After being painstakingly careful over the last few months regarding where we went, what we brought into our home, and wearing masks and gloves, Dan somehow contracted the coronavirus. Before going in for a routine medical procedure, Dan’s doctor told him he had to take the COVID-19 test. That was on Monday, June 15. On Tuesday, he received the phone call from his doctor with the unfortunate news. But what WASN’T unfortunate was the fact that he didn’t exhibit any of the life-threatening symptoms that we have come to know the disease can cause. There were two symptoms Dan had: extreme fatigue and muscle weakness. We were both thankful that his symptoms weren’t worse.
But now that we knew he tested positive, the question was whether I had it too. So, off to the nearest hospital I went, that very afternoon in order to be tested. And what an unpleasant experience it was! A long swab was inserted into each nostril, deep into the nasal cavity. I squealed in discomfort as the nurse performed the five-second test that had me on my tiptoes, as if that would somehow prevent the swab from going deeper into my nasal area. Approximately 20 hours later, I received the news that I had tested negative for the coronavirus. A part of me was relieved. But I have to admit, another, larger part of me was disappointed. Let me explain.
Both Dan and I were feeling fine, with the exception of Dan’s extreme fatigue. If I had tested positive with no symptoms, then the easy solution would be for us to remain quarantined together for two weeks.
But because I tested negative, Dan was extremely concerned about infecting me with it. I have a preexisting lung condition that made contracting the virus a very scary threat.
He strongly suggested I go stay with my sister while he quarantined himself in our apartment. But who’s to say my sister didn’t have it herself? She isn’t as fortunate as Dan and I are. Being teachers, we continue receiving our paychecks while working from home. My sister, on the other hand, has to go into work daily, and is in contact with a number of people who may be unknowingly spreading the disease, even while taking the necessary precautions.
As a result, Dan stayed in our bedroom while I continued to do my remote teaching in the living room. We were still about two weeks from the last day of school so I was a bit on edge with the grading of final assessments and revisions and attending staff meetings. But because Dan quarantined himself in the bedroom, he wanted me to cook his food and leave it on a small table outside the bedroom door. I was dumbfounded when I received a text with his order of eggs with salami and toast, butter and coffee. What was happening? Why was I suddenly his waitress? He was physically fine!!! It wasn’t like he was bedridden!! And I had already been exposed to him, so what difference did it make? I sent him a polite reply regarding the amount of pressure I was under with work and asked if we could just switch rooms while he made himself breakfast. His next text pretty much told me that if I would not respect the fact that he was quarantined, then I needed to go to my sister’s place. It was on!!! In the middle of my session with my students, I furiously closed my laptop and started packing my things to leave, out of anger more so than circumstance. As I gathered my clothing and other necessities, Dan stepped into the kitchen to pack some food for me. I said nothing to him. He held the door open for me, and as I exited, he told me he loved me. My response? “Bye.”
I was livid!! I walked out of the apartment building, a bag lady of sorts, with my laptop in its own special case, a tote bag overflowing with my clothes and necessities and the heavy plastic shopping bag Dan filled with salad, fruit, a package of ground turkey and other groceries. I arrived at my sister’s, feeling guilty for barging in on her private space and feeling saddened that Dan and I had argued. A few hours away from Dan and a lonely night in my old bedroom helped me to gain a better perspective of what transpired that afternoon. Although I held on to my belief that if Dan was going to infect me, it would have happened already, I did start to see and understand his mindset.
The man was freaking out. He had just tested positive for a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people already- I’m sure there was an incredible amount of anxiety that came with news like that. And because he was not experiencing life-threatening symptoms, I considered him fine. But what I didn’t take into account was the fact that he wasn’t feeling 100% and that’s what mattered. I was afraid that just because he tested positive, he would start believing that he had symptoms, much like a hypochondriac. Whether he imagined the symptoms or not, his extreme fatigue was very real to him and I was discounting his feelings just because he wasn’t on his deathbed. He tried to make me see that as his wife, I should have shown more concern for him and his new situation.
He, in turn, failed to understand that I was no safer at my sister’s place than I was at our apartment. What if I would have remained negative but by going to my sister’s I contracted the virus? Or worse! What if I tested a false negative and then inadvertently infected my sister?! It was irresponsible of him to insist I go to my sister’s and it was even more irresponsible of me to take that chance just because I still had the key to my old apartment. And I also wanted him to understand that his food request felt quite demeaning and inconsiderate at a time when I told him about the tension I was under due to work. Perhaps seeing him walking around seemingly fine moments before he received the news clouded my judgement of the situation, where I simply did not take his diagnosis very seriously. Needless to say, neither one of us let go of what we believed was right.
The very next day, I sent a text to Dan, telling him that I was coming back home, and he did not fight me on it. I stepped off of the elevator to find taped to the door a “welcome home” drawing. I smiled, pulling out my phone to take a picture of it before unlocking the door to go in. We stayed apart. He was by the bedroom door and I was still in the foyer. He sighed before saying, “I’m sorry for the way I behaved.”
“Dan,” I said as I closed my eyes, “I’m so sorry too.” That would have been the moment we hugged it out, but there was no hugging allowed at this time.
The next few days, I was happy to prepare some of his food and place it outside the bedroom door. I gladly slept on the couch in the living room because that meant I could watch TV “in bed”. We marked paths in the apartment where we each would take in order to avoid each other. Whenever he stepped out of the bedroom, we both wore our masks. Each time I collected his dirty dishes, I put on gloves and a mask. By the end of the week, he decided that he was going to stay at a nearby hotel that had become a Covid-19 facility where people who tested positive with very few symptoms could quarantine themselves. And on Saturday afternoon, with his bags packed and his trusted guitar, he left for the facility, where he would stay for the next nine days. I was grateful to him for leaving the comfort of his home just to make sure that I stayed safe.
While quarantining at home since March gave us the opportunity to become closer because we were spending so much time together, one phone call with news of a result caused a temporary rift in our relationship. And it wasn’t just the diagnosis. It was our own beliefs and personalities that allowed the coronavirus to invade our marriage. We both acted impulsively, not giving much thought to the fact that I potentially put myself in danger by going over to my sister’s. When we gave ourselves time to think and consider the situation, we were able to come together to create a solution that worked for the both of us. I think we both came away from this experience understanding that remaining calm in any given situation is key to handling anything that threatens to invade our marriage.