It was only a matter of time, right?
The author of the series that laughs at COVID lockdown (you know who she is) finally tested positive for COVID and went into lockdown. Ugh!
Just to be clear, I was never laughing at COVID, only the nutty behavior that came out of being shut in for endless days, months, years.
Yet karma found me. Not only did I test positive, but I tested positive while on the road. I’d traveled to Park City for skiing and celebrating a friend’s birthday. Several days into my trip, someone we’d been hanging out with called to say that he just tested positive. Crap. So, the couple I was visiting and I immediately jumped into the car and raced over to the urgent care for a lengthy session of spitting into vials.
I’d done this once before with Mr. Parker. That time was (dare I say it?) fun. We were sitting in our car, parked outside the hospital, doing our best to generate the required amount of spit while enjoying the beautiful view of snow-covered mountains. Relatively sure we were going to be negative, the whole thing just seemed ridiculous enough to laugh at. So, we did. We laughed a lot.
This time was nothing like that time and no one was laughing.
My two friends and I were now parked beneath the urgent care in a concrete parking bunker that was reminiscent of the scene in All the President’s Men where Robert Redford meets Deep Throat. All very clandestine and foreboding.
Not wanting to wait three days for the official results, we stopped at the pharmacy on the way back and purchased home-test kits. First, we fumbled with all the vials and swabs and instructions, worried we’d screw it up. Then we got underway. Swab, swab, dip, swirl, drop, wait. And not long.
In about 10 seconds, two dark red, parallel lines glared at me from my test stick. It was clear that I’d tested positive. G*d damn it! My friends, who both tested negative, encouraged me to retest. These things had been known to give false results and because mine came up so quickly, perhaps something wasn’t right. So, with a sinking heart, I agreed to burn another test kit. Can you guess the result?
I looked my friends in the eye, tried to not cry, gathered my nuts and berries (i.e., jacket and phone) and went upstairs to wait out the next five days under quarantine in one of their guest bedrooms.
Could this suck more? I suppose it could. But I needed at least a good hour to feel sorry for myself before I could begin looking at the bright side.
After my hour (perhaps three) had passed, I was ready to try to consider that bright-ish side:
1) My friends’ home is far from small. The room I was in was bright and spacious.
2) I was indeed at a friend’s house, not a Motel 6. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Motel 6. But five days locked inside “the lowest-priced room of any national chain” doesn’t come with a lot of jazz hands no matter how long they leave the light on.)
3) Number three? My host’s birthday was two days away. I’d get to be locked in a room while listening to other people having a raucous drinkfest mere feet away from the closed door. Oh, wait. That’s not a bright side. Yup. I was stepping back into the darkness.
Calling Mr. Parker didn’t do much to help the situation. Why? He laughed at me. He said he felt bad for me, but he was laughing while saying it. I get it. I do. It was ridiculous, therefore laughable. But it didn’t help. At least not yet.
So, I sat. Then I slept. Then I sat some more. It was a beautiful, bluebird ski day, but there would be no skiing for me. I was a leper. Too dramatic? Fine, back to the bright side. I didn’t feel sick at all. That was good, right? Wrong. In truth, my good health only added to the frustration. If I was achy or had a fever, or a sore throat, sequestering from life would seem more of an imperative. Ugh.
It's so hard to stay bright. Let me try again. My friends brought me a rolling desk so I could set up my computer and get work done. And another friend, who knew of my captivity, dropped off soup. Yet another friend brought me flowers. Well, she left them at the door and ran. But, okay. I’m a leper with lovely friends.
Later, because I was asymptomatic (a phrase I used more in five days then I ever had in my entire life previously), my friends encouraged me to retest. This time the stick did not immediately show a positive. Was there hope? Nope. After about five minutes, the telltale second line came up red. Albeit, not as red as on day one. But still, back to solitary.
