rambling

My Time With COVID-19

Yep, I caught it. I’m still well enough to record some of my thoughts. Here’s a log of my recent COVID experience, starting a few weeks before I caught it. Jesus, it sounds like a fucking Pokemon, and it shouldn’t. Anyway, I’ll update this as things develop.

The New Year: December 31st, 2021 Leading Into January, 2022

I have friends. This may seem weird to some, since I tend toward introversion and I’m not easy to get to know, but I have a group of people with whom I enjoy spending time. My friends and I made plans to ring in the new year. We’ve been relatively safe about the virus: we’re all fully vaccinated, we all wear masks when we go out, we wash our hands. We figured we’d be fine.

These details only become relevant in the aftermath of the New Year’s Eve soiree. See, we all drank that night. I’ve never gotten shitfaced, and I didn’t get shitfaced that night, but I drank a little more than I usually do. A lot of champagne. Okay, I had two glasses of champagne, max, but my brother went hard on the champagne. We all stayed awake until 4 AM, watching Return of the King (we primed The Two Towers so we’d hear Theoden say “So it begins” as soon as 2022 started, and we kept watching from there). We should have gone to bed sooner. All these minor-yet-unhealthy decisions will make sense in the aftermath of the soiree.

So, after the soiree, my brother felt sick. Like, not “I drank too much and gotta barf” sick, but a combination of a hangover and a respiratory affliction. Ah, there it is: a respiratory affliction. My brother immediately starts saying “Oh shit, [our friend who’s a nurse] might have brought something to that get-together.” Now, I saw his logic, but I didn’t buy it. Our nurse friend is careful. We’re all careful, but we can’t account for other people. The impropriety and carelessness of other people will become relevant in the aftermath of the aftermath of the soiree.

The First Week of January, 2022

Alex (my brother) decided to stay home from work the week after the soiree, afraid he might have COVID and not wanting to infect anyone. We all masked up in the house. He ordered a test from a pharmacy to be sure of his condition. Our stepsister was in town, but Alex wound up quarantining and working from home so he didn’t see her much at all.

He finally goes to get tested on Friday, telling us he won’t get results until 4 PM Saturday. We keep wearing masks. We avoid each other’s company. He gets the message from the pharmacy: he’s COVID negative, all activities may resume. Whatever cold-like illness he had was just that: a cold-like illness not as threatening as COVID-19. The timing is pretty good; our sister’s birthday was on Friday, and our family was making plans to celebrate. There’s a restaurant we all like in midtown, and our sister asked if we’d all go eat there with her next Friday, the 14th. We agreed. We’d been to the restaurant before, and it seemed safe. Everyone there wore masks, we wore masks, and so on.

A quick aside from me: I realize how messed up it is for people to go to restaurants in the middle of a pandemic. I’m not one of those “Gimme mah FREEDUMS” Americans, though I’ll admit now that I haven’t been as careful as I could be. I’ve gone to restaurants for birthdays and such. I am, in fact, part of the problem. I, and everyone else, should have just stayed home for months. Like, literally, stayed inside. Yet such extreme measures are untenable within a capitalist system that demands people still pay money for shelter and food. If the government had provided people a lot more money, and a lot more resources, to stay home and prevent infection, we likely wouldn’t be in this mess. But perhaps my solutions to the real capitalist plague that’s killing us are best left for another time. Back to COVID, I suppose.

The Second Week of January, 2022

Things were looking up. Alex tested negative and so he returned to work that week. I showed up to work a scant few times, for reasons unrelated to sickness, which I won’t go into here. Okay, I’ll touch on it a bit: I work at a non-profit, and funding is everything. You have funding, you get paid. You don’t have funding, you don’t get paid. There’s definitely funding to pay me for my work, but due to some assumptions on my part, the account from which I get my paychecks wasn’t added to my timesheet. I assumed my boss was too busy to handle this problem, so I reached out to someone else … it became a whole thing when it didn’t have to, and now it hardly matters ’cause, well, COVID. Work can wait.

