Hi. My name is John, and I’m a COVID Longhauler.
Driving down a rain-soaked highway, the morning sun cutting through angry black clouds at a severe angle. Cars flying past me on the left, doing far more than the 7 mph over the speed limit I do because I have one of those insurance company monitor things that gives me a discount if I roll granny-style.
And I feel… what? It’s not happy. It’s not angry. It’s not sad. It’s… rebellious? No, that’s not it either. It’s something. But I don’t know what.
So I turn up the music. Loud. Because music is my thing.
Everyone has a thing. Some don’t know it yet, but they do. They’ll find it when it’s time. Music just happens to be mine. I don’t listen to music. I feel music. Sure, there are vibrations happening inside my ear, but there is something going on in my heart. Not all the time. Sometimes. When the air is just so and the music intertwines with it in a tender embrace. Then? Then the music does something to me.
And now? Now I’m… defiant.
Let me clear my throat, let me catch my breath
Let my heart bleed out ’till there’s nothing left
It’s my day to be brilliant
I’m singing. Loudly. Badly. And it hurts. Because though actual COVID didn’t steal my breath, Longhaul COVID makes me feel winded when I do such brazen things as take the garbage out or climb the stairs.
But my heart is fine. My lungs are fine. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along.
Still, I’m defiant. I’m singing. Loudly. Badly. My lungs working harder with every word. My heart beginning to race. I’m going to pay for this later. It doesn’t matter…
It doesn’t matter if the world has gone mad
If we just hold on, if we just hold on, yeah
The sky is falling and the world has gone mad
And we sing our songs and we just hold on, yeah
So if you’re running, stop running
One life, one chance, start living
Sing it louder just to let the world know
No we’re not nameless, we’re not faceless
We were born for greatness
A car passes me on the left. The driver is alone. Wearing a mask. I wonder why, but then again, I really don’t wonder. The world has gone mad in many ways. We’re facing a common enemy yet are more divided than ever before. It’s easy to point at the anti-maskers and label them crazy, to point at the individuals at the mass gatherings and label them reckless, to totally dehumanize them as one great lump of them.
But then I look around me, figuratively.
Members of my own inner circle have seen what I’m going through but still argue against wearing masks and staying distant. The very people who infected me because they never took the virus seriously come to my house and talk about how they were out last night hanging with friends. They have not once asked how I am doing, said they’re sorry for what they have caused me. It’s not a matter of forgiveness. I’m not about that. It’s about acknowledgement. I am not nameless. I am not faceless. This is what I am right now. So what did I do last night while you were enjoying a virus-free life, enjoying your supposed immunity and potentially bringing hell into my house again? I laid in the darkness for two hours because my brain was so foggy from over-stimulation that I just needed nothingness.Quiet. Darkness. I can’t seem to get rid of the horrible taste in my mouth, so I still taste. COVID took that from so many people, which makes me hesitate to wish I were among them, but that taste… dear God, just let it go away.
Still, I sing.
In a while now I will feel better
I’ll face the weather before me
In a while now I’ll race the irony
And buy back each word of my eulogy
All the uninvited tragedies
Ask yourself now, where would you be without
Days like this
When you finally collide
With the moment you can’t forget
In the past five days, I have had a wisdom tooth ripped out of my jaw and been told I stop breathing 53 times an hour. That’s on top of everything else. Is this week’s fun COVID-related? Shoulder shrug. Don’t know. My teeth have been pretty solid, but they, like me, are getting older. And sleep has been an issue on and off my whole adult life.
I’m not dead. I’m living. Breathing. Ironic that I’ve never felt more dead.
“This isn’t going to last forever.”
“At least the serious things are off the table.”
“You’re going through this for a purpose.”
Please. Shut up. Just shut up. I don’t want to listen to you. I can’t hear you.