I tested positive for COVID-19 precisely 21 days ago, on New Year’s Eve, which also happens to be my birthday. Cake, candles and COVID-19. Happy birthday to me.
COVID-19 is a virus of irony. I woke up shivering and I wasn’t cold. I woke up sweating and I wasn’t hot. I woke up worried and grateful all at once. Worried I had this Thing inside me, grateful that, for the moment anyway, it wasn’t trying to kill me.
What was it like?
Like nothing ever. Sinus-y. Like a migraine but not a debilitating, close-the-blinds pound. Chest tightness that required a chainsaw to pierce, but hardly any cough. Sleepless nights and no hallucinations. A shakiness solved by drinking lots of milk, even as experts advise not to consume dairy products.
Mostly a cloak of fatigue. If we’re as young as we feel, for a week I felt about 108. I was perma-tired, but happy for the extra sleep it afforded, without guilt. For the first week, I’d close my eyes at noon and re-open them at close to 4 p.m., and not feel at all bad about wasting the day. Rip Van Winkle had a point.
COVID-19 was interesting. Why could I still taste, yet have no desire for beer or bourbon? I love beer and bourbon. I could smell just fine, but the aroma of cigars made me nauseous. I love cigars. My wife tested positive a few days before I did. Her symptoms lasted about four days. Mine lingered until earlier this week.
How did we get it? Since April, my wife and I had lived as if cloistered. Our circle was tighter than a baseball seam. I’d been a nag about mask-wearing for six months. I wasn’t going to be a hypocrite. I wore the mask every time I walked out my door. It was no work at all to avoid large gatherings. Parties shiver my introvert’s spine. I’m boring on purpose.
Since March, I’d done exactly four things: Eaten, slept, worked and walked the dog. I did manage some golf, but golf was the perfect sport for the plague. I played solo or with my pal Pogo, who was more vigilant about the virus than I was.
I saw next to no one. No restaurants, no bars. I stayed away from two of my favorite places, Everybody’s Records and The Party Source. Work was Zoom press conferences after watching games on TV. I could do my job in a Tahitian tiki hut. I gave serious consideration to doing just that.
I still got it. COVID-19's seeming randomness is scary. I could mask up, wash up and live like Martin Luther. I could avoid people, follow with devotion Mike DeWine’s checklist. And I could walk into an Urgent Care facility on New Year’s Eve, have them shove a swab up my nose and three days later get an email with the word POSITIVE across the top.
My son and daughter went with me to Urgent Care. They both tested negative. My son-in-law was positive without symptoms. My son’s girlfriend was positive with sickness. All on close to the same day. Go figure. A man can be deeply grateful and also deeply curious.
I feel lucky and fearful. I had it easy. No shortness of breath, a normal pulse-ox, heart dependably thumping at 60 beats a minute. I was OK. And immediately, I’d commence to wondering, what if I get worse?
What if this is the calm of storm clouds gathering? Does this virus suddenly call a block party right as I’m thinking it’s getting bored with me? That kept me conscious at 3 a.m.
I don’t worry for myself now. I worry for my kids. I see the cases exploding locally. Hamilton County is among the hottest spots in Ohio, in the hottest country in the world. The odds of testing positive still aren’t high, something like 1 in 16. That was significant to me. That gave me comfort. Until it didn’t.
Ohio still is averaging 6,100 cases a day. In August, I knew two people who’d tested positive. Now I know 20. It’s gaining on us.
I have immunity apparently, a three-month window of grace. Maybe I’ll be up for the vaccination by then. What about you? Please follow the protocols, for yourself and others. It’s shadowy and scary and we just don’t know.
I was lucky. Not everyone is.