i decided to get tested for COVID at a mobile clinic on monday, though my peek-a-boo symptoms seemed to have more to do with generic winter-cold bullshit and being 43 than with a breakthrough infection. around ten in the morning i queued at the van on delancey street that's become a portable building and froze my ass for two and a half hours, along with a bunch of canadian teenagers who were sure their friends were sick, someone named alfonso whose results were handed to me along with my own, and someone smoking so, so much pot. i requested the rapid test and the PCR, and alfonso and i eventually got the all-clear. how about that! (i still haven't gotten the results of my PCR test.)

on christmas eve i woke up with phlegm and a sinus whatsit that burned off like marine haze over the course of the day, but as we were to head out to see licorice pizza at nitehawk before settling down for a long winter's nap, i took one of the at-home tests i almost accidentally snagged on wednesday en route to my bookstore shift.* it was so positive it was almost a little insulting: that pink line was downright lurid, like one of the savage primitive markings the cat is forever giving joe. (it's a lousy way to treat someone you like, steve!) i took a second test that was even more vivid than the first, our very last one indicated that joe was negative for the time being, and that was that. i got a gift-card refund from the movie theater, the bar we visited on wednesday told me they'd toss my FYI on their pile, an email to the bookstore's volunteer coordinator went unanswered. my debate with joe biden went ahead as planned, of course.

i had a quick and dirty stress-cry yesterday morning (or was it sometime on christmas eve?) about the idea of being trapped here while joe just ordered in wine and boozed through the boredom of quarantine, which is not something he would ever do but something he joked about when we'd talked about my getting tested last weekend. i do not find that funny at all, and he does not enjoy it when i joke about being a grown version of the kid with chickenpox who abruptly scores playdates with everyone in the neighborhood (did families in your town do this? did the ones in ours really do it?). i suppose we could have requested one of the hotel rooms the city is providing for people who need to isolate from their families, but the idea that joe could dodge exposure after having been holed up in this apartment with me is just laughable. god knows how long another PCR test for me would take, and i'm not interested in infecting a bunch of my neighbors while attempting to get one. we have a few weeks' worth of cat food, a respectable pile of clean underwear, one full carton of soymilk.

i used to open my eyes when i was lying on the ocean floor waiting for a wave to pass over me. the physical sensation itself is moderately uncomfortable, but the way i felt powerful and ever so subtly aquatic when i did it was addictive. science, diligence, and patience are a helluva cocktail.

*a woman at the duane reade register beside me asked for them while i was buying the diet dr pepper i'd been craving ever since i saw a fake trump elector carrying one at the wisconsin state house on a cable news segment. i bought two (boxes of tests; just one soda, though knowing what i know now–).


the seraph painted in red on the scrim that came down between acts at last night's tosca really did look like the she-wolf created for agrippina, the last Big Art we saw before entering lockdown last year, but we would have been reminded of it anyway, of course. i can't help feeling that our deciding to return to the met for opera caused the weird, dark turn new york city has taken this week–that would be very operatic–but epidemics probably don't strike poses like that.

last week i saw and scoffed at a few tweets about how the city was starting to feel as it felt last march, which is ridiculous: sirens howled all night every night, refrigerated trucks accumulated in front of the hospitals, i remember using bleach on our floor at one point, being unable to smell it, and collapsing into tears, sure that i was going to die. people were exiting like tosca, just stepping into air.

the man sitting beside me in the family circle was one of those operagoers who peers like a sniper through his opera glasses and volleys big, hearty BRAVO!s over the balcony as he claps for arias, and i loved him. i was the blue-haired lady with a passing tickle in her throat who coughed once, twice through her mask into her velvet cloak, and i didn't think until i woke up this morning with joint pain, a headache, and a proper soreness in that throat that anything truly tragic had happened. by the time i'd learned that all of the testing sites in the neighborhood had maxed out for the day and that PCR test results are taking at least three and more like five days to come back, the combined effects of my morning coffee, ibuprofen, a brisk walk around the lower east side and watery sunshine had somehow addressed all of those things: why, even the plantar fasciitis i've had since halloween disappeared for a few hours! i extended the walk as long as i could, grateful for a little more time.

it does feel like borrowed time. i got a booster shot a month ago and am eight lives away from crying on my bleachy floor, but the thought of having sidelined everyone's nana via the opera was a dreadful one. my sister and her family canceled travel plans to see us after christmas; i brushed my cloak and folded it into deep storage again. as i was telling friends today, i'm reminded of swimming in the pacific when i was a little girl–of watching a massive wave crest far too close, knowing it's too late to dive through it, and holding my breath and flattening myself on the ocean floor. send a body head over heels just once and it falls in step with the tide forever.


the exotic personal weather and promise i made to myself when i tearily high-fived a tree after a thunderstorm this summer related to the fact that i had very recently and suddenly decided to stop drinking; the promise was that i was really going to do it, that i was going to level up. and i have! or i have really done it, anyway. i don't drink now. i think i am probably an alcoholic.

the question of whether or not i am an alcoholic—or, more precisely, whether or not i tell anyone that i am an alcoholic—has felt weirdly important to me. it's shorthand for the fact that i have a problematic relationship with drinking, and dropping a few strategic a-bombs with people i love and respect felt like a way to force a decisive end to a war with myself. if i disclosed that and then any of those people ever saw me drink again, oh, i would be so ashamed. shame has always been a big motivator for me, which is ironic, given that several of what i consider the most shameful things i've ever done are things i did when i had been drinking.

i don't know whether or not it matters that i didn't have any big, dramatic bottoming-out moment. given that i work from home on my own schedule and don't have children, it's conceivable that my life could have tootled on in a nominally functional, undramatic way for quite some time, or forever. but i felt like the color was draining out of it, and i hated waking up with the panicky feeling that i might have said or done something foolish or hurtful; i worry about that all of the time anyway, and drinking, or being hung over, eroded whatever assurances or confidence i managed to cobble together. my friend sarah once joked that my memoir would be called i just don't want anyone to feel bad, and i believed everyone felt bad.

for a while, the only people who knew i'd come to this realization/decision were joe and a few friends who are sober; i didn't want a sponsor or anything (i don't think aa or meetings are for me?), but they had inspired me, and i wanted them to know that. (some of them check in with me even though i don't ask, which is both predictable and shockingly touching.) i didn't know what i would say to my parents, and i worried about it, even though i knew i wanted them to know. i have a mica-flaky memory of sitting at the dining table with my mother and sisters on my twelfth birthday and my father telling me over the phone that he was in recovery and couldn't be with me and that was a gift to me, or something. it turns out that it's pretty easy to talk to my mother about drinking and our family; we did it a lot in september when we hiked across hampstead heath and swam in the kenwood ladies' pond together. it seems that my dad doesn't want to talk about it, and i learned twenty years ago when he left my mother that learning too much about the dissolution of a relationship is one of the costliest experiences you can have, even if offering boundary-free adult friendship and support to the people who created you feels like the only way you could ever hope to repay them, so that's fine.

realizing that all of this is the course for me was/is something like watching a time lord regenerate on doctor who in that i'm mourning and excited all at once, and if i end up becoming david tennant i'll know for sure that i did the right thing. occasionally i wish the realization hadn't been so sudden, but i have always felt that it's best not to know when you're doing something for the last time.