The Covid Sentence

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I heard some doctor today talk about Covid and the president and tests and ten days or fourteen days or twenty days, and I listened to him fumble through, Conley’s his name, and I felt bad for him, though not really, I mean all he can do is decide for himself who he’s going to be straight with, but anyway…

…around here people are talking about numbers of cases and medical costs and masks and the same thing everyone is talking about everywhere on the planet; seriously the whole world, eastern Siberia and along the Camino in northern Spain and on trains in India and on dried up riverbeds in North Africa; in skyscrapers and thatched-roof houses, in outdoor cafes where there used to be parking spots and indoor cafes where there used to be people; everyone everywhere is talking about the same thing at some point every day—sure they may digress or veer off into conversations about work and sleep and that new DeNiro film or that old MJ Fox film they rereleased, but it’s the new common denominator; seriously I have no idea when the last time was that the entire planet was all on the same page, maybe World War Two or probably 911 but even those events had a certain distance for many; I mean, plenty of citizens knew they would be fine during the war; everyone wasn’t running out and buying flak jackets, and 911 too, except for the first few hours when no one knew anything, but soon everyone knew one thing—that this attack was pretty specific, and then they mourned and talked about it, but not about themselves and whether or not they might die in a few days completely unexpectedly, but this time they do, they are, they’re all—we’re all—talking about the same thing, that we can actually get really sick and die because some fuckhead in line at 711 didn’t wear his mask and didn’t know he was contagious because he didn’t know that at his friend’s house the other day no one bothered to clean the doorknob as people went in and out…

but anyway, everyone’s talking about death and dying and what scares the hell out of me about this is kind of sick: I hear too many conversations where death is no big deal, like instead of life being some long beautiful compound sentence, some people find more favor in the fragment; and I suppose we have been heading this way for some time, for some years, as if someone wants us all to know what it’s like to get closer to death, feel it fingering us along; I know it sounds like a convoluted conspiracy, but listen, it makes sense, just like it makes sense that we come in the world as tiny babies and someone else helps us slowly digest this mess, and at the other end we slow down, grow tired, like marathoners who just want to collapse by the time they reach that last mile; we are slowly conditioned for death through disease; hell, I’ve been sick before; had Russian flu freshman year of college, and in fourth grade I had pneumonia and missed almost a month of school; before that chicken pox kept me from a third-grade field trip to the Bronx Zoo, but nothing made me feel worse than bad trout in Prague—that put me out with salmonella poisoning; I was so pissed that I went back to the same restaurant a year later and ordered the trout again and had a glass of wine and watched the waiter put the salt-encrusted fish in front of me, and I thought, “Fuck you Trout,” and finished it with another glass of wine; I was fine—until…

…until, oh geez, I had bad oysters in Asheville and wanted to die (see?)—my face faded to some shade of ash, went through a weight-loss program Richard Simmons never promoted; but I’ve noticed how older people get sicker more often and for less severe reasons than when we’re young–a cold lasts longer—the flu is cause for panic attacks, pneumonia a primary cause of death in otherwise healthy AARP members—I’m not dumber than during my college days; I’m not less cautious, no, in fact I wash my hands more often, eat healthier foods, swap way less fluid with far fewer people, but still, risk increases with age, and I know why: it’s all designed like some death pre-flight; we’re wired up to wind down; side step the slope toward the end of the end; go gently, fade away, pass—the euphemisms tell the story: death is usually not a sudden stop but instead more akin to running out of gas and gliding in neutral toward the shoulder, and those early maladies that kick our ass into bed, into the infirmary, into the ER, they’re practice, death-sprints, some sort of bucket of fatality at the mortal driving range—I mean, look at how our bodies work the rest of the time: we don’t gain fifty pounds, we gain an ounce then another, then another, and dying is no different, no; we don’t live then die–we live, then bruise, then recover, then fall a few times, recover again somewhat slower, and on and on, until like Paul Dunbar, death comes down to soothe our weary eyes…

…we’re all dying, but we need to learn to adjust our airspeed, keep the engine clean; our grandparents go through it all first as we watch with child-like confusion; then our parents have a go at it while our middle-aged minds linger in the space between sending both our old folks and our teenagers on their way; then it’s our turn—unless (unless, yes, there’s always an unless) unless something screws up the order of things–it’s a plague, it’s the Dark Ages, it’s Covid, it’s coming at us but look back now at how hard we fought on the way, at the onslaught we suffered then shattered, and then laughed at it all, knowing, of course, knowing if we do what the doctor says we can get through it, knowing that anyway, these viruses, the cough, the fever, the hospital stay the recovery, that, well, yeah, it’s all just triage.

Life Sentence (TV series) - Wikipedia

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