On St. Patrick’s Day, the number of coronavirus cases rose to 73 in Tennessee, 21 more than the day before.

That’s the day this surreal pandemic became more than just a ghostly figure in the distance — no longer could I stare at it aghast with horror from a far.

Through my window, I watched gray clouds race across the stormy sky — they captured the way I felt.

Now I sit in my room with time; I wonder on the what-ifs and ponder the hours purloined by this veiled enemy.

I wore a mask in February, when I went to see the endocrinologist — I removed it in the car, but kept it close to put on again when I went inside Walmart.

I’m not a germophobe per se. Having said that, I do jump in the shower and toss my togs in the wash with all due speed as soon as I come in from being in public.

And trying not to touch a bathroom door at a store post-handwashing can require creativity.

Though I do think that an apple ought to smell like an apple, if I stuck my snout to one, I wouldn’t need to have a keen sense to divine my fate.

And yet a shopper will still hack in his hand and polish the plumbs with his palms, like the Utah Jazz basketball player did when he rubbed his filthy fingertips all over the microphones — this transports me to a padded cell.

Children spread germs like tabloid fodder; dare to teach them the vampire cough when they don’t belong to you and let a parent catch wind.

Then there are the folks who have carried their cross longer than most — correcting an 80-year-old veteran who fought in four wars is bold.

Coughing up unseen microbials in shared air space isn’t just gross, it’s calloused to all who must walk through the plume.

I have to pray for God’s to forgive my ire as I listen to the people in the pews across from me: They went to see the doctor twice and the antibiotics didn’t work — yet they hadn’t thought to stay at home?

The warning to wear a mask only if you are sick rang in my ears as I started out the door.

I didn’t want to go to the clinic, but the last in a series to treat precancerous cells caused my face to swell so much that I could barely see out of my left eye — now I labored to catch my breath.

I needed an EpiPen — and hoped to have a shot and a steroid pack.

“Have you been in contact with anyone who has the coronavirus?” the nurse asked.

“I heard a Vanderbilt doctor came back positive,” I paused, as she assured me, I would know if it was mine.

In a flash, the doctor swept in. As he mixed up the questions a bit and directed me to sit on the examination table, my anaphylaxis worries melted away — but a new fear crept in. I breathed, he listened.

He whirred over to his desk, scribbling on his prescription pad. “Take this over to the emergency room, and wait in the parking lot,” he passed me the paper: coronavirus test.

“Can I have a mask?” I stammered, trying to keep my tears at bay.

“You should’ve thought about that before coming to my office,” he snapped.

I slumped in the chair and wept again. The on-call forced a dose of venom down my throat too — so much for the oath to do no harm.

I obeyed the front entrance sign at the ER that forbade crossing and walked back to the car. Thirty minutes later, two females decked in paper robes over scrubs rolled out a tall machine.

“This authorizes us to let someone know you were here,” the lady said trying to hand me her pen. I reached in my purse to grab my own.

“You mean the doctor?” I asked, signing my name to four sheets as she explained what each said.

The nurse, who didn’t don a plastic shield, stepped to my car window. “I am going to swab the left side of your throat first,” she explained snapping the long Q-tip in two, “and then I will do the right.”

I lowered my mask, tilted my head back, and opened wide, “Ahh.” One down — she stuck the swab in a tube — then the other in a different tube.

They didn’t swab my nose — nor did they make me do it myself with the window closed.

“You should hear something in five or six days,” the one armed with documents informed before I could blurt the question.

I couldn’t go to Walmart, so I went home; I had my prescriptions mailed.

Harsh tones might push the person bogged down in loneliness off the precipice; at the same time, one kind word is like a life vest.

A ton of tears, several calls and seven days later, the coronavirus test came back negative.

In the end, a heart-to-heart with the doc healed the hurt — those in healthcare hold the front line in this war and fear for their well-being.

And yet, one must wonder why no one felt that they should wear a mask or protective clothing.

As we succumb to this faceless foe, we see just how alike we are. Keep in mind that while some may need to delay surgery, travel or wedding plans — others will die.

Life will hinge on prevention, which is why we need to slow the spread.

Citing flu death statistics as if to conflate it with coronavirus is a debatable contention: the toll rises as we count the hours that pass by.

 

RAINA FISHER is a writer and child activist who is working on her first novel, and lives on County Home Road near Paris. Her email address is rainafisher@hotmail.com.

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