The man and I went to health center in Harlem and got ourselves tested for covid yesterday. Results in two to three days, the men and women in white coats said. We were two of a steady stream of city dwellers of every walk and description, immigrants, hipsters, soccer moms, and corporate suits, checking our status as the numbers rise. I'm feeling fine, really, and so is my love, but every time I listen to reports of new death records smashed, ICUs with no more beds, nurses weeping after brokering too many family goodbyes on video, doctors with that traumatized thousand-yard stare, I start to feel a little covidy, almost in solidarity with the nation's PTSD. Is that a sore throat coming on? Is the heavy feeling in my brain the start of a covid headache? Why am I so tired and is it only that I didn't get to sleep till 4 a.m. last evening? And when I awaken, am I feeling only the usual joint aches or is this creakiness something more?
My son called me two days ago to announce that he won't see us for Christmas, as cases in his part of the city are spiking, and he feels very exposed. Don't you all wear PPE on emergency calls, I asked him? Not every time, he said. Only if we're fighting a fire or going into people's homes. We have to conserve supplies. I'll see you in the new year, he told me, sounding weary of it all. As a firefighter, he will be one of the first to get the new covid vaccine, perhaps the first dose as soon as this month. But there are unanswered questions, he pointed out, like, if he contracts the infection after being vaccinated, even if he doesn't get sick, or have any symptoms, could he still shed the virus to others? There's too much we still don't know, he said.
Later, I joked to my daughter that he announced his removal from our social family bubble with no sentimentality, and no attempt to "manage mommy." She knew what I meant. Empath that she is, she would have announced her decision more gently, with a sense of regret that it has to be this way. We both laughed, an inside joke.
That bright yellow house lives down the street from the health center where we went for our tests. The house doesn't look much like it would be hanging out on a side street in Harlem, which makes me love it more. We also know and love its occupants, the unapologetically socialist minister of our little activist church, her wife of three-plus decades, and their two sons. Our minister's wife, also a rabble rousing preacher woman, took the picture. The entire first floor is dedicated to social service projects, soup kitchens, sanctuary for the undocumented, shelter for the homeless. This is where my church man husband attends meetings several days each week, most of them virtual now, doing his part to keep the soul of the neighborhood healed and whole, or at least on the way there.
Update: We both tested negative.