It was instantaneous, the moment those letters screamed at me through the screen my heart dropped to my stomach and my feet were full of lead. I can’t get sick, I don’t have insurance. Please dear God, do not get sick. Shit, what about Mom and Dad? What happens if something happens with them? I shouldn’t have come, I shouldn’t have come. Everything is spiraling, it is dizzying and oh so disorienting.
Do we even have a fucking thermometer? Nope. Load up on Vitamin C, and Zinc. Cancel the flight home, book it for a date without guarantee. Get Mom and Dad tested, stat. Alert Erdem, assure him that no this is not a drill. Text my circle on the other side of the pond, reach out to people who have gone through this. It’s a hushed cry for help because looking around the neighborhood all fingers are pointed at me. Shit, there’s no food in the fridge. Unpack my bags, cry in the shower and remain vigilant. The nightmare it’s coming to life let’s just hope we step out of it before it matures to the monstrous beast it can transform into. The first 48 hours, that’s what we were told. Keep watch on the first 48 hours.
It’s a fun game, do these pounding wings in my chest belong to the anxiety overflowing my veins, the stress that has paralyzed my body or is this COVID? Shut off the news, it makes the wings pound with ferocity. Get off any social media. Get out of your head. Though all 3 of us tested positive we were lucky. I can tell this story knowing that the worst symptom any one of us had was the loss of smell for a couple days. I came out unscathed by the virus, I would have never guessed I had it. COVID came into my body and left it, leaving behind only antibodies.
We spent the quarantine listening to true crime podcasts in the backyard, wrapped in blankets and soaking up the soft sun. Nearly every day someone had to take me on a COVID outing where we loaded into our hermetically sealed vehicle and ventured into the outside world. In those days, we drove to the snow swept mountains and out to Oak Glen. When we were isolated from any other human we would dare to step out of the vehicle breathe in some air and then lock ourselves away in our cabin. For once in our lives, we weren’t so mad if there was traffic on the PCH, or winding up and down the canyon because we weren’t going anywhere but just needed something different for our eyes to feast on instead of the same walls that surrounded us back at home.
We colored within the lines, shuffled the deck a thousand times and dusted off some board games. Those 14 days exist in my mind as a blur. A swirl of stress, gratitude and anxiety. If shit was going to hit the fan, I at least was here for my parents. We lived through the worst of it and didn’t bare any scars. We have an invisible shield. I will at some point have to go back to the classroom, likely before being vaccinated so thank God I have the natural vaccine. What was supposed to be a quick trip, turned into quarantine with my parents. But, I wasn’t alone in a foreign country, I got to spend time with two of the people I love the most in the world.
I desperately needed to get back to the Netherlands, my break was ending soon and I was expected back. Holland finally made the call for schools to be virtual and I would have to be present no matter where I was in the world. The 9 hour time difference made California seem like an atrocious place to be, waking up in the middle of the night having to force a smile and pretend all is right in my world was just too much. There was one problem, I could not test NEGATIVE for life of me. I needed a negative test to board the plane so I started thinking about all the ways I could force that to “happen”. Luckily, hours before my flight while I was already packed and ready to go I opened up my email and joyously read NEGATIVE.
With my ticket on my phone and paperwork in my hand, I lugged my bags into the car and off we went. I didn’t know when I would see my parents again and there is a certain amount of woe in that but at this point everyone in my household was relieved I would make it back one day before I had to return to work. I would board the flight knowing that I was the safest person on board, I wouldn’t give the gift that kept on giving and I also was protected from anyone who could. Walking through LAX was apocalyptic for whomever I met at baggage check disappeared immediately afterwards. My heartbeat was the only one detectable as far as my eyes could see and my final steps in California echoed through the empty terminals, a soul-stirring lullaby reminded me it’s not over yet.