I’ve been saying that The Bob hasn’t affected me much at all. Even the stay-at-home mandates and quarantine times haven’t been a problem since they fed into my natural inclination to be a quasi-recluse. But as it turns out, The Bob has affected me, though so far, it hasn’t infected me.
Admittedly, it will be hard for me ever to get back into the socializing that I’d tried so hard to accomplish, but I don’t think it’s so much a lack of inclination (though there is that, too) but rather a hesitation to open myself to the possibility of getting sick. Because of The Bob, I am conscious of how disease spreads through even small gatherings, and I’m not sure I want to open myself up to that quite yet. It’s possible I’ll never again want to be that vulnerable, though never is a very long time.
Still, except for allergies (because of the winds, this is not a good area to live if one is allergic to dust), I haven’t been sick a single day since The Bob arrived in town. And oddly, it arrived here long before the P word was even mentioned. (P=Pandemic.) There was a horrendous flu that roared through here in late December 2019 before anyone had heard of The Bob. In retrospect, it seems as if that flu was The Bob, and is probably why this town seemed to offer a natural immunity for a while. I’d never understood how it got here, but I recently found out that a woman came directly here from Wuhan to visit a friend of hers, and so started that horrid pre-Bob flu season.
I didn’t get sick during that first wave, though I’d been around a lot of the people who got sick, and I didn’t get sick during subsequent waves, not even after I was directly exposed a couple of months ago, leading to a time of quarantine. Nor did I catch a cold or laryngitis or any of the other illnesses going around. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without even a cold, and I’m sure it’s because I see so few people. I suppose I should say so few different people. Because of my job, I do spend time with people, it’s just that they are the same people every day.
Not only am I leery of crowds, but I am leery of travelers. People who hang around where they live come in contact with a relatively small group of people (relative to the world’s population, that is), but travelers are within a couple of degrees of coming in contact with a vast number of people. (If you’re sitting next to someone on an airplane, for example, you’re not just in contact with them, but also one degree removed from everyone they have been in contact with, and two degrees removed from everyone those contacts had been in contact with.) And after all, that’s how The Bob originally spread, not just to here, but to everywhere.
When my sister reneged on a visit to come see me, I was actually relieved. Though I would have liked to see her, I wasn’t sure what sort of extra, unwanted baggage she would carry off the plane, and I was glad not to have to deal with it.
I’ve been taking care of a house for a friend who’s been out of the country for almost a year, and he called today to tell me he was back and to ask if he could stop by so I could bring him current on all that happened when he was gone. It’s not something I would have ever done before The Bob, but I asked him if it was okay if we waited a week. Although he’s not in quarantine (apparently, there is no quarantine for vaccinated folks, though they can still get sick from The Bob, and can still transmit The Bob to others), I couldn’t help but think of all those people he was in contact with during his very long and arduous trip from halfway around the world.
Luckily, he was okay with my request. Even more luckily, from my point of view, he has a lot of work to catch up on, so I don’t have to feel guilty about his being alone for the week. Of course, even if he wasn’t okay with my putting off our get together, he’d have to agree if he wants me to continue looking after his house when he leaves again. And, of course, because of how The Bob has affected me, not only do I not feel guilty, I don’t feel guilty about not feeling guilty.
[If you don’t already know, I call it The Bob because of a conversation in A Spark of Heavenly Fire, my novel about a novel disease. Click here to read that conversation: The Bob | Bertram’s Blog (bertramsblog.com)]
Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.