Isolation

Panic overtakes me. My first impulse is to head to my trusty Google for answers, but I restrain myself. The truism flares in my mind like a neon sign – never look up your symptoms on the internet. The doctors and nurses assure me that I will have the best care available. Indeed, it is in everyone’s best interests that they take care of me. One misstep and the potentially deadly virus I may have been exposed to could be unleashed on the world.

I try to calm myself. The doctor in his biohazard suit is giving me instructions, but it’s so hard to follow along in my anxious state. I look at his nurse and see a trickle of sweat run down her face. Is she hot in her suit, or scared? I feel like Typhoid Mary. The nurse tries to blow a flyaway wisp of hair out of her face. She must have quite an urge to move her gloved hands up under the mask, much like the desire to scratch your face once the cape is on at the hairdresser.

The hairdresser! I should cancel my appointment, as well as the appointment for the eye doctor. Someone else will have to take the kids to soccer and dance practice. Who will do the dishes? Will anyone remember to feed the dogs and the chickens?

I should be paying attention. The doctor is finishing his instruction. I’ve been politely nodding, but haven’t taken in anything he has said.

I see my husband on the other side of the partition. He looks worried and helpless. I haven’t seen him for a few weeks, and I won’t be able to fold myself into his arms for another month. They rushed me from the plane to the hospital in a private, biohazard equipped ambulance, with attendants dressed head to toe like the doctor and nurses. I feel like a science experiment. I’ve been poked and prodded and hooked to machines. Right now I’m free of cords and tubes, but for how long?

I ask the doctor if I can have anything delivered to me. I want my laptop. I need to be able to Skype my family, to see their faces. That’s the only thing that will get me through this month. But will they want to see me? Especially if… Well, I’m not going to worry about worst case scenarios right now. I will have a month’s worth of time to fill with worry. If this thing doesn’t materialize into anything, I can spend some time writing. I can catch up on all of those Ted talks I wanted to watch. I could even take one of the podcast courses offered by the big universities…if I stay well.

The doctor says I can have a few things delivered to my room, but anything that leaves will be in a biohazard bag, so I should choose carefully. I mentally go through my bookshelf. I was reading a great book by Brian Doyle that I wouldn’t mind rereading. My husband should bring that. I estimated the total time it took me to get through it the first time: four hours on the plane each way, plus a four hour layover, then some pages to spare. Ugh. I would need more books. How about something nonfiction. I have a Stephen Jay Gould book that I’ve never cracked open but always wanted to read. Then there are a couple of impulse buys waiting for me to have the time and inclination. Well, I will certainly have the time, and barring this thing blowing up into a full-fledged disease, I will certainly develop the inclination.

I’m a little worried about my fitness. Even when I was gone, I adhered to my running schedule. I guess a couple of weeks off wouldn’t kill me. I guess I will have to forego running for a while. I wonder if they can get me some type of exercise equipment, though. A month is a long time to be sedentary, assuming I will feel good enough to work out.

The doctor and nurses have left. They have a list of things that might help me pass the long hours of isolation. I think about all of the days of family filled chaos where I long for isolation, yet here in this room devoid of company, I long for the noise and chaos of my family. My husband and I make I love you gestures and signs through the glass. The irritations and petty differences can’t cross this barrier. I give him a little wave goodbye, then turn to my hospital bed to wait.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Inside the Bubble.” A contagious disease requires you to be put into quarantine for a whole month (don’t worry, you get well by the time you’re free to go!). How would you spend your time in isolation?

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