Past contributor Michelle Lynne Goodfellow was diagnosed with COVID-19 in November 2020. To pass the time during her quarantine, she wrote about her COVID experience.
There’s a game I play with myself when I’m driving at night. I hate darkness – hate how it closes in, and makes the world disappear while I’m driving down the road at 80 kilometres an hour.
So when I’m driving in the dark, I pretend it’s Golden Hour. I pretend the sun is low in the sky behind me, giving the landscape a soft glow. Imagining this golden light makes me strangely happy.
The night I drove myself to my COVID test, the sun was literally setting. I didn’t have to imagine the golden light – it was already there. I tilted my visor to block the yellow sun-ball, and let my eyes soak up the beautiful light all around me.
This is an auspicious sign, I thought. I’m driving to a COVID test, but it’s so lovely.
I drank it in. The peaceful drive, the light. I tried to forget the real reason for being in that car at all.
The test centre was in an urgent care hospital where I’d been before. I thought I knew where I was going, but had a moment of doubt when I turned onto the street. I hadn’t used the GPS before my trip – did I remember right? Was this it?
I was supposed to show up for the test exactly on time. Not early, not late. There was nowhere to wait, inside. So I was anxious that I had chosen the correct cross-street. I didn’t have any extra time to stop and turn myself around.
The street was right. I saw the hospital up ahead. I passed by the parking lot, because I knew there was more parking at the back. Except when I got there, that lot was full. Running out of time, running out of time, I went back to the first parking lot. Stashed my parking ticket in my bag. Where was the parking kiosk? I would have to find it before I left.
I race-walked to the back of the building, and entered. Someone covered in PPE gave me some hand sanitizer and a surgical mask. I had to take off my homemade cloth mask to put it on, and I felt a kind of shameful shyness about exposing my naked face in a hospital, during a pandemic. Like a girl trying to change out of her bathing suit on a beach under a towel, I tried to whisk the new mask under the old one, so that no-one would see my nose and mouth. It was less than graceful.
And then it didn’t matter that I was on time – there was a line-up at the intake counter. When my turn came, the receptionist indicated a piece of paper that I should put my health insurance card on. I placed the card face up, turned towards her, so that she could read it without touching it.
When she was done typing all her computer magic, she told me to pick up the paper along with my card – it was instructions for getting my results. Okay. That made sense. I liked the economy of that little piece of paper, all of a sudden.
The waiting room chairs were roped off with crime scene tape. (Not really crime scene tape, but definitely yellow. Caution tape?) I stood, six feet away from anyone else, waiting for my name to be called.
It was fast. A short bottleneck in front of a man in more PPE, who asked me why I was there. My mind went blank. Why was I there? Why did they *think* I was there? I stuttered my symptoms.
When I said shortness of breath, he asked, “Congestion?” I started to tell a story that I realized, one sentence in, was going to be too long. Quick course-correction; I said it was hard to talk. I think he mentioned something about going to the hospital if my breathing got worse. And then I was whisked away to a consulting room.
The (technician? nurse?) looked scared, and asked me to lower my mask below my nose. Again, more shyness. I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I said inside my head, apologizing to this young woman covered in PPE, who was about to be exposed to my bare nose.
She put a long, thin plastic thing in my right nostril, and twisted it lightly. Said it might make me sneeze, or make my eyes water.
It was no big deal. You hear so many things – Oh, the COVID test is awful, they shove a swab so far up your nose it hurts… It wasn’t like that. A tiny, noticeable rotation, deep inside my nose, and then it was over.
My eyes were shut, and I was very still. She asked if I was okay, and I realized I had been holding my breath, waiting for it to be bad, but it never got bad. I opened my eyes.
Follow the exit signs to leave. One more minute, and I was outside in the dark.
The parking payment kiosk was also dark. I shrugged nervously, and figured I could pay by credit card at the exit gate. When the time came, the gate when up without needing a payment. Sweet. That was nice of them, to give us free parking.
The drive home was not golden. I hate the darkness – hate how it closes in and makes the world disappear while I’m driving down the road at 80 kilometres an hour. I imagined Golden Hour light, and tried to forget where I’d been.
Michelle Lynne Goodfellow is a writer, artist, and maker. You can see some of her creations on her Instagram feed.