Anyway, back to COVID. Alex went back to work, I went to work, everything seemed fine and dandy. What I didn’t know was that Alex was still experiencing symptoms of whatever cold-like illness he’d caught before. We lived as though everyone was well: we ate in the kitchen together, we talked about random shit, and when we went to the restaurant for our sister’s birthday celebration, I sat between Alex and our sister. Alex drove us there. I wore my mask the whole time, unless I was taking a bite or a sip. I was trying to be careful. The dinner was great, and things seemed so good. We went home, and did our respective things.

The next day, Alex had plans to go shooting with our friends who hosted the new year’s eve soiree. They went to a shooting range in the morning, then Alex went to a flight class in the afternoon. He came home, made dinner, and he and I and our roommate all sat down to eat food. After dinner, I went upstairs to play video games, and Alex left to hang out with the same friends with whom he’d gone shooting. I didn’t know they’d planned an evening get-together, but I shrugged and went back to gaming. That is, until my phone rang.

I joke that Alex doesn’t call me unless someone’s dead or deathly ill. We’re not really that extreme, but still, we hardly call each other. So I answered the phone, expecting bad news but not expecting this bad news. “I took an at-home test over here and I tested positive.”

Oh fuck. Maximum quarantine initiated.

The Unraveling

Alex stayed in his room all weekend, and if he went into the kitchen to grab anything, he disinfected the stuff he touched. Our mom dropped off five at-home COVID tests along with supplies for Alex, and we all divvied up the tests. I took one, our roommate took another, and Alex took the rest. I don’t know why he took the rest, he’d already tested positive. He tested himself again to be sure, and again, it was positive. I tested myself: negative. Our roommate tested himself, also negative. We seemed fine, though we still lived in an infected zone.

I resolved to test myself every two days, to be sure I was in the clear. The virus takes time to incubate, and in an infected house, I’m susceptible to illness. Tuesday (yesterday) was the big day: if I tested negative, I’d be able to dogsit for a friend, as I agreed the prior week. I’d already reached out and told her that Alex tested positive for COVID, and even if I tested negative, I may be a carrier. I didn’t want to bring anything into her home. She told me not to worry, that she and her partner could take their dog on the trip. That was all very good, because I started feeling a little sick on Sunday. On Monday, I felt a little worse, and on Monday night when I tried to fall asleep, I felt fucking awful. I don’t know if it was real or if it was me having a panic attack, but I had to consciously think about breathing while I sprawled out, trying to fall asleep.

So Tuesday morning, I felt awful. I mean, I’ve been telling people it’s like “a bad cold,” and that’s not wrong. But in my vulnerable moments, it’s not fun. I got myself a cup of coffee downstairs and grabbed one of our at-home tests, then brought it to my room. I went through the whole procedure, pretty sure I knew the outcome: it’d gotten me, and my quarantime had begun. I was correct. I tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, a Tuesday, the 18th of January, 2022. I didn’t think too clearly at first. I wondered “Where do I brush my teeth?” (I share the upstairs bathroom with our roommate.) “What will Willow do?” (My cat loves my room because I’m there, but her food and litter box are downstairs. She’s so skittish, she usually won’t go down there unless I’m nearby. I can’t go down there, not with COVID.) I carelessly left my door open while I contemplated these issues, and my roommate passed by, asking how I felt. “I feel bad, man. I got it.” He responded “Oh shit. Please close your door.” Yeah, you right.

So I closed my door and hammered out the details of my banishment. Willow had been cool upstairs before; while I don’t like confining her to one room, as long as she has all her stuff, she’s happy. So I masked up and ventured downstairs to grab a bunch of supplies. Willow’s food and water bowls, her litter box, a towel to put beneath the litter box, her big bin of food. Paper towels, tissues, and a trash bag for all my infected shit. I filled my water bottle. I took my toothbrush and toothpaste downstairs, into Alex’s bathroom, since he’s infected already and we can share the sick zone.

