“We rarely talk during the week. The week is something we try to endure alone, for better or worse.” A short story where one strives to find a way to live again in the wake of a global pandemic…
by: T. E. Cowell (Header art by Tommy Ingberg)
“If I didn’t have Covid before,” I say, “I definitely do now.”
“It’s possible,” my brother says.
We’re sitting outside a restaurant watching a long line of people waiting to place their orders. No one is wearing a mask, no one seems to care about their health. At least not where I live. People here seem to think they’re invincible, that because they’re American they can’t get sick. They have to put the mask on when they go inside the restaurant, but until then, they can’t be bothered.
I don’t care about my health either, not really. My life is more or less a failure. I have my shitty job and a shitty apartment. I haven’t taken care of myself in years, physically or mentally. Basically, I’m a wreck. Basically, I’m just waiting to die.
I feel a scratch in my throat a few days later, a weariness throughout my body. Covid, I think.
“At least if we get it we won’t have to work!” I remember my brother saying.
My brother’s in the same predicament: shitty job, shitty living situation. Sometimes when we hang out I feel embarrassed. We live in the same small town we grew up in. Some people surely recognize us, but they’d never stop and say hello. They must see us and assume the worst. They must see us and feel sorry for our parents.
Fuck them, I think, not because I mean it but because thinking like that is my only defense.
I call my supervisor and tell him what’s what. He’s not happy, but nobody is happy these days.
I get back in bed and wait to feel better.
The days pass. I keep waiting. I develop a cough and start spitting phlegm. My sleep suffers to the point where everything’s a blur. The past, the future, none of it makes sense, none of it seems to matter. I’m a person but I’m not a person. If anything I’m a machine, one that’s barely functioning.
Not having to go to work is nice, though. Fuck my supervisor. Fuck my job.
I call my brother toward the end of the week and ask how he’s feeling. We rarely talk during the week. The week is something we try to endure alone, for better or worse.
“Fine,” he says. “Why?”
I tell him about the days off I’ve taken.
“You lucky fuck,” he says. “I wish I were sick.”
I laugh. I don’t feel lucky but out of habit I laugh all the same.
I admit defeat and go to the doctor early the following week. I hate doctors but I feel like shit and if I wait any longer I might lose my job. I’d love to lose my job but I don’t know how I’d survive without it. I could follow the trend and file for unemployment, but what the hell would that solve in the long run? Can’t be unemployed forever, I figure.
“You’re fine,” the doctor says after running some half-assed tests. “There’s nothing wrong with you, at least not that I can see. You might have a common cold is all.”
I stare at him. I want to hit him. There’s a lot wrong with me, I want to say.
This is why I hate doctors. They don’t tell you shit even when you feel like shit.
I walk out of there, return to my apartment and bury my face in my pillow until I see stars. I’m on the verge of passing out but I can’t do it. I want to live even when I want to die.
Life is so difficult that I don’t know where to turn. If I had Covid maybe things would be easier. Probably not, but at least they’d be different. If I had Covid maybe I could turn my life around. Probably not, but there’s always a chance. I’d be so close to death that I’d see things differently, I’d want to live. That would change my whole perspective. I want to want to live, but I need something drastic to happen in order to do so.
This is my predicament. I’m alive but I’m not really alive. I’m dead but I’m not really dead. Not yet, at least.
T.E. Cowell is a certified jack-of-no-trades. For a guy pushing forty, he has accomplished suspiciously little in life. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing at the ripe age of thirty-seven and scrapes by as a delivery driver who more often than not writes about being a delivery driver. In fact, he recently finished a novel titled Delivery Driver. T.E.’s goal in life, at least one of them, is to live away from people, especially those with Amazon Prime memberships, preferably in a house with electricity.