I don’t know if I mentioned this, but I quit smoking for good this past October 3rd, 2019. My wife was preparing for an elective surgery and it was suggested that she quit smoking prior to; smoking constricts the blood vessels, raising blood pressure, and the doctors don’t want to go to slice into a person and have unpredictable spurts. Sounds reasonable enough, and I’d been looking for a reason, anyway. So, we quit.
Well, I quit. She started up again about a month ago. I have no intent to pick up the habit once more. It’s smelly, it’s expensive, and it’s not good for one’s health. Particularly in these days of pandemic panic. It’s said that Coronavirus is harder to fight in those who have smoked or are active smokers. I want whatever I edge I can have for the fight.
I work in the public sector, you see: a restaurant manager. I haven’t stopped working since this all began, as many in my industry have. I don’t quite remember when it started, but I remember when it drew close enough for me to see its future clear.
It was March 12th, 2020, and Marc Rebillet was going to be playing a show in downtown Houston. We’d made no plans to attend, but I thought it might be something fun to do last-minute after I got off work. But I’d been watching the news, seeing how the Covid-19 virus was spreading around the globe and growing cases steadily climbed in the United States. Italy was shut-down, New York was discussing Shelter-in-Place orders, and Ohio had just closed. I knew Houston was next. I knew it. I told my boss, and boss’s boss. They kind of laughed about it.
I went home and saw that the CDC had dropped the suggested gathering limits from 250 to 50, and in another twelve hours it would drop to 10. I knew the scope of my job would be changing. I just wasn’t sure how. I suggested to my wife we go see Marc Rebillet and have some fun. She said “nah”. We went to a local bar and I drank a Corona; not my typical beer but I was feeling subversive.
The very next day everything changed. We had closed the doors but would still operate as a to-go and delivery location. However, an errant storm would knock the power out just two days later and we’d be unable to open for a full day-and-a-half. I worked the whole time.
The fear, paranoia, and ignorance that reigned over the next three months was unlike anything I’d seen in all my years on this earth. And I’ve been here a minute; I’ve seen some shit. I saw the Challenger Shuttle explode, I saw the Berlin Wall come down, I watched Los Angeles burn in the aftermath of the Rodney King brutality case, I watched OJ lead the cops on a chase in his white Bronco, I saw the Twin Towers fall, I saw the AntiChrist take the throne of the United States of America. I thought I’d seen it all.
Chinese-Americans; hell, almost any Asian-Americans were being vilified in their own neighborhoods for this “China Virus.” People were boycotting Corona beer because the name instilled fear. People were scared to leave the house, and as many were furious to be kept in the house. People were obstinate to wear a mask and as many were furious towards those who wouldn’t. “Science” appeared around every corner, contradicting itself at every turn. No one knew what to think or who to trust. The World Health Organization was brought into question. With a name like that, you’d think they’d be above reproach. Names are arbitrary, it seems, as Corona would tell you if you’d lend an ear.
Now, to give you some further insight into my headspace during this whole thing, I’ll just spell it out: I’ve been horribly depressed, for a very long time. I’ve discussed my general disenfranchisement with the world around me, but it got worse in late January when my job moved me to another location (the third move in less than five months). Since arriving in this living hell, I have been wandering in a daze, yearning for further hardship to make it seem less severe. Every time I would sneeze, I would be disappointed if there was no blood. When my gas tank would be close to empty, I would have to fight the urge to drive it until it ran out completely. When a relative or friend would call, I would anxiously await their news that someone I loved had died, but the news didn’t come. I would stare into a demonic world of hate and disease and beg it to offer something just for me, some special wound I could wear to make my place in it make sense. I wanted to suffer.
I wanted to get the Coronavirus.
It seemed inevitable, anyway. The people who frequented my restaurant were such abhorrent trash that it seemed impossible they wouldn’t rush to get the disease and give it to as many people as they could. They are all children running through the news conference touching all the microphones. They’re the stereotypical self-important prick in the zombie film hiding their bite marks, believing their money will save them, believing in their own invulnerable storyline. They’re human dirt. They practically are the virus.
Obviously, they’re not all that. I’m trying out some vilifying, myself. Maybe if I say enough vile shit, I’ll get the smiting I so rightly deserve. In truth, I’m just tired. I’d rather get the thing than live another week worrying about getting the thing.
So, imagine my elation when Tuesday morning at 5am while trying to pee I was rocked by a chill that set into my shoulders, causing me to begin violently shivering. I barely managed to get all my urine in the bowl and flush as I shuffled across the apartment and wrapped myself in a blanket and sweat as I slept for nine hours, my brain turning to soup. When I finally got out of bed my wife said that I’d been coughing, but I assumed that was from screaming along to Glassjaw’s “Pretty Lush” on the way home after a shit night of work. I went back to work with a slight headache but feeling mostly okay. I had another bullshit night of working way too hard and after locking the door at the end of the night the chill came back in. I’d been checking my temperature with an external digital thermometer throughout the evening, but it never peaked above 99. I finished out my shift and went home, wrapped myself up, and sweat for another twelve hours of soup-brained dream thoughts. This time I was trying to convince people to speak using either Arial or bold font, and they could use them interchangeably if they’d follow a few simple rules, but every time I thought I got it I would throw the blanket off and the chill would hit my bones, and my brain said “Oh, they don’t get it! Get back in there and don’t screw this up!”