The bright side? I was getting a lot of work done. Work that I’d been putting off because I had better things to do, more fun things. Not now. At least now I was being productive. So, sitting and working. Then I remembered YouTube with its endless rabbit holes. What to watch? I believe I viewed every Kennedy Center Honors telecast ever recorded. I heart you, YouTube.
Next day: Birthday bash. The birthday boy, my host, hates that anyone should miss a party. He suggested that I could stand in my bedroom doorway and look over the mezzanine railing and down onto the party below. (OMG! How sad would that be?) Very politely, I passed. But I decided to get out of my softies, (sweatshirt and stretchy pants) and dress like a person, just in case. In case what? I wasn’t sure. At least I wouldn’t feel like a patient.
Right before people started arriving, Birthday Boy came to my door and asked if I’d like the hired bartender to mix me a margarita. “They’re really good.” I thought, Ya know what? I could use a good cocktail right about now. “Sure!” He walked off to place my order. And I did not hear from him again for the rest of the evening. Back to the dark side.
I found a video of Bette Midler’s Kennedy Center Honors. That helped. Then, knock, knock! A rapping at my chamber door by a party reveler who’d recently gotten over COVID. In truth, she wasn’t looking for me. She was wondering where my cat was. This is the cat I’d given to a friend several years ago because I’m on the road too much, and it was the right thing to do, and I still feel completely guilty about. So, this was not a fun exchange. When her boyfriend came to find her and stood there at the door, politely staring in at me, it felt like I was in a terrarium. Make it stop! Finally, they moved on to other, actual fun.
But, bright side. They let the birthday boy’s wife (my dear friend) know that I never got my drink. Up came an entire bottle of whiskey. While that seemed like overkill, I welcomed it with open arms. I stayed in my chair until the wee hours of the morning when the sound of revelry finally died down enough that I thought I might sleep.
The next morning I was again asked how I was feeling. “Fine,” I said. I’d always felt fine. “You should retest.” Ugh. I didn’t really want to, but they were anxious for me to gain my freedom. Who really wants anyone locked in their guest room? It starts to feel like a bad cable show about awkward social situations. (Or perhaps, a series of novels?) So I tested. Again. Waited. Again. Could this be possible? “I think I’m negative.” My friend took a look. And even with his eyes officially one year older, he was able to see a faint second red line. Back to my chamber.
At this point the whole thing was starting to seem funny, even to me. And my cell was feeling like my new home. Was this my life now? So odd how quickly that happens.
But a better mood made the rest of my count-down to freedom pass more easily. Oh wait. That’s right. I forgot to mention that since about two hours into lockdown, I’d kept a countdown clock on my computer desktop. Every time I spoke to Mr. Parker, I’d report how many hours where left. 104 hours. 89 hours. 72, 54, 37… I could now see the finish line.
But then—an entirely new concern! What happens when I get home? Do I need to sleep in a separate bedroom from my guy for another five nights? I posed this to Mr. Parker and he laughed. “I’m not worried.” When I told a friend his response, she called him a daredevil. Daredevil? I started wondering if Red Bull would sponsor him. At least send one of those blue helmets with the charging red bulls. The sport would be called, “Extreme Spousing.”
When the countdown clock hit zero, it was time to head home. I went from my residential prison to the car to airport to airline lounge to plane to Mr. Parker picking me up at arrivals with no hugging and no kissing and no breathing without a mask.
When I finally got home seven hours later, and I had to know. I took out my last test kit. Drum roll…
The next morning, I reminded myself to be careful what I choose to write about. Karma’s a bitch. Then I remembered what my next series of novels is about. I am so screwed.
LOCKDOWN BONUS: While under quarantine, I was a guest on the Australian podcast Stories: The True And The Fictional. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in an interview. Maybe I was just happy for people to actually talk to. You can hear it at Apple Podcasts by clicking here.
Honey Parker has been writing, writing, writing for decades, decades, decades. In there, she has also been a standup comedian, a Hollywood screenwriter, a director, and a co-author of edgy business books. Careful-ish is her debut novel. It is the first in a trilogy. It is comedy-ish.