I received a surprise visit last night from a good friend who lives in NYC, which served as a nice/necessary distraction from my rigorous writing schedule. I even took the new mullet out for a spin. Turns out, if you scrunch and spray a bad at-home haircut enough, people think that’s how it’s meant to look, and they give you compliments. Who knew?
Charlie (a nickname I actually gave him back in the day that stuck) is one of my oldest friends. We met in a dorm our freshman year of college and hit it off right away. At that point I had a blonde grown-out girlhawk and a face full of metal while Charlie’s equally overgrown yellow locks consisted of floppy curls. A lot of our wardrobe looked the same as well, and we spent many nights bunking in each other’s dorm rooms marathoning niche and/or nerdy shows and films. Everyone mistook us for a same-sex couple that year because we looked identical and were attached at the hip, which I didn’t really mind as a bi woman. What I love about friends like these though are that no matter how much time or distance has passed between you, the second you see each other, it’s like nothing has changed, and you fall right into your old natural ways of being.
To celebrate his birthday, we went to Barrel Proof for a few holiday-themed cocktails and pop-up grub. I was scared to go initially, but it became evident right away that the bar took Covid restrictions and social distancing very seriously. Still, even being around my friend, who’d just traveled through an airport in a state surrounded by increasing Covid cases to a state currently under a Code Red, made me nervous as hell. My cousin, a bartender prone to collecting new friends left and right, also joined us at the behest of my friend. The joy I felt was tinged by guilt and the knowledge that I really cannot afford to get this virus a third time.
After the first time I got Covid in late February/early March, I took an antibody test on a lark in July since it was being offered on-site at my work.1 Since early childhood, I’ve struggled with chronic illness, and my lungs are always the first thing to be impacted. However, I knew that whatever I had during Mardi Gras was nothing like anything I’d ever experienced before.2 The only problem was that there weren’t any Covid tests here at the beginning of the year to confirm my suspicions. My antibodies ended up confirming that I either had Covid at some point or was on the cusp of developing it. Less than 20 minutes later, the hospital brought me back in for a nasal swab, then sent me home immediately for a minimum of 9 days.3 My antibodies lasted roughly 7 months; although, it’s hard to truly tell if I was exposed again during that time.
All I know is that I’m not looking to contract COVID-19 a third time this year. Aside from having to take sick leave again, I’m not sure my body could physically handle a repeat. Every encounter with this virus leaves me with a different set of residual side effects that I’ve never fully recovered from.4 This is part of why I cancelled two separate wedding events this year, ultimately going with a very small legal ceremony outdoors with only a few close friends and family. But many of my direct family members, including all three of my sisters and their significant others, were unable to attend.
This Thursday, a friend of ours is getting married on Thanksgiving Day in a feast-style 19th-century-vampire-themed event at a restaurant, and I am beyond nervous about it just based upon the fact that I’ll be sitting at a table full of people I don’t know without masks during a major Covid spike in our region.5 I also missed this friend’s bridal shower after being exposed to Covid. Even though I tested negative initially and was encouraged by the host to attend despite the circumstances, it felt irresponsible to do so. So I chose to stay home, and thank god for that!6
All of this is also on the coattails of having canceled our destination wedding in Mexico scheduled for the second week of December, a trip most of my family still plans to take without me and my husband. For me personally, it just doesn’t feel right or responsible to host events like this let alone travel. I can barely talk myself into meeting a single friend for a drink in a remarkably cautious environment. I’m not naïve enough to believe that my antibodies will last 7 months again, and frankly, I don’t want to test out the theory. As it is for some many others, this is a world I don’t entirely know how to navigate. Maintaining friendships in the time of Covid with a lack of physical touch and/or presence feels altogether strange and new. I’m so grateful to have spent last night with an old friend and with my cousin doing something that felt so normal in another life, but the encounter will weigh on my mind for a while, or at least for the next 9 days anyway. So for now, this mullet will have to be an indoor mullet.
1. A hospital/school of medicine.↩
2. To put things into perspective, I’ve almost died of pneumonia more times than I can count; I can quite literally walk into a clinic, tell them I have an upper respiratory, list the specific medications I need to get over it, and they give it to me and send me on my way. Anyone who has ever tried to hand me a Z-pack receives a 5-minute laugh from me (if I’m capable) until they give me something that will actually work. That’s how often I get sick.↩
3. I thought that was bit ridiculous until the second time I was exposed to Covid in late September. That time it actually took the full 9 days after exposure to develop symptoms and to test positive for Covid.↩
4. I was so ill with respiratory issues the first time I had the virus that I didn’t notice the loss of smell or taste, which became a residual effect on and off for the following months. In fact, my dog had an accident right next to me while I was working, and I never smelled it. Food also turned to sand in my mouth. The second time I got Covid, the symptoms were nearly the same; however, the second I felt a little tickle in my nose, I started on a regimen of zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, and a boatload of Mucinex, which cut the recovery time in half. Unfortunately, I developed chronic migraines for the first time in my life that have not yet dissipated. Also, each time I get Covid, it feels like a brutal combination of pneumonia and mono, and I experience chronic fatigue afterward for months.↩
5. This is essentially how I contracted Covid the second time — by thinking it okay to have a slice of normalcy.↩
6. Because I definitely ended up having Covid!↩