Early yesterday morning John and I masked up and gloved up and headed to a nearby Urgent Care Center. We arrived right after they opened so we would come in contact with as few people as possible. We were hoping to get the Covid-19 antibody test. If our blood test shows antibodies, then we can donate plasma to help save the life of someone who is seriously ill.
We walked into the very large, lobby-like waiting room and saw that there were 6 or 7 other people there already, masked, sitting in chairs around the perimeter of the room. There was space between the chairs, but it certainly wasn’t 6 feet. Maybe 3 feet, at most.
The receptionist asked if she could help us. I explained that we were there for the antibody test, and she asked me to check myself in on the iPad. It proved too difficult to do with the floppy glove on my finger. I saw that there was hand sanitizer within easy reach, so I reluctantly removed the glove.
Someone walked in the door and lined up behind us, I turned and looked to see how far away they were standing. It wasn’t 6 feet. Maybe it was 4. It was just a little too close for my false sense of comfort.
After we checked in, we walked to the far end of the lobby where no one was sitting, and we sat together on a love seat. Waiting. I fumbled with my gloves. I felt the heat of my breath. I felt my heart pounding. I could hear John’s heavy, shallow breathing under his mask. The anxiety of being out in public was building, so I scooched over and snuggled up next to him, and I told him to put his arm around me, to comfort both of us. I started making small talk. Anything to take our minds off of the situation.
More people were coming in. Each time, I wondered, where will they sit? I hope they don’t sit right here next to us. There’s an empty chair over there, and one way over there. I hope they sit way over there.
After a few minutes, I was in a tiny exam room, probably only 7×7, with two other people! A nurse, fully covered in protective gear, and a doctor who seemed much less protected. She wasn’t even wearing gloves. She said she couldn’t find veins with gloves on. She said she already had the virus. She seemed relatively calm to me. But I was afraid. Afraid I could possibly reinfect her. Afraid she could possibly reinfect me. Afraid we were both endangering the nurse.
Just a couple of months ago we were at the crowded DMV waiting for our youngest to get her license. We stood on line, practically toe to heel. We sat in chairs with shared armrests. We were packed in like sardines with over a hundred strangers. And we waited, fearlessly.
Now, that seems like reckless behavior! Now, we are masked and gloved, hoping no one sits within 10 feet of us. Standing in demarcated pharmacy lines on neon taped exes. Waiting outside the supermarkets until we are allowed to enter. Keeping 2 carts’ distance in one way aisles. Stepping out into the middle of the street when someone walks toward us on the sidewalk.
And I can’t help but wonder, how long will this go on? And when it ends, how long will the trauma linger?
Will we be afraid of each other forever?
Earworm- David Bowie’s I’m Afraid of Americans