By Meredith Stephens
“How about you throw yourself a sixty-first birthday party?” Alex asked me.
It was hard enough having thrown myself a milestone sixtieth the year before. That had been fun, so on second thoughts I decided to throw myself another party. This time I would just ask extended family and a few close friends. I had finalised the RSVP when the day before the party my old friend Madeleine sent me a text: “Do you mind if I come without Gary? He has a clash….” I responded saying that that was fine and was looking forward to her company. Madeleine and Gary were anti-vaxxers.
I rescued the fairy lights Alex had bought for my party the year before and fixed them above the blinds. We had to leave the blinds open because our border collie had destroyed many of them when she had been left alone inside one day. We prepared the food and drinks, and my sister Rochelle brought the birthday cake. All the guests arrived except Madeleine. The evening wore on and I was getting a little tired, but as our guests were mainly around sixty like me, or young children, they excused themselves just at the right time. We don’t have stamina these days for long nights out.
Only when the last of the guests had gone home did I check my phone. Madeleine had sent me a text message excusing herself saying that she wasn’t feeling well. I knew there would have been a good reason for her not to have turned up.
The next day my adult daughter Eloise texted me to say her younger sister Annika was feverish. I went to visit her and discovered that she was motionless in her bed. I gave her a RAT test and the result was negative. She was too sick to move and so I booked a locum. The receptionist told me the locum would be there in four hours. I spent the next hours bringing her water, serving her medicine to reduce her fever and passing a cool flannel over her forehead. Four hours later the locum had not arrived. So, I phoned the receptionist.
“He only has seven more calls before you,” she explained.
It was nearly midnight, so I decided to go to bed and wake up when the doorbell rang. Within thirty minutes the locum had arrived. I took him upstairs to Annika’s room.
“The RAT test was negative,” I explained, thinking he would administer a second one.
“Negative is negative,” he demurred. “Open your mouth,” he ordered my daughter.
He probed his torch inside her mouth and made her say ‘ah’. Then without any further comments or questions he announced, ‘It’s tonsillitis.’
He wrote out a prescription and was on his way, after having spent just a few minutes examining her.
I spent the rest of the night administering regular medicine to relieve her temperature. Even though the doctor had pronounced tonsillitis I had my doubts and kept my mask on. Until I didn’t. Annika was finally able to walk to the bathroom and back and seemed to have recovered slightly.
I wasn’t sure whether I should return to Alex, just in case I had caught something, but he rang me and told me it was ok to come back.
“We won’t get Covid. We’re invincible,” I asserted to Alex.
He looked at me quizzically. “Anyone can get it. Even people like us, who are triple vaxxed,” he countered.
As the day wore on, I had an unusual sensation of the onset of a fever. Unlike his usual robust self, Alex started to sense a dryness in his throat.
“We’d better go and get a PCR test,” he suggested.
We drove off to the testing center. Within twenty-four hours the results came to our phones: ‘Negative’.
Over the next day I continued to sense the onset of fever and kept taking my temperature. The thermometer confirmed what I had been suspecting. It was rising. Alex and I decided to go and get another test.
We drove to the testing center later in the evening when it was likely to be less crowded.
“Have you had a Covid test before,” the nurse questioned.
“Yes, we have.”
The nurse looked surprised but administered the test anyway.
The next morning a different message came to our phones: ‘Positive’ followed by an admonition to remain in our place of residence for seven days. This was followed by a message saying that if we required online counseling for the stress this would be provided.
I had to tell the party invitees about the positive case. I texted Grace and Jeremy. Negative. Next my sixty-three-year-old friend, Sally: Positive. Next my sixty-year-old friend Katie. Katie was dreading a positive diagnosis because she was looking forward to a trip to Bali with her best friend. Positive. Katie canceled her trip to Bali. I was relieved that my anti-vaxxer friends Madeleine and Gary had not attended because it would have been much worse for them had they contracted Covid.
Over the next few days the temperature persisted and we felt too tired to do anything. This was followed by a sore throat so severe that we could not even sip a cup of coffee. I suddenly craved a smoothie and remembered a recipe a friend in Japan had given me when my children were toddlers. This was made by combining a banana, some milk, and slices of canned pineapple in a blender. I told Alex the recipe, and he substituted yogurt for milk. I suggested adding feijoas from the garden.
The result was something that even those with taste buds damaged from Covid could appreciate.
By Day Five our appetites had returned, and our taste buds restored. It was boring having to be confined indoors until the end of the week when we are not required by law to stay at home. It felt like the aftermath of a storm. I was grateful that the fever had gone and I could swallow again, but my body took days to recover from the shock it had had to endure.
(Photographs provided by Meredith Stephens)
 Rapid Antigen Test
Meredith Stephens is an applied linguist from South Australia. Her work has appeared in Transnational Literature, The Muse, The Font – A Literary Journal for Language Teachers, The Journal of Literature in Language Teaching, The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine, Reading in a Foreign Language, and in chapters in anthologies published by Demeter Press, Canada.
PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL