I thought I caught a cold the day before exams. I had worn my mask methodically, only hung out with three other people, and I didn’t really go anywhere. After two days of a scratchy throat, I got sick. Really sick. I turned on Campus Clear and entered my symptoms. With a blurry brain, I set up an appointment with Calvin Health Services. I shuffled in, still in pajamas, with my mask on. I sat in the waiting room, floating between waking and sleeping, sniffling so I didn’t need to use a tissue.
A nurse walked me back to a room and had me swirl the long Q-tip in both nostrils. I waited, feeling miserable, for the test to come back.
“You’ve tested positive for COVID,” the nurse said. “We’ll have you take another test to make sure.”
I shook my head. There was still a chance I hadn’t failed. Ten swirls in the left, ten swirls on the right, and ten minutes later a doctor came in.
“You have COVID,” he said.
I don’t remember if I said anything, but if I did it was probably something like “that sucks,” or “bummer.” Maybe I just shook my head and shrugged trying to hold the snot inside my head.
I was handed a bunch of papers and was instructed to quarantine. Walking out of the building felt surreal. With COVID, I passed by everyone waiting with or without the virus. As I went to my car, I wanted to wear a name tag that said I promise I was being careful, I’m sorry for my moral failure. But I passed through, got to my car, and passed out under my weighted blanket.
For the next three days, while everyone was studying for exams, I tossed my tissues on the ground because it was too hard to aim them at the trashcan. As I snuggled my cat, I binged The Legend of Kora, the Avatar sequel, which I’ve seen approximately 74 times through. I don’t know what I ate, but I must’ve eaten somehow. Or gotten up to go to the bathroom.
But for three days, all I remember was a ridiculous amount of snot, cartoons playing on constant loop, and wanting desperately to go to target and buy every fluffy stuffed animal that has ever existed.
After three days, I still felt like crap, but good enough to produce a two-minute slurred presentation about after school writing centers. I recorded it multiple times in my partner's bedroom because one of us had given COVID to the other.
As I sat in his messy room in his recliner—I felt like garbage—but less garbagey than I did three years ago. Even though I was cut off from almost everybody and had been isolating off and on for two years, I hadn’t chosen it.
However, three years ago as a depressed-out-of-my-mind freshman, I shut myself in. This wasn’t my fault either. I was, and still am, mentally ill. But the time I spent in my dorm room, barely even talking to my roommate, was a different isolation than being in that recliner. I was painfully lonely. And while I was isolated and sick, I knew I was able to let people take care of me. Even if one of them was a cat.
Here is a video of me reading this piece at an open mic night I organized through my university's writing center.