It’s Wednesday now. I actually feel better today than I did yesterday, though I’m pretty sure I’m still super contagious. A lot of good people have sent well wishes, and a few have offered to drop off care packages and/or send things to us. I appreciate all the love and support, and I think, thanks to the vaccine, I’ll get through this without too much trouble. I am a type 1 diabetic, which is not great when it comes to viruses and sicknesses. My immune system is compromised … so thank the scientists and researchers and testers for the vaccine. I believe it’s literally saved my life.

I plan to update this post as things develop. When I’m recovered, you’ll all know. Thanks for reading this far, if you have … I didn’t intend for this to go on for so long. It was meant to be a quick logbook, of sorts. Now it’s like a public diary entry haha.

A Note Regarding the Source of our Woes

So naturally, as soon as I started feeling super sick, I thought back on the interactions I had leading up to this. I went to work a few times last week, but only interacted with one person. We had masks on and my co-worker is careful. Diligent. I don’t believe I got it from her – it just wouldn’t make sense. The timeline points to Alex getting it first, then passing it to me. So the real question is, where did Alex get infected?

The bummer is that after that fake-out negative test two weeks ago, Alex thought he could return to work safely. I mentioned way in the beginning of this post that people’s impropriety and carelessness would become relevant in the aftermath of the aftermath of the new year’s soiree. Well, Alex’s return to work is that second aftermath. Yesterday, we met in his ultra-infected bathroom to talk about things. I mentioned that I’d been trying to trace my illness, and he said “Well, I shouldn’t have gone back to work. Most people there are good with their masks and everything, but this one guy who I worked close with, he kept removing his mask and when he put it back on, he didn’t cover his nose.” So there you have it. I wouldn’t string this dude up in front of a firing squad or anything, but I would berate him for being an unconscientious prick. The random dude who probably infected my brother last week is one example of the people who are prolonging this pandemic, people who don’t trust science or don’t think about the health of others when they make decisions.

I said earlier that I’m part of the problem. I realize now that chilling in a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic, vaccinated and masked up as I am, is still not smart or kind. The virus mutates, and all it takes is one carrier to spread that shit like wildfire. I can only hope that Alex didn’t infect more people at that restaurant. I’m fairly certain I got it from him while we sat next to each other that evening.

Going forward, I’m not going to restaurants. I’m not going anywhere public for fun, unless I’m hiking or doing something outside. I’ll shop at grocery stores again, once I’ve recovered, but only because we all need food to live (gods, I need to learn to grow my own food). I don’t want to spread this thing. I don’t want to pretend that nothing is wrong, when clearly, a lot is wrong with our systems, and the ways we’ve been forced to live our lives.

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Poetry

Fuzz in the Time of Cholera

I sit near the cat tree downstairs and I wonder,
what does Willow make of me wearing a mask?
The mask is literal this time.
My brother caught COVID-19 sometime last week,
after he tested negative the prior week, but
continued to feel sick afterward.
We’re not sure from where he got it, and
it probably doesn’t matter, anyway.
What matters
is that he’s quarantined in his room,
and if he needs anything, I try
to get it for him. Or he leaves his quarantine,
mask on, gloves on, with disinfectant wipes in hand,
and he cleans. Everything. He touches.
That’s what I’ve seen, anyway.
I shouldn’t be down there, I should
lock myself in my own room,
for my own safety,
but as it was before,
I’m the only one
who will clean anything around here.
I did it to myself: every time someone asked
“Do you want help with the dishes?” I’d say
“No thanks, I got this.”
So I washed the dishes yesterday. In the kitchen.
Which is definitely where most people wash their dishes,
but my brother’s room is way too close for comfort.
I know 6 and more feet of distance should be enough.
I know we’re masking up, and disinfecting, and
we have doors between us. But now,
with the sickness in the house,
I don’t feel safe.
So I wash my hands after I touch anything,
and I wear my mask all over the house,
and Willow looks up at me, doing what
she usually does,
but I swear I notice a slight pause
as she registers the strange thing
on my face.

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rambling

Another Anti-capitalist Rant

A Note From the Author: I started writing out this critique on January 10th, mostly off the cuff, after seeing posts addressing the 100th anniversary of the first successful insulin treatment. I think I meant to take it further, but I stopped ranting and just saved it as a draft. I added one sentence for clarification, but really, who stops to clarify their thoughts in the middle of a rant but the most self-critical, anxious overthinkers? Oh yeah, that’s me … but anyway, here we go.

