A pandemic diary: Independence

July 7, 2020

Beach at sunset with waves and people on sand.

You had the perfect Fourth. Everything was great — the beach, the weather, the fireworks, and most of all, just hanging out and being normal again. You’d almost gotten used to the six-foot bullshit, and the mask when you absolutely had to, but no more. From now on you’re free.

Just like old times, the weekend fell into place. Ashley got an awesome deal on a condo right on the beach. Your special restaurant, the Captain’s Cabin, had reopened and you sat on the porch eating grouper and shrimp, all the outdoor tables full, everybody drinking and laughing. The server, Rosa or Rosita or whatever, didn’t look happy, though. She probably made more money from unemployment than working.

Your old UGA friends Chris and Beth were at their place up the coast, and Ashley’s friend Sarah had come down with her husband Jason, so you threw a party. Beth’s sister came, Jason brought a couple of his golf buddies and their girlfriends, and you invited the two couples staying next door, so there must’ve been a dozen, maybe fifteen people. It got a little crowded in that small living room.

So what? Everybody was young and like Sarah said, if it was that dangerous we’d all be dead already. People didn’t even talk about it much except when one of Jason’s friends, who was pretty hammered, said he didn’t wear a mask because he wouldn’t take orders, “from some Black Lives Matter mayor.” The room got quiet but then came the pop! of the first fireworks, and everyone headed for the deck and that was that. Actually, he seemed like a nice guy.

And Beth. Damn, she looked so, so great. It’s been six years, she’s with Chris now and of course you’re with Ashley, but when she walked in, right away you felt the old spark. Later, after the fireworks, you drifted out to the deck and there she was in the corner, no one else around, her eyes telling you she felt something too. You grabbed each other and started kissing really hard, her hands in your hair, yours around her back, pulling her close, only for a minute but unbelievably hot. You tried not to think about it when you and Ashley went to bed, and almost succeeded.

*****

It’s Wednesday and Ashley’s running errands. You’re in the home office, wishing your Zoom call was over because you’re congested and feeling crappy. This happens sometimes during allergy season but it hasn’t been this bad all summer. Your throat’s a little scratchy and your usually mild sinus headache is more like a migraine.

Your phone buzzes. You don’t check it until the Zoom session ends and you’ve finished the report that’s due by COB. You play the message and hear Beth’s voice.

It’s me. I got your number off Chris’s phone. I- oh God, I can’t believe this. I’ve got it.

There’s a long pause as she tries not to cry. Then she says I felt sick Sunday and just got the test results. I haven’t even told Chris yet. I’m not blaming you. I don’t know how it happened, I just — A barely stifled sob. I don’t know anything. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.

Now your head and heart are pounding. Time seems frozen as you sort out all the scenarios. She could’ve caught it from someone at the party. That doesn’t mean you or Ashley did.

You try to remember who you talked to and how long you were outside where it was safer. You may be okay. Or Beth might have been sick already and not had symptoms.

As you sit, breathing rapidly and staring at nothing, it registers that you could have infected her — and if so, maybe the whole crowd. You frantically Google Captain’s Cabin and don’t find any news about cases. You know you still have to tell everyone.

You try to console yourself with the thought that you might have the virus even if you and Beth hadn’t made out. You don’t have to tell Ashley about that. It’s not relevant.

But what if Beth tells Chris? He was talking about his guns at the party. He’s always had an awful temper.

You hear Ashley’s car outside.

More from the diary

Take me to your leader! (If you can find one)

I didn’t say I told you so, but…

Originally published at http://davesswan.wordpress.com on July 9, 2020.

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Writer, editor, ex-journalist, all-around communicator. Comfortable in real and fictional worlds. Always on the lookout for a great story.

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David Swan

David Swan

Writer, editor, ex-journalist, all-around communicator. Comfortable in real and fictional worlds. Always on the lookout for a great story.

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