The Rona got me. I evaded her for more than a year but eventually, she broke through my defences and stole my taste and smell. She also left me with this annoying cough that makes me sound like I have a 40 pack-year history even though I have never touched a cigarette in my life (except that one time I smoked a cherry cigarillo because it “tastes like dessert”). I’m not complaining; I know how much worse it could have been. I could have felt like I was being suffocated from the inside out. I could have clotted my blood and blocked a vessel in my leg or my lungs. I could have been one of the people I write about in poems sometimes. No, I’m not complaining. Instead, I’m grateful for my healthy body and a robust immune system. All I got was ten days at home to enjoy the luxury of my own company.
Which, by the way, is a strange thing. The ability to be alone doesn’t always come easily. Fortunately, I am an introvert in the true sense of the word. Sometimes I have to actively remind myself that it’s been three days since I’ve engaged with another human being in the flesh and that I should probably change that. The only humans I saw in person were the delivery guy and my neighbour. The delivery guy came to collect the pulse oximeter I bought but had to return because it wasn’t working – the irony. And the neighbour came to ask if he could borrow my gate keys. When I told him with pleasure, but he should probably remove the COVID from them first, he put his hand over his already-masked nose and mouth and walked/ran away. Like I was a leper or something. It’s okay, I am good at being by myself.
Something I am not good at, however, is being stuck inside for longer than a few hours. Aldo Leopold said that there are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot. I am some who cannot. But I made do by staring at the mountain from my bedroom window for extended periods and by talking to my plants. I also read and read and read. I started a puzzle but kept getting distracted by my books and never finished it. I love that whole hours can pass by in one world while I am lost in another. I did things that I usually don’t allow myself to do. I lingered in bed in the mornings long after the sun had crossed the horizon. I just lay there in the warmth of my duvet, like a hug, doing nothing at all. I watched Tali’s wedding diaries from start to finish, and then the baby diaries too, and I laughed out loud, and I didn’t feel guilty about watching mindless television. I didn’t drink coffee, or do much cooking, or order any take out – because if you can’t taste the food there isn’t much point is there? Well, apart from the whole eating-to-stay-alive thing. But I’ve always been a live-to-eat kind of person, not the other way around.
Not being able to taste or smell was, and still is, the weirdest experience. The day I realized just how significant my loss of smell was I set up a little experiment for myself. I lined up half an onion, some crushed garlic, a box of curry powder and a bag of coffee beans and I sniffed each one. If I was blindfolded there is no way I’d have been able to tell you which was which. They all smelt like nothing, absolutely nothing. So, I have stopped making coffee in the mornings. Now I smell the bag first to see if my olfactory sensors are working – if not, no coffee! I’ll keep you updated on my progress.
It’s been quite a treat to have a break from work although, true to doctor-form, I feel a little guilty. My colleagues are working one-man-short, and this third wave is relentless. I also have some work drama FOMO, but I receive daily (sometimes even twice daily) updates from my sources in the form of six minute long voice notes – and I don’t 1.5x the speed. I savour every word!
At the start of the ten days, I thought it was going to be a struggle. I was anxious that I was going to be left alone with my thoughts for so long. My thoughts and I aren’t always the best of friends; we usually don’t do well being left alone. I thought I was going to get bored. I definitely thought I was going to be itching to go for a run by at least day four (the newfound smoker’s cough made sure that wasn’t an issue). But none of those things happened. Instead, I am quite enjoying it and I haven’t gone crazy just yet, except if you count the talking to my plants part. I accepted that this was how things were going to be for ten days; just me and my plant babies and my books and my thoughts, and I embraced it. Now I’m quite enjoying it. I have two days left in this bubble. Maybe I’ll just stay here a little longer.
UPDATE: I can smell tea tree oil now, but that’s about it!