Can you imagine being a person who witnessed the discovery of insulin and thinking “Oh great! Now that diabetics can live, how can we charge them money for that luxury?” Yes, to profit off misery – I fucking hate pharmaceutical companies. I just heard tell of people in California pushing for an affordable way to synthesize insulin at home. I also know there are researchers out there who are trying to create tools that will make insulin accessible and affordable to everyone. Bless them, for they are saints. Medicine and healthcare should never be out of anyone’s price range; capitalism is twisted, and sick, and demoralizing, and destructive, and poisonous, and insidious, but it’s also been hilariously obvious how its shortcomings far outweigh its benefits. Wait, what benefits? That’s right, capitalism has no fucking benefits. It tricks people into believing their worth is tied to their work, and if you’re not productive, then you’re worthless. Somber news flash that’s actually decades old: our productivity has skyrocketed while our wages have stagnated. Now, CEO pay has also skyrocketed. Hmm, a coincidence? Fuck no, friend. The people in power, politicians and executives and management types and grifters (whatever, they’re all grifters) who have all the money and power hold the strings of huge fucking purses, and they shower coins upon anyone who will help them squeeze every last drop of value from exploited workers. We’ve been exploited, time and again, by people who already had way more money and opportunities than us, to grant themselves even more money and opportunities, while we waste away in the shadows. Can’t afford healthcare. Can’t afford a vacation. All the god damn money that “bigwigs” and “fat cats” get paid in humongous bonuses, payouts, and disgustingly large salaries? That’s money that could be paid to workers. Which would then be pumped back into the economy as we all pay for the shit we need to live healthy, happy lives. We shouldn’t have to pay money to live healthy, happy lives.

I don’t want money to be the crux of a good or a bad time. I don’t want a dollar value to be assigned to anything. I want necessities given free of charge, and I want people to care for one another, and I don’t want to hop back and forth on Venmo to make sure I’ve paid all my dues. Money pits us all against one another. We should target the bastards who take what is ours. Rise up, and throw the bigwigs down. Bring them to our level. But it’s too late for the bigwigs: they’re too sick and twisted to withstand the continual trauma inflicted upon the oppressed. The nerve of them, to grease their ways into safe havens.

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Poetry

Mental Gymnastics

20, 19, I count down the slices of kielbasa as I eat them. 18, 17, I never told anyone about slipping and almost falling down the stairs, and how I stopped my fall with my right foot, and my long right toe has been in mild pain ever since. 16, 15, okay, I told Joe ’cause he was staying in town and he was on our couch at the time, so he heard it happen, but no one else knows why the hell I’m walking so funny. 14, 13, 12, I don’t even think anyone has noticed that I’m walking funny. 11, 10, my right ear is still clogged or blocked or something, even after I cleaned it out with hydrogen peroxide, and lately there’s an incessant ringing in it, and last night I woke up after sleeping three hours to the thought of “I think I’m hearing things that may not be there.” 9, 8, I braced a big green suitcase with my right leg at work and the suitcase slipped and bashed a spot above my ankle and it scraped some skin off and I started bleeding so I made a makeshift bandage with paper towels and tape but it didn’t wrap around my skin so well, so I had to search the first aid kit anyway, and that’s in the hall where there may be people and it’s a pandemic and my fucking fingers were all over that kit. 7, 6, 5, I washed my hands before and after I handled the first aid kit, but I still felt funny about it. 4, 3, it’s been a little over two years since I started buying Wal-Mart insulin ’cause my introverted ass wouldn’t drive to the doctor’s office and get my prescription refilled, and it was probably the second or third time I’d canceled the appointment last-minute, and I’ve never been great at going out in public, even before the pandemic, but I really fucked up with that one. 2, 1, sometimes I wonder how much sugar has coursed through my blood and ruined vital parts of me, and this line keeps going through my mind, it says “Mints won’t fix my rotting mouth,” and that’s just my fun way of saying I need to see a dentist too. Zero, I ate a whole kielbasa sausage (it was more than 20 slices but I liked starting there for the sake of poetry) and the whole time I cooked it all I could think was “This is a depression meal, what if someone walks in on you forking kielbasa slices right off the pan?” but I quashed that thought, then I realized that I really don’t wanna see anyone right now, which is when it became clear to me that I hardly ever get time to myself, like true “me time,” not since the pandemic started, and I think that’s why I’m sad right now, but my longer sadness is something else and I really need to stop counting down kielbasa for fun and start thinking about how to find a new doctor.

