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#42 The Disease Factory

A Poem

"Don't leave my house?"

You don't have to tell me twice.

I was made for quarantine.

This is my best life.

(The end.)

I can be light about it, because:

1 - I have a salaried day job. The checks come even when I'm at home on my couch.

2 - I am food secure.

3 - Home is a safe place.

4 - I have all the skills and resources necessary to continue my child's education from the living room.

Not everyone can tick through that list, and I am very aware of (and grateful for) my good fortune and privilege.

With that said: Greetings from my couch.

This photo is not from my couch. This photo is from a walk-in clinic 2 days ago. I'm sick. In addition to ticking through my list of good fortune and privilege, I also ticked through the list of COVID 19 symptoms until I drove to a clinic and got tested. Results take 2-3 days. Fisher is at his dad's until we know for sure that I am not a walking disease factory. I'm sure I just have a bad cold, but COVID 19 sounds a lot more dramatic and interesting.

The test is just terrible. I have never before had anything jammed that far up my nose, and I hope to never again. I've been on a watchlist for cervical cancer the last 2 years (and counting) and as a result, have had other things poked, pinched, scraped, and/or biopsied three times since the summer of 2018. I thought there was nothing worse than those experiences. Tuesday, holding my violated nose, I thought I'd found its closest competitor.

(Note: Waiting for biopsy results is a lot worse than waiting for coronavirus results.)

Funny story: After the COVID 19 test, I tried to leave, but my car wouldn't start. I knew this was coming. My car is old, and I don't take care of it. It rattles and shakes and knocks. At least one tire goes flat every three days. But the timing, as always, was hilarious. I was stranded in the clinic parking lot, possibly a human health hazard, during a pandemic. I couldn't waltz back into the clinic -- where no one talked to our touched me without wearing riot gear -- and ask for a jump. I called R to come save me, and he did, because that's what he does. He didn't even wear riot gear. One jump and three auto parts stores later, my grimy car with a giant, rusted out hole in the back passenger side door frame, has a shiny new battery.

I don't know what's going on under my hood, though.

I've had bizarre dreams.

Last week, I missed Fisher's parent-teacher conference. I missed it, because I forgot. His dad didn't forget. I cried and felt hollow the rest of the night -- like I was disappearing. That's not the dream; that's real life.

Later, I dreamed that I was looking through a long list of test scores for Fisher's but couldn't find them because I couldn't remember his name. I kept scanning the names thinking I would know it when I saw it, but nothing looked familiar. In the next scene, I was at home. R walked through the front door, pointed at Rex, my dog, and asked with disbelief if I'd been forgetting to feed him. I looked at Rex, who was emaciated, and realized I had.

The next night I dreamed I showed up to a gig without my piano. The venue had a small, dirty, plastic keyboard with missing keys. As I began to play, I realized I had forgotten to rehearse and could not remember any of my songs.

By the way, all of this happened before the country shuttered its windows and sent us scurrying into our homes like rats.

Speaking of rats...

I don't have anything wise to say about our current situation -- nothing that hasn't already been said 100 times (opportunity to slow down, breathe, reprioritize, take care of each other...), but I do think there's an opportunity to talk about our relationship with the natural world.

My rudimentary understanding: The Coronavirus -- an animal virus -- originated in the wildlife trade epicenter of Wuhan, China. It mutated and jumped from animal to human. Because it's new to our human bodies, we have no pre-existing defense, so it spreads and mutates over and over again.

As I think about how we, as a human species, abuse and disregard the natural world for profit and convenience, it seems only fair.

On Monday, I added dried mealworms to the bird feeders outside the front window and watched. The chickadees are back, the nuthatches and woodpeckers, too, house finches. The sparrows never went anywhere. They hunker down through the winter and make do. I thought: Since everything closed shop, it must be such a relief to wildlife -- fewer bipeds stomping through their grounds.

Today, I read that since Italy's quarantine, dolphins and swans have returned to the canals in Venice.

Perhaps COVID 19 is a cease and desist order from the universe, finally giving everything that we've trampled a chance to rebound.

Something I have been learning and re-learning and remembering and forgetting and re-learning again especially in the past 2 years, is that the human body lobs emergency flares when in crisis. Cancer cells start multiplying and dividing. We pass out at bars while talking to our significant others' mothers. We gain 15 pounds and have to buy new pants. ("How have you been handling your stress?" my therapist asked. "With wine and food," I replied. "Is that not what you recommend?") When we ignore the warnings, they intensify until they cannot be ignored.

I think it's reasonable to assume the natural world also lobs emergency flares. In fact, it has been, repeatedly. We just keep plowing ahead as if there are no consequences, as if we are not deeply connected to the very systems we destroy. Maybe this wild virus from the animal world hits us intimately enough to wake up. We are not separate. Maybe stuck inside with our thoughts for a while, we'll stare out the windows and notice how grand it all is. Maybe we'll get addicted to feeding birds and cooing at rabbits. Maybe we'll be kinder and gentler when we leave the house again.

Wouldn't that be something?

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