On Friday morning, May 5, I gave myself an antigen test and found out I had COVID-19. There should be a word for these confluences, when the thing you most and least expect is one and the same. Something to describe the feelings of the people who predicted that St. Peter’s would beat Kentucky. How I felt when I found out about Kurt Cobain’s suicide and, a few years later, David Foster Wallace. When someone you’ve had a crush on for years leans in and kisses you for the first time. Whether it’s the fulfillment of a wish or the imposition of a curse, it’s the confirmation that you were right to have been hopeful or fearful all along.
Part of me was sure I would be the exception, that the pandemic was for people who were more daring or cynical than I was. I got my vaccinations, including my second booster exactly a week before my positive test. Objectively, I understood that luck had played a larger role than carefulness. While I hadn’t had Covid, at least as far as I know, prior to my positive test, I had gotten mononucleosis a year into the pandemic, which meant that my precautions weren’t as effective as I wanted them to be.
The positive test, which I later verified with a PCR, was humbling. I was guilty and bewildered. I had no idea how I had contracted the virus. I worried about who I had exposed and who they may have infected. There should be contact tracing for shame.
I lost a week and partially stumbled through another. It felt like I had failed. And it felt like I got what I needed. More than a virus, I was infected with humility and empathy, exactly when I most and least expected it. Let us hope they last at least as long as my increased immunity to COVID-19.