Day 1: Waiting for test results

I’ve got articles to report. A dog to walk. A novel to write. Kids to soothe. A house that’s gathering grime.

But as I go through my day, there’s this ticking in the background. Sometimes it’s so loud I practically can’t hear anything else. It’s the sound of the clock counting off the minutes, hours, days until I get my test result.

On Monday, three days after a walk that so exhausted me that I spent the rest of the day in bed, I got tested for the novel coronavirus. I had a cough, weakness and dizziness, but no fever. No breathing issues. No cancer diagnosis or other official underlying health issue. Not one item on the short checklist of conditions that should make me eligible for one of these precious tests. What I did have was a husband who’s an internist, who the system decided needed to know if he had the disease in his house.

I know, it’s not fair. But it’s also not fair that we have to live with the fear of him wading every day into an ocean of disease, exposing himself to illness every minute he’s at work, possibly bringing germs home with him when he returns.

The next day, after our 16 year old daughter came back pale and shaky from her walk, my husband couldn’t take the stress anymore either and got tested, too.

Three days later, I still haven’t heard anything. He got his results back in 16 hours — negative. Again, fair-not fair.

So I wait. We wait, my husband, me and the three kids, all five of us. I shuffle along in a netherworld, not quite well, not quite sick. I can walk the dog, as long as I only go two blocks (usually, I shoot for 1.8 miles). I can do my freelance writing work, as long as it’s only an hour or two at a time, and I lie down in between. I don’t have the energy to cook or clean, but that’s okay because no one wants me puttering around the kitchen.

Just in case.

I wear a mask whenever I leave my room. Just in case. Mostly I stay in my room. Because, you know, just in case. My husband’s sleeping in our middle child’s room. Out of an abundance of etc etc. And yet he still uses our bathroom. And no one follows me around with a spray bottle of Lysol, wiping away the virus I may be shedding. I mean, I do emerge from time to time. I need tea. Lunch. And someone’s got to change the laundry from the washer to the dryer.

(For those of you who are wondering, our oldest, L., has gone from kitchen novice to nightly chef in the blink of an eye, and we are all so very grateful. E. and S. are crushed with schoolwork, helping out where they can. B. comes home from clinic and does a second shift of dishes, laundry and general household management. More on these efforts in a later post)

In other words, we are half in and half out of COVID-land. We don’t know what to believe, and what not to believe. And I don’t know what to wish for, when that damned result comes back.

If I have the coronavirus, we will all be quarantined. My husband may not be able to save the world — his favorite endeavor — but be stuck at home, doing telephone visits. And I will find myself on a trajectory that is both universally known and individually uncertain.

But if this isn’t coronavirus, then why can’t I get through a day? And if I don’t have COVID-19, what would happen if I do get it, as fatigued as I currently am?

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.