Today is Friday, so I opened the door to my cage and let in the beast of anxiety. It's usually best, if it must come to me, for it to come on a Friday, the day before the weekend, when I know it can only last until Saturday, when there will be people around. People who will keep me from thinking about the awful things that are bound to happen. In my mind.
So, this morning, I was reading the local newspaper, something I often do on Fridays to find out what kinds of entertainment could possibly fill our days and evenings--a crafts fair, some music performances just about anywhere in the valley, and all the new movies finally coming to the limping theaters in the area which are now welcoming the masked and unmasked. We already have plans for dinner out, in a restaurant, surround by community members at tables safely distanced. But before I could even get to the Time Out section, I had to stumble onto Page 2 of Section A, and The Count. Not the Count of Monte Cristo, but the count of mounting cases. Of COVID. In our county, the numbers are overworking our local health-workers, and, as the article explained, taking away beds from other patients like those with strokes and heart attacks. So, instead of imagining myself in a darkened theater gazing at the head of a snarling lion introducing a movie and telling me I was about to be entertained, I imagined myself on a gurney in a darkened hallway, calling out for help, my hand over my heart, and about to meet my maker.
And, if I'd been wise, I'd have closed the paper and remembered my mantra of months ago, "Don't read the newspaper." Because, this morning, as I sipped my coffee, and I read on about all those people getting COVID because they hadn't gotten vaccinated, but also about all those people getting COVID who had been vaccinated, that's when it started. The tussle in my cage when that beast showed up, again.
At first, I was in denial. I was vaccinated. Safe. That thing, out there, was not real, and even if it was real, it was nowhere near as dangerous as people seemed to think. Just some egocentric guy behind a curtain, waiting to be exposed by my barking dog. No big deal. We're safe. Right? But wait. I don't have a dog. And why did this article on the Op-Ed page relate a story about a guy on the East Coast who, along with his friends, contracted COVID even though they were all vaccinated? So, the beast came in and spread itself around my cage, stretching out like it owned the place and smirking, knowing I had dismissed it forever a few months ago.
I've been crouching, here in my little corner, telling it to stay away, go back where it came from, this fear. A fear with scraggly, dirty fur and foul-smelling breath. Right this minute, I think it's sleeping. I'd like to tip toe past it and escape, and maybe close the door on it. But even looking at its body's slow and steady rise and fall is giving rise to some prickly stinging in my skin, especially when some random twitch appears in an outstretched claw.
Remind me to breathe. Remind me to look away and think happy thoughts. Think happy....