Like I said, soup.
When I finally did get out of bed Wednesday, I had a bad cough, my eyes hurt from sinus pressure, I had a headache, heat rashes on my scalp, and agitation at the top of my nasal passage. My wife suggested I get it checked out. I thought it was a pretty good idea, because I didn’t want to spend another night like the past two. So, I pulled my insurance card and researched urgent cares in network and was soon off to see a nurse about my issues.
It should be said at this point that I am not a hospital, insurance, nurse, medication, or medicine kind of person. To casually spend an afternoon off to get a cough checked out is not who I am. I don’t take aspirin. I drink water and get plenty of sleep (sometimes), typically. That’s how I deal with stuff. So, the mere fact that I went to urgent care was enough to cause some concern.
Truth be told, I get these shivers every now and then. There’s no pattern, or no direct causation that I can recall. It’s not directly related to actual cold, either. It sets into my bones and it scares me, every time. It was worth looking at.
So, I went. And I waited. I finally was led to a room and a nurse took my vitals. No fever. Blood pressure and heart rate were good. BMI was high but I’m used to medical professionals telling me I’m fat. The nurse practitioner came in and read my symptoms that I’d told her back to me. I agreed with my own assessment. She asked if I wanted to be swabbed for Flu and Strep. I said sure. She asked if I wanted to be swabbed for Covid-19. I thought it wasn’t necessary since I didn’t have a fever.
“We’re seeing cases now with no fever associated,” was her response.
The night prior I’d had a phone conversation with my boss’s boss because we had an employee who claimed to have the virus, and other team members caught word of this and wanted to know if we’d be supplying testing for them. His short answer was “no” and the reasoning was that we’re taking the necessary precautions to prevent the spread so even if patient zero were among us there is little chance we would be affected. It’s a fair position. He went on to say that if someone wanted to get tested they certainly could, but they couldn’t come back to work until the test had cleared them.
Knowing this, I didn’t want to get the test. I hate my current job assignment, yes, but I don’t want to miss work. I actually give a shit about my job, the company I work for, and the contribution I make. Which is why it seems doubly irresponsible not to get the test. So, I said sure.
I left the Urgent Care around 6:00pm on Wednesday. It is now 5:20pm on Saturday night, and I have not heard the results of the Covid-19 test. I do know, however, that I do not have flu or strep. My throat is still a bit raw, my nose is clogged, and I feel a general lethargy and rashness about my skin, but otherwise I am much better. I want to know if I have it. That’s all.
But that’s not all. I hear things, you know. You see, after the two-straight months of busting ass at work, I put in for vacation and through some magic scheduling got eleven straight days off. Eleven! Guess how much I accomplished in that time? How many Tik Tok videos I made? How many short stories I wrote? How many blogs I posted? How many songs I recorded?
Go on, guess.
It’s zero. I did zero of those things. But I did post some articles on AintitCool.com, including an interview with my idol Henry Rollins, so there’s that. What we did do was see my friend Heath in his new place in Houston, see our friends Amber and Matt in New Braunfels, and my friend Sara in Austin. We saw these people, and in small gatherings (literally just us) and we ate food and drank heavily. I watched movies. I started my new class for the summer session. That’s what we did. That’s it.
Well one of the managers at work, after hearing that I got tested for Covid-19, is “pissed” that I went “traveling” while on vacation. One of the above-mentioned friends is concerned that we were “welcomed” into their home. AFTER ONLY THE MENTION THAT I’D BEEN TESTED.
I want a much milder example but none is coming to mind so let’s just go with what I’ve got: is there a Star of David that I can wear while I await the results of this test?
This pandemic is unprecedented, these times are uncertain, and these waters are uncharted, yes. And all of that I got just from big-budget retail market advertisements. The reality of our situation is everyone is fucking scared, and just as with their trust, they don’t know of whom to be scared. And now that I’m possibly “one of the infected” I feel on the outside. I check my phone religiously, monitoring the goings on at work while also awaiting my test results, and perhaps it is the vigilance, but the volume seems to have slowed down. As though I am already gone, a phantom receiving transmissions from the world of the living at a removed frequency.
This is me and my ‘Rona, and even though it’s all I’ve ever wanted, I don’t want to wish it on anyone. Mind you, I don’t even know if I have it. If you want my opinion, I’m 99% sure I don’t have it, but that doesn’t really matter until everyone around me knows for sure.