations that are “harder, scarier and lonelier than necessary.” yet, people are refusing to wear a simple piece of cloth on their face. the statistics of this pandemic are exponentially climbing. yet, people on the trail fail to move six feet away as they pass, people in the grocery store have masks around their chins, people regularly scoff at the science – S C I E N C E – that is guiding the medical experts.
on monday evening, in the middle of our quarantine, i had intense pain breathing. my lungs, my windpipe, my trachea were on fire when i took a deep breath. i had a video chat with a nurse who told me to go to the ER and have an EKG to rule out a heart event. i did not believe i was having a heart event. to me, it seemed pretty clear that it was a breathing issue, but there are definite limitations to having a medical visit online and i understood her desire to err on the side of caution. because of the sheer arrogance of people who scorn the restrictions to help with this pandemic, our healthcare system has been forced to regulate that only patients are allowed into the hospital. the very idea that i would be going A-L-O-N-E into the hospital, perhaps with something serious, was more terrifying than not going. thank you to all those people in this country who have foisted this gross unfairness on anyone suffering, on anyone in a medical emergency, on anyone hospitalized for absolutely any reason. the lack of compassion for others is abhorrent.
one morning we made a big pot of texas chili. we loaded a folding table into little-baby-scion. we packed plates and plasticware and cups. we drove over to 20’s and set up our folding table at least 8 feet from his folding table in his open garage. and we had chili together with our coats on and blankets covering our legs in the open-air cold garage. two days later he had symptoms and two days after that he tested positive. his covid was gifted to him from a friend of his sister’s who casually walked into his sister’s apartment while he was working there. she wore no mask and boasted of a party she had attended. she clearly did not care. it did not matter to her that 20 has chronic asthma or that his sister has a compromised immune system. her freedom to not have a piece of cloth over her face was more important.
he called us to tell us. that was the beginning of our 14 days. we didn’t go anywhere except outside to walk. no stores, no gatherings, nothing. nowhere. it was unknown to us if we were contagious. it was unknown to us if david was asymptomatic. it was unknown to us if my symptoms were covid. but it mattered to us.
meanwhile, 20, who needs a new cellphone did not purchase one. “why not?” i battered him with questions. he told us that he didn’t want to spend the money if he wasn’t going to live. the unknown. i want to shake the supposed-friend of his sister’s who just didn’t care. “what is wrong with you?” i want to scream at her.
and now. waiting. by the time this publishes i hope that i am done waiting. but in the meanwhile, i am waiting. for the unknown.