the house of cards is falling

I had the perfect plan of this I was sure. With the negative test in my hand and a wily scheme in my head the game was on. Only a total of four people knew that I was coming, and it was to stay that way. I would arrive mid-day after a non-stop flight (where I was fully masked and lulled to sleep by Tylenol PM) to shed my winter coat and experience some much needed sunshine. The weeks building up to this my body was filled with a toxic concoction of anxiety, nerves and to be honest guilt. The headlines everywhere were screaming to stay put, but I knew for my mental health I needed to go home. I would take extremely calculated risks, only seeing the closest inner circle that exists to me. It would all be very hush hush, a few shaking hands building a very covert house of cards. It was mid-December and I was expecting by now the foundation of the house to have fallen, as it has over and over again until this moment. A wall here and a wall there but, nothing too destructive.

The few days I had planned involved staying outside in the sunshine as long as I could and just sipping cocktails with my family. My heart was full and my body and mind felt lighter than they had since the start of the pandemic. It felt good. California was experiencing an Indian summer and I for one was there for it. Baking cookings, wrapping presents, playing cards and eating In-and- Out, life was good. We had a very quiet Christmas, but it was wonderful none the less, it was fitting for the times.

For brief moments, I could forget the Tuesday evening phone call saying “well we are experiencing some symptoms, you may want to get tested”. Finding a testing center wasn’t easy, in fact they nearly made it impossible and absolutely unaffordable. California was going through a massive wave of infections and results often took days. I needed a PCR test that was taken no more than 48 hours of my boarding the flight and 72 hours of my landing in the Netherlands. All testing sites were closed on the 24th and the 25th while my flight was on the morning of the 27th. Lovely. The time different was working against me and the American health care system was just putting the cherry on top of the whole experience as PCR tests were gold at this time. After shelling out nearly $500, we found one place in all the LA area that had guaranteed results. I was feeling great, better than I did when I boarded the flight and as my Dad and I navigated our way to the testing station I would have bet more money than I had in my bank account that all was going to be well in the world. I had only been in California for a couple of days, I mean come on now. I followed the rules, it should be fine. I will be fine.

The one thing no one ever talks about is what happens once you receive your results and the black letting screams through the screen POSITIVE. That single word deafens your world, steals your breath and sends shockwaves through your body. Instantaneously the living room table where you were playing cards ignites in flames and you are choking on the invisible smoke. First things first, breathe. The house of cards has fallen and the players are scrambling to pick up the pieces. It’s not your fault. The news breaks and all the fingers are pointing to me. But, it’s not my fault. Though I am surrounded by the same four walls, I can hear the tea spilling and whispers of neighbors peering in behind the veiled curtains “well she did come here from Europe”, “she did travel”. My covert 1980’s spy plan was bursting at the seams the lid was lifted and all the weight was falling on me. Is it my fault? It’s not my fault. Is it?

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