Spoiler: Eli and I both tested negative.
Predestiny. It isn’t a thing. We all have our beliefs. Some (mine) might be hurtful to others. Many people of faith view the events of life like a movie already in the can. The scenes play out as shot, no deviation from the plan. We, the actors, are along for the ride. Others see a God-like entity pulling the strings, directing the action of a film still in production. God does as s/he pleases, but a good suggestion, a well-crafted prayer, might alter script.
My beliefs—honed in no small part by the Terminator movie franchise with its catchy slogan no fate but what we make—reject the idea of a master plan. I see the universe as something of a science experiment. A collection of chemicals combined a gazillion years ago by a deity or an extraterrestrial or some other intelligent designer and then left to thrive or wither with no further interference.
Nothing can be predestined, or even foretold, because nobody, not even God, knows what will happen next. But like everything I write, this piece is layered with inconsistencies. While I say no predestiny, my powerful sense of irony makes me believe I’m destined to catch Covid 19. I’ve been freaking out about the pandemic for more than a decade.
One of the interesting stats provided by WordPress is the list of my posts viewed on any given day. The last few posts I wrote usually get a hit and maybe more each day, and some posts with a good set of meta tags often show up on the list. The Hair Wiz, a story I wrote years ago about using a 1970s gadget to cut my own hair, gets views every single day. Today, a post called My Hungover Weekend showed up on the list. “Huh,” I thought, “I wonder what that’s about.” So I read it.
Do you read your own posts? I do frequently. While each one is about a specific topic, all of them include some random autobiographical information about things on my mind at that specific point in time. Reading a post I don’t remember writing is often like a journey into my past. It takes me back to a place, a mindset that maybe isn’t memorable, but interesting—at least to me. My Hungover Weekend is about the day, in July 2019, I gave up for good the long-standing narcotic sleep aid I used to combat mid-night obsessive thoughts. This story included the following paragraph:
“I’d lie awake in bed worrying about things: things I didn’t do at work, or I’d worry about money, or my retirement, or my relationships, or whether I’m parenting correctly, or my house, or my car, or my health, or any one of a million things that for some reason popped into my head sometime after I went to bed. My most common worry was how my family would survive when the pandemic hit. Seriously.”
I ran a query on my blog. I’ve written thirty-four posts referencing the pandemic, three of those were before 2020, before anyone but health professionals even knew what a coronavirus was. And then six more in 2020 but before March 11, which is when the World Health Organization declared Covid 19 a pandemic.
I’d say I’m fairly obsessed with this thing. Can you think of a person more destined to catch Covid 19 than me?
Last Sunday, Susan, Eli and I took a hike. I wanted to show them a remote series of trails and grassy forest roads I ran the week before. This route, switching back and forth between gentle slopes and aggressive climbs wound its way to the top of a mountain. We all found it beautiful, and knowing that the nearest person was miles away made it even better. I packed the water. Not a warm morning, I carried just two twenty-four-ounce bottles for us to share. At each break, we passed around a water bottle, taking large swigs. Two hours after we finished the hike, Eli was sick.
His sore throat and cough exactly matched the symptoms you might expect from a teenager with Covid 19, and by Tuesday, I began feeling the same symptoms as well. Interestingly, Susan, who also shared the water bottles, but whose work with the homeless got her the vaccine in early March didn’t get sick at all. And on Wednesday, Eli learned from Instagram that the student who sits next to him in German class tested positive last week.
Do you call it quarantine or isolation when you’re sick and awaiting test results? I can’t keep that straight. Tuesday was my last day at work. On Wednesday night, Eli and I went to Rite Aid for a test, and we’ve sat home growing more and more bored and restless by the day. In just about every country but the United States, national lockdowns have meant LOCKDOWN, but here in the states it’s always just been a suggestion. There are so many open spaces to escape to—like last weekend’s hike—that I’ve never felt cooped up, until now.
When I started writing this afternoon, I expected the results of our tests at any minute. The employee said we would hear from them in two to seven days. So far, it’s only been forty-eight hours since the test, but for some reason, I expected to already know.
Since things are still up in the air, I thought I’d write two endings to this story.
Negative: As we drove home from the test, Eli and I made a bet; he said negative, I said positive. The winner gets to choose the ice cream shop we visit to settle our bet. Eli loves Rita’s, I love Dairy Queen. In truth, I think both of us are happy no matter where we go, And since we go out for ice cream pretty much every week, no one is really losing out anyway. I’m eligible for the vaccine starting in mid-April, so the chances of me developing Covid are getting pretty slim. Eli needs to wait longer; he’s only fifteen. But as the school year winds down, I think his chance of exposure to the virus drops off dramatically too.
Positive: Well of course. How could I not test positive? I’ve been jinxing myself for fourteen months by writing gloom and doom posts week after week. Fortunately, today I started feeling better. My congestion and coughing cleared up completely over a two-hour period this morning, so barring some sort of unfortunate relapse, I seem to be out of the woods. And our natural antibodies will act like a vaccine for Eli and me until we’re eligible.
Conclusion: Some people might tell me not to think about it, the decision is already made. There’s already a plan in place, and my job is to wait and see what happens. The next person might say that by petitioning God, I can help keep Eli and me safe from catching or succumbing to Covid 19. Of course, I believe that my chance of getting or avoiding the disease is just as random as the virus jumping to humans in the first place. My best bet is to keep physically distant, wear my mask and stay away from work until I know I’m healthy.
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