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Poetry

My Morning Reverie

I woke up thinking about coffee.
Coffee is usually drunk in two scenarios:
one is working, or
one is relaxing.
Yet its potential goes beyond those two possibilities.
What if I wanna sip it while I
climb a mountain?
I guess that’s work.
What if I wanna chug half a mug
and get frisky?
Fuck, I guess that’s work with a moment of relaxation.
What if I wanna reveal my true inner workings
in a handful of phrases
while I drink coffee slowly?
I hate this assumed beverage binary.
“Some drinks are for hard work,
others are for chillin’.”
Maybe some situations require a different composition of
feelings, sensations, and actions.
What do they say?
All work and no play … it’s not very fun.
What if I wanna hide near the top of a tall tree
after scheming my rival into an ill-advised hike
and wait until they crest the ridge down there
then BLAM, that rival’s gone?
I detach my thermos from my belt
(or jacket or backpack or whatever handy outdoor gear I have)
and open it, take a few sips of the steaming coffee inside.
Maybe this is my origin story.
This is work, and play, and doubt, and devotion,
I assure you it’s fiction with a non-committal motion
(one could call it a shrug);
I’m not that angry and I’m not that violent
and I’m not in the habit of gathering rivals.
It’s not that I’m that good,
it’s that I try to get along with everybody.
Every body needs a sip of something,
for a panoply of reasons.
It’s not all work, it’s not all play.
But damn, the coffee is fine.

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Poetry

Flow

It’s a stream-of-consciousness kind of day,
and my brain just won’t
stop telling me
how sad we are.
While I calculate
how long this sadness will last,
I remind myself
that I only slept
about six hours last night,
and I’d had a bit to drink,
and although it’s not deadly,
it’s enough to put me in a mood.
A bad place.
A dark time.
Maybe it’s time I admit
that the more I tell myself
“Plenty of people sleep less than you!,”
the more okay I become
with denying myself
good health.
In the spirit of optimism,
I’m going to bed.

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rambling

Learning to Love Long Underwear

It’s sort of a joke at this point, at least in the U.S. for people who celebrate Christmas, that eventually, all the gifts that mortified us as children take on a new sheen when we’re adults. You probably know what I’m talking about: the limp and lumpy packages that inevitably gave way to reveal socks, underwear, new pajamas, clothes of some kind. Sometime in the last five years or so, I reached the point where I embrace the reality of time’s long and assured destruction of my body. Since that needn’t be one fell explosion (though it might be, depending on how unhealthy I continue to be), it’s important to take measures to protect myself against gradual degradation. That’s just a fancy way of saying that I need to take better care of myself.

This idea initially germinated as a post-Christmas reflection on the passing of time and the changes our understandings of space undergo, with particular regard to the personal space of our bodies, but, naturally, Christmas leads right into the new year … our usage of time is a construct, unnaturally, but I can’t deny the very real effects of aging and the contraction of years into closed-accordions of more anxiety and fewer real memories. So I’m melding my new understanding of holiday gifts with my renewed interest in my own wellbeing to create a relatively tidy end-of-year rumination on my recent life.

Winters are, by definition, cold. When one lives in a place like my hometown, nestled in the high desert near a few mountain ranges, there’s a good chance snow will actually bless the lands and curse the roads with a white Christmas. And that’s exactly what happened this year: winter storms were forecast, people prepared as they preferred to (either by rolling their eyes and continuing as usual or by stocking up on necessities), and while the pre-Christmas storms were light, a fucking blizzard danced atop my little city all Christmas day.

