Waiting for something to happen

The nurse who supervises my at-home covid test via Zoom one cold Monday night,

does so from her bedroom with the powder blue walls

and behind her head, a dog climbs on the bed.

It takes me nine years (ok maybe eight) to fill the test tube with specimen. It feels like I’m just spitting into a cup in my office, because that’s what I am doing.

I produce a supply of just-enough spit, then snap the top back on the vial with my name on it when directed, swirling the test tube with an electric blue substance that acts as a perservative for my saliva’s long journey back to the testing facility.

This all feels so weird, but

I am holding my breath as

the nurse so kindly instructs me to seal + sanitize my biohazard bag, using the provided alcohol wipe.

She forgets to end the call and so, when my test was safely sealed for return and we say goodbye, I hear her tired sigh. “Okay,” she says, clicking around her screen for a few seconds to find her next virtual spit test appointment, before I feel weird watching her work and I tap the red “leave meeting” button.

The next morning, with the sun brightly shining, I drop the test off at UPS,

parking right out front on 50th street, snagging a spot just off the sidewalk.

Up the block a woman heads my way, toward the door, letting me go in first.

I sort of prop the door open with my elbow, touching nothing.

She nods and says, “they go right in there”, motioning toward a box full of brown and yellow bags — covid tests going back, en masse, there are so many — and that’s when I notice in her hand a return bag. 

She tosses her test into the bin.

“You’re a pro at this already, huh” I joke with her, going my way.

She laughs, going hers, yelling back to me over her shoulder:

“Good luck on your test!”

Like we are children in gradeschool, and this is pass/fail.

Negative/Positive.

The sun bounces light across the streets.

I’m holding my breath and refreshing my email like, every hour.

They got my test.

So, I wait. 

I wait.

I wait.

The metallic taste in my mouth is not loss of taste, I tell myself.

I wait.

The way I’m exhausted all the time is a symptom of living through the pandemic, not of covid-19.

Right?

I wait.

The worst case scenario scratches at my confidence. I recall my aching January lungs, and the illness that knocked me out at the start of 2020; I spent all of my days on the couch, as three weeks of sunrises and sunsets passed outside my window.

Surely a positive couldn’t be worse than that?

I wait, holding my breath, until I no longer have to –

The email comes in bright blue text.

Negative.

And now,

I exhale.

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