Updated: Jun 20, 2022
I wave to my friend through the thick glass of the apartment building’s front door as he climbs into the driver’s seat of his little two-door car. Taking care not to touch the handle, I use my body to open the door and reach down to pick up the paper bag he’s just left on the doorstep. He drives away as I climb the steps back up to our apartment, the eighteen stairs causing me to breathe heavily under my mask.
Back in the safety of the apartment, I remove my mask and try to take a deep breath in, but it is interrupted with a sharp cough. I take the paper bag to the kitchen and slowly remove the items—comforting and easy foods like soup and juice. Plus, two books: both Murakamis that I have not yet read. My brain is not functioning enough to read now, but next week when I’m feeling better, the well-worn book would bring me comfort—both in the enveloping story that I would lose myself in for hours, and in the connection I felt knowing that it had passed through the hands of my friends, and their friends, the wrinkles in the spine and dirt on the pages showing their love.
The effort of bringing in these groceries tires me, so I return to the warm cave of blankets on my bed. Laying there with eyes closed, my head throbs slightly and I’m reminded of the aching sensation all through my body. I rest like that for a few minutes, then open up my laptop and lazily pick a show to watch. That is about all I can do now, with this strange fog that has enveloped my brain. It reminds me of the concussion I had a few years ago. As someone who is constantly thinking a little too much, it is a very strange sensation to have your cognitive functions slowed physically in this way. I have no choice in the matter—I simply cannot think critically or deeply about anything. This is not a time for decision-making, it not even a time for leisurely reading, as I’m unable to focus on a book for more than a page or two. My imagination is not active enough for a novel, and my thinking is not there for anything non-fiction. So, I watch a simple sitcom and allow the hours to pass, rising from my blanket haven periodically for a fresh cup of tea. My sense of taste and smell are completely gone, but the warm liquid still soothes my throat and eases my coughing.
Time has been lost. Days pass like this and I am unaware of the world around me. Even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could process anything happening outside of our light-filled apartment. I’m grateful for the balcony overlooking 14th Avenue. I try to spend at least a few minutes out there each day, feeling the sun and the breeze on my skin.
On the eighth day, I start to feel better. The cough lets up, and some of the fog dissipates so that I’m able to read for a little while and get some work done for the co-op. Just a little bit though—the slight uptick in exertion tires me. Over the course of the previous days, I averaged 12 hours sleeping each night, with daytime hours spent lounging in bed. On the ninth day, this catches up to me. Physically I am feeling much better, and suddenly all this rest manifests as energy in the evening. After spending the whole day devouring books on the balcony and drinking endless cups of tea, the sun begins to set, and I jump up with a sudden burst of energy. An urge to do
something enters my body. I pick up my camera and capture the sunset and the cats and little textures around me. I try a little bit of yoga, followed by a short workout, but my lungs remind me that they are not at full capacity. I wander back and forth from kitchen to balcony to bedroom, looking for anything to stimulate my mind and body. I’m craving something, but I can’t quite place what it is. After a while, I
try to settle into bed with a cup of chamomile tea. I watch a couple episodes of a show, then return to the novel, but still my mind buzzes with alertness. At midnight, I decide to just try to go to sleep with the aid of a meditation. Eventually I drift off, but it is not a restful sleep.
This may be our lives from here on out: masks hanging from door handles and rear-view mirrors, bottles of hand sanitizer scattered about, hesitation before a handshake or a hug, fear with any cough or sniffle. I do not think there is a “return to normal” like the CDC announcer celebrated this morning, as she told vaccinated Americans to shed their masks and enjoy pre-pandemic activities again. Have we really improved that much? New variants are popping up every day. I am the third vaccinated person in our group to test positive for COVID in the last few weeks. How can we be so ready to throw caution to the wind and move on, when thousands upon thousands are still losing their lives to this virus every day?