Three days into a new school year, COVID ruins everything. Again.
By Hannah Bronner
I’m crying as the nurse delivers the verdict.
COVID? How could it possibly be COVID?
I’m vaccinated. I wear a mask. I wash my hands frequently. Still, it’s not enough. The nurse hugs me after delivering the news, and I can see the hurt in her eyes. After blowing my nose as loud as a foghorn, I hop down from the paper-covered examination table and make my way to the waiting room.
“This too shall pass,” one of the nurses tells me.
“You’ve been through much worse,” says the other.
“Thanks,” is all I can say before leaving, trying not to cry off all of my mascara from that morning.
I head up the stairs to the academic buildings. A friend says “hi,” but I quickly walk to grab my backpack and to-go lunch instead to avoid the conversation. I dodge people, knowing I am contagious.
Oh my word, is this really happening?
Back in my dorm, I break down for the third time today. I sit on the worn out couch and dial my mom, but no answer. I try Dad next. Fat chance, since he teaches math during the day, but nevertheless, he picks up. My voice breaks.
“I just tested positive for COVID,” I squeak. My dad, Mark, is in shock too.
“Any chance it’s a false positive?” he asks, but to me, it’s a ridiculous question. Runny nose, check. Coughing, check. Loss of taste and smell, checkity check. It doesn’t take a detective to crack this case. Dad says some encouraging words.
“May Jesus bless and heal you quickly.”
I look around my dorm. Some friends came over the night before to help rearrange. I was just starting to feel at home after a crazy week of welcoming the freshmen to campus. Now I look at the items I need to swiftly pack up for a 10-day, all-inclusive stay at the Arden Village COVID-19 Isolation Rooms. A place I never thought I’d find myself.
Between packing up clothes and nibbling on my now-cold ham and cheese panini, I receive a call from Alicia, COVID-19 Police. She wants the names of all the people I was in close proximity to for more than 15 minutes, during the last 48 hours. Roommates. Choir friends. Classmates. With each name, my heart grows heavy. Each utterance feels like a prison sentence. When the call ends, I grab my little black suitcase, backpack and Bethel duffle and ride the elevator down to my rusted red Hyundai. It’s only a five minute walk to isolation, but I drive to avoid the stares.
I meet the tall, blonde woman at the brick sidewalk and walk dejectedly over to my new home-away-from-home. I open the door labeled I-6. I walk in, hesitant and wipe the last tear from my face. The room in Arden Village is empty– one lounge chair occupies the living room, but there is a full kitchen. Too bad I don’t have anything to bake. I venture into one of the two bedrooms, but the bare mattress and blank walls are a sad sight. It’s a stark contrast to the homey room I’d just finished decorating. With a sigh, I sit on the bed.
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