So this morning I was feeling sick, I’ve been feeling sick for a couple hours nearly every day for weeks. My doctor told me a couple weeks ago that I probably had a viral infection that my immune system was coping with stunningly well. My flu test came back negative and the chance for coronavirus was truly marginal at that point. But the symptoms have returned half the days for the last three weeks in all manner of forms; headache most often, also nausea, occasional cough, infected snot as well as cold sweat. Two nights ago I felt a serious chill, and this morning, about an hour after I woke up (alright, I woke up at noon…) I felt so nauseous and fatigued in my muscles that I could barely stand up. I talked to three close friends and both my brothers who all assured me that if this is ‘the big one’ it would be a very marginal case of it. I told both my brothers ‘Don’t call mom and dad, I really don’t want to make them worried.” So of course, by three, I was calling my parents in a panic….
And of course they weren’t worried at all. They told me, as usual, that I was an idiot. And to be honest, I deserved it, as usual. And then Mom said, ‘In fact, go outside and take a walk….’ OK, boomers…. Since last Monday I’ve been outside exactly twice. When I went outside on Thursday (or was it Wednesday? or was it Friday?) it was in the middle of the night, and I wore both gloves and a dust mask I’d found in my parents house to walk by the lake (if I haven’t donated it yet it’s out of laziness, not selfishness). I wore gloves and a mask again when I went outside on Friday afternoon for what I hoped would be a bike ride, only to find there were holes in the tires of the family beach bike, so I went to the car to drive.
And yet, even in this obviously immuno-compromised state, I’d been cooped up in my parents beach townhouse for an entire week, I haven’t spoken to a single person in the flesh for more than a few words since twelve days ago. Before I knew it, my shoes were on, and I didn’t even care that I wasn’t wearing socks. I was outside without anything protective, past the other townhouses, onto Fred Hudson Parkway, running out of power on my phone, walking to the Assawoman trail head (that’s the name….), walking most of the length of it both ways, walking through the Salt Pond Golf Course and getting lost on the Bethany Loop. I must have walked at least four miles, maybe quite a bit more. I was maybe a little low energy on the walk but that was the worst of it. When I got home I had a huge appetite, ate a bunch of potatoes, some vanilla greek yogurt for dessert, and the second I was full, I felt like shit again.
I didn’t check the temperature but it must have been in the mid-40s today, and unlike on Friday afternoon, there seemed very, very few other people outside. One of the few people I passed from 40 feet away let out a terrific hoarse cough, mouth uncovered, as she went into a tax firm office with some cleaning supplies. Another person, a 20-something woman with hipster glasses, left her house, saw me walking, and deliberately walked into the garage until I’d passed.
If you want people to take social distancing seriously, well, I literally moved temporarily to another state to stop myself from contributing to the contagion of a densely populated city where thousands can’t afford even poor quality medical care (also, my parents townhouse is a lot bigger than my apartment…), but in the moment when I genuinely thought I might have the big one, I did the only logical thing: I potentially exposed miles of road and trail to COVID-19, walking at least four miles without socks in badly worn down shoes, forgetting to charge my phone before I left, getting thoroughly lost in trail I’ve been walking for 10 years, maybe I could have fainted, and in the current state of things who would help me if they found me?
Sick people are not rational people. Healthy people aren’t particularly rational either, but whoever people are innately, they’re affected by the environment they live in. If the situation of their lives is harmonious, well-balanced, healthy, they’ll respond in a healthy way. If the situation of their lives is excessive, imbalanced, stressful, sickly, they’re much more likely to respond in excessive, imbalanced, stressful, sickly ways.
People who are staying at home are making a huge difference, and nobody should ever try to stop them or tell them that their efforts are useless. Everybody who successfully does it or even makes a serious attempt is saving lots of lives. But the curve will not be flattened. Even if it flattens the coronavirus curve, the curve of whatever comes next grows geometrically.
Coronavirus is only the beginning. Pandora’s box just got opened. The world’s most powerful country is undergoing an economic freeze worse than the ’29 stock market crash when it’s already 20 trillion dollars in debt, with a would-be dictator who—if he ever figured out how—may now be able to use emergency powers ad infinitum. In a country with 300 million privately held guns, while everybody is now indoors to make each other miserable, not just their own families, but across the screens and the political divides as we’ve been for 20 years, only now, there’s no looking away from the void that divides us. And meanwhile, two countries across the Pacific Ocean look at us as a potential mortal threat, and if we ever got our shit together, their cold war of intelligence gathering, computer hacks, and ‘sharp power’ would turn hard and hot. So if we’re all inside for a year or two, or even just a few months, the country’s temperature is probably going to reach core meltdown. And even if coronavirus only takes 5,000 or 20,000 or 50,000 American lives, there very well may be no cooling it without many, many, more lives lost in whatever comes next. So if you’re in a particularly volatile area, be it Baltimore, or the South, or the West, I would use this time to start preparing for anything you might have to endure when this is over, or to think about finding a less interesting place to live.
Anyway, when I came back I was told by a friend in Chicago that the whole State of Delaware just issued a Shelter in Place order. So no walks bigger than that from now on…