Written Story by Soup

“After two years of near monastic devotion to safety, my girlfriend of eight years and I caught COVID. She caught it from work — Her only unsafe activity being the compulsory one. I caught it from her — The only person left in my life that I had not quarantined myself from. I write this from my sickbed. I’m trying to ignore the fire in my throat and the funny feeling that claws with every painful breath. 

Three months ago, my Dad died from long term medical neglect. His death and the consequent discovery of the severity of his neglect was monumental. It was a bomb with a sparkling fuse, thrown into the already shaky remains of my life in a post-pandemic world. The night before I knew my dad was dead, I stayed up all night watching Russia invade Ukraine on CNN. 

When I forced myself to go back to work two weeks later, (my job making pizza crust is essential, after all), the IPCC delivered their new dismal report on the state of our climate. In the weeks before I got sick with COVID, a barrage of legislation passed to restrict the rights of trans people. My girlfriend didn’t feel safe coming to and from work anymore. As I lay in bed, near delirium with a plague induced fever, the entire country took off their masks and declared the pandemic finally over. 

I’d known for months I was close to the breaking point. I could not say how close. Now, I know I am at it.” 

I wrote this in April of 2022. More than a year has passed, and I find myself thinking more and more about the concept of a breaking point. 

Something broke in me when I caught COVID for the first time. Fatigue made a home in my bones. Insecurity became a familiar. I finally understood that the instability I was feeling would not go away. It felt in my body like the breaking of a bone under pressure. The pressure hasn’t lifted. 

Every problem I was worried about in April of last year is worse and more complex now, like a knot you just can’t unwind. I don’t have to tell you about the war, or the fascists threatening transness, or the lack of masks. You know these issues the way I do, as the children of familiar friends that you’ve watched grow up. 

I’ve had COVID twice more since that first time. I still wear an N-95, I avoid large public gatherings, and I’m vaccinated. But it doesn’t matter, because my partner is an essential worker. A play-with-it-until-it-breaks essential worker. Free to use and free to throw away essential worker. 

Of course, they don’t call us that anymore. They just tell us to get back to work. I don’t think of my breaking point the same way I did last year. A person does not break all at once, like shattered glass. They break in chunks, like the cliffs slowly eroded by the waves. I’m breaking every day, sometimes in catastrophic landslides, but more often through the slow and steady erosion of everything that mattered to me in a Life Before COVID.