This week, I thought I might have Covid. (Not to fear: after a PCR test, I found out I did not). I am vaccinated, and while I’m venturing out to restaurants and into the city cautiously, I have by no means returned to pre-Covid life, a thing that would have made a positive test feel particularly cruel. When one wants the universe to feel just, these are the things one thinks about.
It began as a tickle in my throat on a Monday morning (not this past one, but the one before). I’d been to a wonderful seafood restaurant on Friday and had had my fill of oysters, but the dinner had been outdoors, with a massive industrial fan blowing at my back. On Sunday, my mom had visited. She’s kept her business open during the pandemic, but both she and I are vaccinated, so she’s been visiting me inside again. Other than that, I’d seen no humans. Still, for several days as it seemed I was fighting it off just fine, I told myself that in post-Covid life I’ll come in contact with pathogens again and that’s just the way it is.
Then the bug turned vicious. By Friday, I’d lost my voice. My daughter, amused, had me recite the lines the Kate Winslet character delivers at the end of Titanic, while she’s freezing on the floating door and can barely muster sound, “Come back! Come back! I will never let go, Jack.” I took a video. It’s pretty hilarious. I sounded terrible and was feeling a bit rundown, but I didn’t feel as bad as I sounded. Then, on Sunday, I started to feel as bad as I sounded. And then I realized: I couldn’t smell or taste a thing.
With much trepidation, I asked my daughter to schedule a Covid test for me in a neighboring town. I finally had the swab on the brain everyone complains about (it was my first test, and it was as unpleasant as everyone said it would be). By that night I had my results: negative. Still, the bug didn’t mind its elusive diagnosis and started to give me a raging cleaver-through-the-skill headache and a fever I couldn’t bring down, my heart rate soaring over 110 beats per minute (on a positive note, I finally got use of that pulse oximeter I bought when the pandemic first started). It migrated to my head, giving me back my voice but congesting me most unpleasantly. As of this writing, eleven days after that first throat tickle, I am still nowhere near 100%, although so far this is the first fever-free day. I now have an uncontrollable cough and a desperate desire to nap at all times. No matter how much water I drink, it is not enough.
Feeling this lousy has been humbling. I am the girl who doesn’t get sick. When a new colleague said I had “a summer cold,” I wanted to wallop her (if only I had that much strength available). This wasn’t a summer cold, it was a juggernaut that had laid me flat and made me as miserable as I’ve been in two decades. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I was this sick. But, ultimately, it really is just the sniffles compared to what it might have been. That it made me think about my own mortality says more about me than about it.
I share this because in the post-Covid world, I wonder how things are going to transform. Will every illness feel like a portent of disaster? Will every restaurant visit be evaluated for its riskiness? I want to fight that, find what normal looks like.