I was waiting around in my room playing solitaire with yours truly, stomach absolutely sick from seedless watermelon, when I could’ve sworn I saw a crow perch itself on my windowsill.
It was just a finch, and then I realized that when you have an extremely mild case of COVID-19 your mental health deteriorates way more than your physical health, and you start seeing things.
A weird surprise
It all started on a Thursday morning in Blacksburg when I decided to get tested for the coronavirus. I wasn’t sick at all, but I wanted to be extra sure before I made it back to my parents. I drove up, got horribly violated right up the nose and drove back. It was the home stretch; all I had to do was wait, and I could go home after a few weeks spent slowly moving into my new place far away from the Hooverville that calls itself Terrace View. I had even packed my bags. Those were really annoying to unpack.
It was two days later, and I got a call from a random number, mid-sandwich. “Hi, is this for my test results?” I ask — no response. “Oh, sorry, long day,” the woman who turned out to be my contact tracer says. “This call is [blah blah blah for 20 seconds] to inform the correct protocols for you and to confirm that you have tested positive for COVID-19.”
I sat there in disbelief as I was interviewed and probed for everyone I had recent contact with. It felt so strange to be a statistic in a global pandemic that shut down the lives of every extrovert in the world. She asked me if I had any symptoms, and I responded with chills. Turns out that was just a combination of air conditioning and anxiety. This is when the paranoia began.
I was to spend the next 10 days in complete isolation. The rest of the afternoon was spent calling everyone I recently encountered (not a lot, but still).
When you get COVID-19, they don’t tell you that when you call friends and loved ones about it, the first thing they say is “okay.” This is usually followed with them making it about themselves, likely telling everyone they know about it for their own sympathy. However, they then realize that those people make it about themselves too, and there’s people out there saying “oh no, a person of a person I kind of know got COVID-19!” Just let it be, people.
Barbecue at the not O.K. Corral
The next day I had a friend get me groceries. I don’t usually buy more than a weekend’s worth of food from the store at a time, so I was confused when making a list. The delivery consisted of various red meats, bread, potatoes, apple fritters, a massive seedless watermelon and a sympathetic bottle of wild turkey. What in the world was I planning –– a barbecue or something?
I spent the night keeping a journal about this whole thing while watching a movie about the Zodiac Killer. It focused on his handwriting a lot, and I slowly realized that his penmanship was very similar to mine. Was I the Zodiac Killer this whole time?
Two days later, my paranoia had its justifications. The weirdest array of mild symptoms started to hit me. Dry-mouth and dehydration, coughing, a mild headache and a creepy, alien feeling in my chest. I guzzled down sports drinks and ate apple fritters. I felt like Robinson Crusoe –– totally stranded, but with all the small, strange luxuries of the western world.
A war of attrition between mental and physical health
The issue with my illness was that I had gotten tested days before I felt remotely sick. Was I getting out of this whole thing with a weird cold, or was I just waiting around for my body to get struck like a train?
Mental torture. I dug into a whole quarter of my watermelon because it will go bad soon. I like watermelon, but not to this point. It was ridiculous –– I was completely sick of the stuff. I still had more than a half to go.
It was around this time that the last of the tests came in. Not a single person, including my roommates, tested positive. I didn’t get it from them, and they didn’t get it from me. Talk about a mystery virus.
The next day I felt worse, my weird symptoms more pronounced. There was a feeling that one gets when they get sick –– just that of having something off putting. I could feel the virus inside of me at this point.
I sat around all day doing nothing important –– just thinking about how this may get worse or not. It would’ve felt better just to get sicker; that way I would at least know. I took a walk outside for the first time in almost a week, nobody near me of course. I didn’t know if this was the first of many walks or the last chance I had at one, and I was annoyingly alone. Was I being dramatic?
Lucky or unlucky?
It was about eight days into my isolation when I finished the watermelon and stopped feeling weird. It was anticlimactic –– like graduating from high school anticlimactic. Was there supposed to be some huge coming-of-age moment where I questioned my mortality? Did I miss out on something? I didn’t get that sick. What was I complaining about?
Ten days into isolation I turned 21. Most people don’t remember their 21st birthday, but I will always remember mine. That’s because I didn’t do anything. If there was a pleasant birthday surprise, it was that this was the last day of my state-mandated isolation with no present symptoms, and I could finally go home. I packed my bags once again.
As I said my temporary goodbye to Blacksburg, I wondered how I even got the virus in the first place. I wondered why someone with asthma didn’t have any serious complications. I almost felt bad I didn’t have a serious enough story to tell that would make people think twice about licking each other on the corner of Main Street and College Avenue every night.
What can I say? Regardless of how bad you get it, I guess you at least miss out on a lot of time you could have spent being mentally sane. You might miss your birthday, or someone else’s. You and your roommates miss two weeks of being able to work. You might even die, and that’s not cool. I’m not one to shame anyone for their choices, but as someone who had COVID-19, just take it seriously — and definitely don’t buy a watermelon.