Brett writes that confidence is half of immunity. I know he’s right. Shortly after her diagnosis — when we had limited knowledge of what we were facing — Hilary came into this room and announced that we were going to have to try to have fun. Every morning since then, I’ve woke with a plan to make her happy. That became the priority. Even on the most desperate day we faced, a little more than ten months ago, I was determined to stay cheerful, play games, give her the best minute-to-minute experience a person could have.
So what explains my meltdown yesterday? Over an eight hour period, I became convinced that she had the virus and there was nothing I could do to save her. We wouldn’t even get to be together: she’d be taken to the hospital without me, and I’d be here with a partially operational cellphone, going out of whatever is left of my mind (not much). Despair, Catholics are taught, is a grievous sin because it rules out the possibility of saving grace and divine mercy. Father, I confess that on March 29, the Devil dragged me under, and I don’t even have sharp lapels or a checkered coat.
I’d like to say I’m back — I’m no longer physically shaking — but I don’t think I can. I’m still dealing with the irrational fear that the rainier it gets, the more likely it is that critical symptoms of the disease will suddenly manifest. I can’t figure out what the connection is: normally I love the rain. I even like to ride my bicycle in it. Today’s rain is supposed to start at 3 p.m., and I admit I’m desperately hoping it’s just a quick shower. My imagination continues to outpace all containment efforts.
It’s been seven days since the pharmacy visit. Since then, we’ve mostly stayed inside — weather hasn’t been wonderful, and there’s nothing much to see in the neighborhood. We’d never ordered groceries from a delivery service before, but last week we broke down and got vegetables from Amazon Prime. After dinner, paranoia kicked in. What if the paper bags weren’t properly sanitized? What if the robe I was in when I carried the groceries upstairs came into contact with virus particles? Why trust Amazon? Everything became suspect. I found myself washing my hands in the middle of the night. I found myself sleeping on my back in case I transferred any viral dust to my pillow.
This sort of crazed behavior is harmful to Hilary, who needs a healthier habitat. The determination that came so naturally to me during chemotherapy and radiation has deserted me. I do realize that I am mapping my fear for my cousins on to our own unrelated circumstances, and I need to hold it together and react to things that I can control, because the news isn’t going to improve any time soon. One of Hilary’s friends, who lives in the Heights, has been sick: she spent her fiftieth birthday in the ER after her blood oxygen level dropped. She got it from her daughter, who has been struggling with various symptoms for three weeks. Last night, through our walls, which are not thin, I could hear our pregnant neighbor bawling. I wish I could make her happy, too. Someday I’ll make it up to everyone.