Even in an upgraded hotel room, ten days of waiting on the results of a COVID-19 test I was certain I was going to test positive for, felt like ten days on executioner’s row, counting down every last excruciating second, not wanting to live, and yet still terrified of dying. My mind kept flashing back to things I had failed at, things I had left unfinished, people I had let down and hurt. I was full of anger at the pandemic and the hysteria surrounding it, certain that my life had been ruined by someone’s mad plan to seize control of the planet.
Then one night I saw a television special on how people were rising to the challenge of the times, risking their health, and even their lives, to help others. Health care professionals were pulling double shifts. Workers at essential businesses were still showing up to do their jobs. Ordinary citizens were donating their money and time, volunteering to work at food lines and putting together care packages for the less fortunate.
And what was I doing to help anyone? That question suddenly struck me, like a thunderbolt splitting the night sky, and the answer made me tremble. All I was doing was drinking myself to death in a lonely hotel room, feeling sorry for myself because things hadn’t gone exactly the way I’d hoped they would. I’d almost made a career out of throwing these kind of pity parties, and here I was, when there were people out there in far greater need, acting like the only one whose life had been affected by the virus. It was an Ebenezer Scrooge moment of clarity, one in which all my considerable angst began focusing on the state of my soul, which, I saw now for certain, seriously needed some help.
On the ninth day I received a call from my brother, letting me know that he’d received an email with my test results and they’d come back negative. I was so relieved I openly wept on the phone. It was finally safe to go to my Mom’s. My brother said he would come down and take me there the next day.
I was in terrible shape. A few days earlier I’d reached the state where just drinking water was making me violently ill. I’d been vomiting so hard it seemed like the blood vessels in my temples were going to explode, and all that ever came up was a little bit of bile. Still, I couldn’t stop drinking rum. I lay in bed with a bottle by my side and would lift it to my lips whenever I was overwhelmed by anxious thoughts. That seemed to be every five minutes.
When my brother came to get me, I was packed and ready to go. It felt like my head was stuffed full of Styrofoam, and it was a challenge shuffling out into the blinding sunlight and over to his car. My other brother, the one in Anaheim Hills, had bought a pop-up camper from his neighbor and set it up in my Mom’s backyard. The thought was that would give me some space, and also provide an extra level of security for my Mom, who, because of her age, was at a higher risk of developing complications from the virus.
When we got to her house, we went through the side gate and met my Mom in the backyard, all of us wearing masks and rubber gloves. She showed us the camper, which seemed ideal for a weekend getaway, although it was hard to say what weathering a pandemic in it would be like.
By that point, I’d basically lost my mind, so after my brother left, I just went and sat down at the little table in the camper and waited for the sun to set. That wouldn’t be happening for eight hours or so. After that, I wasn’t sure what I’d do. Probably lie down on one of the little beds and wait for it to rise.