It was all over the news, over people’s faces, over the internet but we hadn’t seen any evidence of it.
I was so rattled by the fear that it made me afraid.
‘What if I kill someone?’ I thought to myself alarmed that it could happen. I could be a killer without even trying, I could take someone’s life unaware of my actions. They could walk away from me and drop dead days later. The fear grew with a sense of powerlessness weighing down on my conscious. I needed help, some sort of advice, some insight, a tactic to protect people from me and me from them. I wasn’t sick but I went to the doctor anyway.
Sitting in the waiting room was an experience, everyone was edgy with eyes searching the space for a sign of danger. Fight or flight was already present. The doctor called me in, he was wearing a mask, cotton gloves with clear plastic gloves over them and I wondered if he was being cautious because of a patient prior to me, or if I looked like I had it. Were there obvious signs? Did I have it? Could he tell?
I had trouble understanding him speak. His distorted speech filtered through, he wanted to know why I was there.
‘I work with elderly and vulnerable people, people with health problems, I’m here to see if I can get a doctor’s certificate to not go to work tomorrow, I don’t want anyone to get sick because of me.’
He listened until I stopped talking about ifs and maybes and I didn’t even know what.
‘I can’t give you a certificate unless you are sick and we don’t have tests yet. Are you sick?’
He was sitting back from me on a chair with wheels and inched it back slightly as he spoke to me.
‘No but how would I know?’
He talked through symptoms, of which I had none. I asked what I can do about the situation, I talked about my guilt and the danger of being near others. It was a strange conversation like none I’ve ever had before. I’ve never been dangerous or had to worry about killing anyone. I felt afraid of myself.
The doctor talked me through how to handle the unknown and the unseeable.
‘When you go home take off all your clothes inside the front door and put them into a plastic bag or straight into the washing machine, take off your shoes, wash your hands. Keep a bucket of bleach near the front door and wipe down the door every time that you get home. Wear a mask and gloves everywhere, don’t go near anyone.’
The suppressed tones of his words filtered through the medical muzzle getting lost in the layers at times, but his eyes were expressive enough for me to read his face. He looked like he was going into surgery for the first time nervous, excited, filled with theory but no real experience. It sounded like a lot of precautions with no real information, he didn’t tell me anything but how to perpetuate the fear.
I walked home in a daze wondering how many people I knew that would soon be dead, wondering if I would soon be dead or worse a killer.
There was bleach under my kitchen sink, so I pulled it out and mopped my door; I’d never mopped a door before. Halfway through I realised I hadn’t washed my hands, I still had my shoes on and my clothes. Confusion overcame fear momentarily, I wasn’t certain what I was fearful of in that moment. Myself, other people, being outside, the world or something that I couldn’t see. Fear that pervasive was a new experience and that rattled.