Growing up, my Mom had a passel of kids to drag behind her to the grocery store. I don’t imagine it was a picnic. And the best way to wrangle kids is to give them something to focus on.
Back in the 70’s you could send your children off alone for a whole day and not worry that they might never be seen again. Now they call it ‘free range parenting.’ Back then it was just how things were. My Dad smoked in the car with the windows rolled up. We never wore the seatbelts in the car, either. The wild west. My Mom would send us off in the grocery store with the instructions ‘Go pick out a piece of fruit. Just one. Each. And take your time’ She was buying herself 10 minutes of semi-solitude. So, off we would run. My siblings would select an apple, or a pear. I would choose a watermelon or a pineapple. Technically, it met the criteria and I never understood why anyone would choose something small, when bigger options were readily available. Go big or go home has always been my life philosophy.
With my children, I continued this same tradition, but with a twist. Instead of sending them to pick out an apple or a pear, I launched ‘unusual fruit’ night. Together, we would choose something we were unfamiliar with, and we would buy one. That night, after dinner, this would be the desert. Buddha’s hands, dragon fruit, chirimoya, etc. We ate them all. Or tasted them, anyway. The kids loved it, especially Ryan.
So when I went to El Corte Ingles on my way home from Santiago on Wednesday, I went to their better-than-most-grocery-store-fruit-sections-in-Spain, and decided that it was time for some unusual fruit. It’s not like they had fruit I had never seen before. But I bought some things I haven’t eaten since the US.
On Thursday night I peeled the chirimoyas, and enjoyed it thoroughly. But in the middle of the night I started feeling unwell. Perhaps I shouldn’t have eaten the unusual fruit.
On Friday morning, I thought maybe I was just having some withdrawals from walking 20kms every day so I decided to go for a walk. Four kilometers out, then four kilometers back. (5 miles for the Americans in the audience). Easy. By the time I got home I needed a nap, and slept all afternoon. And Friday night was a rough one. This was not from unusual fruit.
Saturday morning I crawled to the car in my pajamas and drove to get a couple of Covid tests. I was sure it was just a bad cold. The pharmacist clearly wished she didn’t have to be anywhere near me. I think the pajamas didn’t help, with my raspy voice, and my swollen bloodshot eyes over my mask. In the short time I was out of the house I had become even sicker, sweating and shaking, so driving home was a challenge. Our road was covered in Pilgrims. It was like a video game trying not to hit them with watery, blurry vision. Perhaps I should have rolled the window down and shouted ‘Covid!!!’ And watched them scatter.
Long story short, the test, which is supposed to take 15 minutes to register, took less than two minutes to tell me I have Covid, again. And very soon I would wish for the good old days when I only felt as sick as I did standing in the farmacia. I called the Spanish health number in Madrid to report my infection. Which was an interesting exercise given my strangely long, and incomprehensible name. I kept saying, ‘Can’t I give you my NIE? You could look it up.’ But no. She made me spell it a hundred times. I get it. Spanish doesn’t have so many silent letters. I was exhausted by the time I hung up. I want to fill out the comments card with If someone has Covid, saying their name, health number, and rural address, then spelling the same over and over is counterproductive. They need to rest. Just ask for the NIE.
I’m having a flashback. Fever, my skin on fire. It hurts to breathe or move. A blinding headache. Where have I seen this movie before? Oh yeah. I remember. It hurts to have a blanket on my skin, like all my nerves are electrified, but am so cold I need four duvets. I lay here and moan to myself. But I’m not scared, like you’d think I would be after the horror of the first time. Banking on what they told me. I am triple vaccinated. I have a much lower chance of ending up in the hospital with serious complications.
Jeff has been in the US for all this. He will return next Sunday. I will test again before he gets here. If its still positive, I’ll stay away and remain masked up in the house, isolated. I know if Jeff had been home now he would have gotten it, again, too. Before I knew I was infected. And I would never have wanted this for him. So far, he is healthy in the US, so I know I got infected after Monday morning, the last time I saw him setting out from Arzua. I thought I was careful. Still wearing masks in public indoor spaces, and crowds, although not required in Spain. And I did not give it to my Canadian friends on Tuesday in Santiago. Not yet infectious, apparently. Even with hugs in the square. After pinging them in Madrid, they have had two negative tests. Relieved. Not a nice way to end an epic adventure.
The good thing is that I just spent most of the previous six weeks alone, taking care of myself without too much help. I can get through this alone, too. Although the positive self talk is out. I have no voice now.
If you are feeling unwell while walking, don’t be stubborn. You are not being alarmist. Get tested. It’s only €2.40 at any farmacia here. It takes 15 min. If not for yourself, to keep from spreading it around to other people. It’s the right thing to do. And after this, I’ll never look at unusual fruit quite the same way again.