Two Red Lines, Nothing More

It happened. After over three years, it finally happened. With a whimper, yes; although maybe I am a part of things, better never than late, unfashionably late. It is normal to arrive at the party when everyone is drunk and merriment abounds, but to arrive when all have left and sobered up, when they have forgotten the party ever took place—now that is something!
    In my youth, I heard, through schoolboy circles, of a pornographic film in which the actor came to unknowingly infect the actress with the HIV. The film was banned, but had, apparently, made its way out into the world and was circulated between questionable collectors. The idea horrified me yet my imagination produced, directed and starred in its own recreation. There was something about the exact moment an organism was infected by another, when things went from functioning perfectly to being interrupted, when a decline was triggered, a timeline begun, when all the intricacies, systems and authorities of an animal sprang into action against an invader. Two different species evolving side-by-side finally confronting each other. The spheres, keys and keyholes of microbiology! First of all, I searched my recent past for the instant when such an introduction may have taken place. It was not forthcoming. I writhed.
    I often believed, somewhat immodestly—and ultimately incorrectly—that my immune system was robust enough to withstand the SARS-CoV-2, and with every risk passed I was emboldened. So sure was I that I believed I had likely contracted the virus, displayed no symptoms and passed it on to those whose defences were not as resolute as my own.
    The day when everything hit had never been good to start with, as I reeled at my parents’ house after an argument with my mother, and quite miserable that I had forgone meeting favour of celebrating my sister-in-law’s birthday. I could not move from the sofa, from the Newcastle Arsenal game I had placed myself in front of, as my body ached, dizziness and nausea took hold, and without moving a muscle I found that I was covered in perspiration. What could it be? Just a bug, surely, and it should not linger!
    I awoke with the cat in my arms, purring, a thin film about my mouth. ‘You should do a test,’ said my mother, with whom I had made amends. How silly! It was not until the next day, unable to taste coffee, that I panicked and saw two lines in red.
    It became so that I could not taste a thing. Tiredness ruined me and although I slept soundly it was never enough. Isolated, I had only the cat for company. I worked furiously, attending to deadlines I could not postpone. In the evenings, A.W. and I spoke on the phone, her voice still pink from the bath, still rugged with life, thinking it would not be long until I had recovered and we could rendezvous, but the lines kept coming, appearing slowly, passionately red eventually. I stagnated in my flat and went slightly bonkers.
    How much I wanted to see A.W. until my parents, saints both of them, offered me their hospitality, in spite of my caution. I took them up on the offer as they swiped away any risk I might pose. Grilled chicken wings dripped in Frank until I tasted something, a feeling upon the tongue. Still, on the sofa, I perspired, flashing in & out of awake. ‘Go on, it’s a nice day,’ my mother told me. ‘Get fresh air!’ a colleague. I walked the route along the beaches of early twenties’ pandemic and spoke to A.W. so far away she felt. Wind filled my mouth and not a trace of salt.
    I write, haha, this is alien to me. A terrible person! an infection and all! I cannot wait to recover. We plan to meet this weekend. Taste, flavour and scent fluttering onto the stern like a dove with a branch. It was not momentous to put it down, but it had to be put down, especially on Wednesday night, when I clawed out for anything that made me feel even the little bit human.