And I said to myself, thank the maker I asked for long underwear. The limp and lumpy packages I hated as a kid, they became my shield against the storm this season. I unwrapped a three-pack of knitted socks, a three-pack of thermal underwear, a handful of thermal long-sleeved shirts, a set of “loungewear,” which I believe is just adult-speak for pajamas, a new jacket that keeps me warm with an efficacy I never expected, and, perhaps the greatest gift of all, two pairs of gloves to protect my hands from the frigid desert air. You may have noticed that I’m missing a few important pieces of winterwear, but I assure you, I already have a good hat, a nice scarf, and hiking boots that keep me from sliding around. Combine the clothes I already owned with my newly received gifts, and I’m pretty fucking set to wander the snow-wracked wastelands of my home. Hell, I can wander the snow-wracked wastelands of any place, as long as it’s not, like, Minnesota or Antarctica or Alaska or okay, maybe I’m not as prepared for the super cold places of the world. But I am prepared for single digit temperatures … below zero is a whole other beast, with icicles for fangs and snow for fur. Icy eyes and a frozen soul. No thank you.

Rather than take the old approach to the cold, which involved me putting on a sweater or a hoodie and saying “I’ll tough it out, it’s not that bad,” I now suit up head to toe to prepare for any foray into the cold. My brother, bless his DIY leanings, finished making and installing a coat rack a few days before Christmas, and my favorite little hook now carries all the things I need if I want to go outside in inclement weather: gloves, jacket, hat. I even took my masks out of my room and hung them from the hook; it’s just convenient to have the things I need for the outdoors hanging within reach. These days, with snow on the ground and ice permeating the air, I wear thermal underwear beneath my pants, and I pull thick socks over the underwear; I put a thermal shirt on over my t-shirt, and if it’s really cold, I’ll wear a sweater over that, before I pull my jacket on for outdoor adventures. I always wear my beanie, and the other day, I walked into my parents’ house to hear my mom say “Where are your hiking boots? I bought them ’cause you asked for them.” See, that was for Christmas a year ago. And damn it, she’s right: I asked for hiking boots so I’d be ready to go outside in more extreme conditions, and I was just ignoring them. So I placed my hiking boots in the foyer, below the coat rack, so I can grab them and pull them on when I have to venture outside during a storm, or when I want to go on a hike, or whatever. I’m just ready now, is what I’m trying to say.

This readiness, and this desire to be ready and outfitted, literally, for any circumstance, is now a part of my new year’s resolution to take better care of myself. For those who may not know, I’m 32 years old, going on 33. By most standards, this isn’t old or even middle-aged, but I’m also a type-1 diabetic. I haven’t been watching my health like I should, and I haven’t taken care of my body like I should. I know that “should” can be a dangerous and belittling word, and I don’t mean to belittle myself; I’ve been caught up in my own struggles, but if I can just take the time to treat my body better, I’ll be happier and healthier. I’ll probably be more long-lived too; it’s not that I want to be immortal, but I do imagine a future where I’m able to walk around at leisure and run a bit if I want to and maybe even tromp through the beautiful woods. For that to happen, well, the world needs to survive. If we manage to avoid a complete global meltdown, and I make it to some number even closer to old age than I am now, I’d like to be healthy. So here’s to a new year, whereby I treat myself well and I work on my wellbeing.

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Poetry

Rotting

I finally sat down
to figure out my broken Zippo
and the sound of it igniting
brought old movies to mind,
people playing at being chimneys,
smoke ever curling from pursed lips
and a light always ready to glow.
I don’t smoke, but I choose my death;
I choose my death every day.
Every time I forget to drink water,
every time I decide not to exercise,
every time I microwave a meal,
every time I cram caffeine in my blood,
every time I don’t check my blood sugar,
every time I don’t make a doctor’s appointment,
every time I binge a video game,
every time I binge chips,
every time I forget about fruit,
every time I vacillate about veggies,
every time, I choose my death.
My death is slow, and habitual,
just like my life.

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