A little bit Dolly, a little bit Larry D.
I’m positive I’ll be negative. And my assurance comes with good reason - I’m always negative. Every time I test, I see a single bold line, which I hold under bright light, squinting to be sure there’s no shrinking violet of a second line. And there never is.
Nevertheless, I open the kit because I plan to visit my mother, and I’ve been doing some holiday partying. That said, other than a few morning sneezes, I’m completely fine. Ok, I feel a little fatigued, but that’s because I drank about a hundred glasses of wine and initiated a round of very big tequila shots a couple of nights ago…when I engaged with more people than I should have. Jesus. Of course I have to test. Of all the things I want to give my mother (tuna melts, lox and bagels with scallion cream cheese, brownies, made with her recipe) Covid is not one of them.
Testing makes me feel like a scientist. I swab. I swirl. I wait. When the timer goes off, I almost don’t bother looking. And then I gasp. Because there are two lines. And the second of them is no faint little whisper of a Maybe. It’s Sharpie-bold and screaming its head off.
I’m as positive as Dolly Parton.
Suddenly, my few sneezes feel like a full-blown cold and my throat feels scratchy. My mild fatigue becomes full-blown exhaustion. I practically crawl to my dresser, where I open the bottom drawer and pull out the ugliest sweatshirt I own. It’s maroon - a color I don’t like or look good in - and as sad-looking and shapeless as a washcloth that should have been thrown out months ago. But it’s also soft and warm and my body wants to be inside of it.
I text my husband and kids, to announce my news, feeling important and exciting for about three minutes. I then text my fellow wine-and-tequila drinkers, wincing as I hear the dings of their replies. I expect alarm, and maybe recrimination, but what I get is just shy of a yawn. “Ok, thanks for the heads up,” replies one friend. “Yeah, it’s everywhere,” says another. I’m glad no one’s mad or worried, but slightly let down at not seeing so much as a single “OMG!!!!” I sigh. Unlike Dolly’s, my positivity is boring.
I set myself up in the bedroom. Laptop, charger, tea (since by this time, my throat is on fire and I’m sure I have a fever.) When no one is in the kitchen, I heat a bowl of soup in the microwave and bring it back to the bedroom.
I work and nap until dinner time, when I wait for my husband and kids to leave the kitchen, quickly eat, and return to my room. At bedtime, I put sheets and a blanket on the sofa. My husband is too tall to sleep on it comfortably but I practically melt into its down-filled velvet and watch TV until I fall asleep.
Two days later, I test again. The positive line is still unmistakable, but maybe a tad bit shyer than it was the first time. I settle into what has become my routine. Write. Work. Microwave my soup. Watch the ending of whatever I fell asleep to the night before, propped against the pillows I’ll later transfer to the sofa. By late afternoon, I desperately need to nap. As I settle in, I realize something that makes me both comfortable and sad - I don’t hate this routine.
I wake to the sound of the family I’d normally be elbow to elbow with, digging into what I can tell, from their conversation, is Chinese food. When I hear Philip say “Pass the scallion pancakes,” I realize I’m starving. I call out, “Guys? Can I come out soon?” They tell me they just started, which means I have two choices. Have them leave a plate outside my door, or mask up, quickly fill my plate and bring it to the window seat, which is far enough from where they sit to be safe. I opt for Door #2 and march out.
I fill my plate with chicken and broccoli, then spy a container of dumplings. I pluck one with my chopsticks, planning, and failing to bring it to the window seat.
“Mom! What are you doing?”
“Nothing!” I say. “I just…”
“You yanked your mask down and shoved a dumpling into your mouth!” my daughter says.
“But I did it out of range of you guys!” I shout, because by this time, I’ve moved to the far end of the room.
“You were right there,” she answers, pointing to the spot at the counter where indeed I had been.
I ask if anyone thinks you can catch Covid from a five-second-exposure and the answer is that I wasn’t just standing; I was eating. And talking. Which means potential droplets. With active covid.
I weakly insist I wasn’t, which we all know is a lie. I did yank. I did shove. And yes, I talked. Perhaps with droplets? Who the hell knows. Nevertheless, I remain indignant and go back to my room, where I eat sulkily.
When I emerge on Day 4, it’s mentioned that there’s a stain on my sleeve. I shrug and mumble that I’ll get it out. I go back to my bed and think about putting the sweatshirt into the washing machine but opt for a nap instead.
On Day 5, it’s mentioned that there are white streaks across my midsection. I think for a second. “Oh, yeah. I thought I was getting a rash on my stomach so I put some cream on it,” I answered.
“Well, do you think that having cream smeared on your sweatshirt might be a good reason to take it off?”my son asks, looking more than a little afraid that the answer will be no. When it’s suggested that I’ve been “wearing the exact same thing for a week,” I disagree because a) it hasn’t been a full week and b) I alternate what I pair it with - one day leggings, the next a long t-shirt dress. And I actually think the sweatshirt-over-dress look works. The sweatshirt is slouchy and the dress is straight and long. I wonder what’s wrong with the rest of my family for not being able to see it as I scuff back to the bedroom in the slippers that haven’t left my feet since Day 1.
By Day 6, I realize I haven’t filled the wastebasket with tissues in a while. Nor have I tested. I feel giddy as I remove the seal from the plastic test tube. But this time, my excitement is for the right reason. I want good news. I swab. I swirl. I wait. When the timer goes off, I’m afraid to look. But there it is. One big bold beautiful line, standing proudly, like a beacon of health, on a plastic stick atop my toilet tank.
I’m as negative as Larry David, which fills me with Dolly-level-joy.
I run to the front of the apartment, announce the news, and remove my mask, wanting to fling it, like a pair of panties at a Tom Jones concert. I realize this wouldn’t go over well, what with potential droplets, so dispose of it properly. Back in my room, as if to thank it for its ugly comfort and service, I hug my big, stained maroon sweatshirt to my body one last time. With a bit of reluctance, I take it off. And toss it into the washing machine. Where, like me, it will be free to mingle with others and become a better-looking version of itself.
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