Just Sherring

Ballad of the False Negative, Urgent Care & Haitian Auntie Remedies

The doctor laughed when I moaned how dare he ruin my over two-year streak with the covid diagnosis. Did he not see the black, new, crisp, KN95 mask that I wear and change regularly? I have another 30-pack in my Amazon cart right now!

He also laughed when I exclaimed that the tests are bullsh—. A week before, the Rapid and PCR both came back negative after I walked to a state testing van a block from my apartment. They were not home tests. I got tested BECAUSE I wasn’t feeling well. “Viral load wasn’t enough to be detected,” he stated before adding that he’d send a prescription to the pharmacy across the street.

“Oh great. So everyone will know and look at me like a pariah,” I said. He laughed at me again!

“Trust me, you’re not the first covid patient today, and you won’t be the last.”

I felt guilty walking into Walgreens and waiting for them to fill the prescription. I was pissed off when the pharmacist shouted my name followed by Paxlovid, announcing to all people in the waiting area what I was picking up. What happened to discretion? Up until that moment, I had no clue about Paxlovid—three giant horse pills that I’d have to take twice a day for five days—or what it was for, but others there might. Never mind that they could already tell I was unwell by the way I leaned against the wall. The one available seat was close to an occupied seat. Out of consideration, I wanted to keep my distance.

I felt like a scumbag again when I stopped to grab a baconeggandcheese from the bodega. (We) sick folk really be out and about amongst the masses! Just carrying on and blending in with everyone else while our immune systems are at war. I know I looked a hot mess walking in zig-zag staggered steps, but the movement and sunshine felt good. When I texted family and friends that I was in the Urgent Care waiting room, I told them my attire was homeless chic.

It started with a sore throat, which I disregarded because I’m prone to sore throats. Strep throat and I were BFFs during childhood. I can’t remember the last time I had strep throat, but sore throats are the norm for me. Air conditioning too high? Sore throat. Sleep with the window open? Sore throat. Don’t wear a scarf in the wintertime? Sore throat. After my usual morning tea, it subsided a bit, but I continued to feel like l was off. Like I was in a fog.

During my afternoon walk, I stopped at a testing van. I asked for the Rapid and the PCR. When she removed the swab from my right nostril, a string of snot landed on my upper lip. She pointed to a box of tissues for me to clean up. I debated returning home or continuing my walk. The sun and the air felt good against half my face. I pressed on to get lemon and strawberry cream cupcakes a few blocks away. Before returning home, I received a text with the results from the Rapid: negative. I texted my aunt and goddaughter the results. They were relieved.

The next day, I received PCR results: negative. Within the next few days, while watching TV on my couch, I had hot flashes, chills, and sweats. My gums and eyeballs were throbbing. 20,000 Lilliputians were attacking me with jackhammers. No part of my body didn’t hurt. I had bouts with bubbleguts and yuckmouth aka cottonmouth no matter how much I used my tongue scraper. My throat felt like I swallowed tablespoons of sand. My period said, “Hold up! I wanna join the Misery Party.” Because of the false negative, I told myself I was being dramatic and it was all in my head, which felt like it was being squeezed and pulled apart. It couldn’t be covid. I wasn’t coughing…yet.

My cough sounded (and still sounds) like I could be a dinosaur in Jurassic Park.

Me, on the Jurassic World: Dominion movie poster

Between the coughing and the pain, sleep was impossible. I took Benadryl to knock me out. It did the trick, but as soon as it wore off, I was wide awake and in pain again. I don’t have a TV in my room, so I spent most of the time on the couch. When I couldn’t find a cool spot, I sprawled on the floor. I didn’t bother to lay a blanket on the rug. I needed to feel some coolness against my skin. My days were spent in my collection of rotating robes or completely naked. I couldn’t bear anything constricting me, not even caftans. The neighbors got a free peep show.

I never outright cried, but I felt sad about my situation. No significant other, no mother to be caretaker. My aunties and aunt’s best friend in MA checked on me, prayed, and suggested foods, drinks, teas, and vitamins. They’re all nurses. I sent a picture text of my prescription box. The daily check-ins felt good, but the loneliness was overwhelming. I truly believe that the physical presence and the physical caretaking from my aunties and honorary aunties 16 years prior after a near-fatal car crash nursed me back to health even though the doctors were skeptical about my recovery. Even my aunt from Canada came down to help. My heart still breaks remembering my grandmother sleeping on the floor in my room’s doorway so she’d be there for any little stir from me. I thought of her saying my name to wake me to eat or drink the soups and teas she made as I struggled through “Not Covid.” Even if Granny hadn’t passed earlier this year, she wouldn’t be here to take care of me.

My mother visited me in the form of an overwhelming grapefruit craving. Occasionally, I buy grapefruit to make fresh juice. There were some in the fridge. I NEVER EAT IT. But there I was, sitting on the couch, scooping out grapefruit chunks with a spoon like I used to watch her do when I was a kid. The only difference is I didn’t add sugar. I chuckled and said “Hi, Mummy.” My aunt didn’t think I was weird when I told her.

It’s kinda good that I had the false-negative because in the thick of things, had I known I had covid, I would’ve been in a bad mental state. I mean, it wasn’t great, but I literally kept repeating to myself: Sher, you’ll be ok. At least it’s not covid. I thought it was a Super flu or bronchitis again. I rallied to have dinner and drinks with my cousin from Utah and whom I hadn’t seen in fifteen years. I told him I’d been sick, but not to worry because it wasn’t covid. He wasn’t worried.

I was shocked and laughed when the doctor said I had covid. Actually, he never got to say it. When he entered the room, he started with: “Sherring, unfortunately, you have—”

I cut him off. “Don’t you say it. Don’t say it.”

He handed me a printout. My eyes zeroed in on the “Positive” immediately. It appeared twice. I struggled to remove my jacket so he could listen to my lungs. I sat in one of the guest chairs. I tried to scramble into the raised patient chaise when I first entered the exam room but gave up. This time when I pulled down my mask so he could check my throat, I worried about his safety. Earlier when I pulled down my mask to be swabbed for covid-testing, I had no hesitations. After all, it wasn’t covid. I’d already been tested.

He asked me if I’d been taking any over-the-counter medications or home remedies. I told him if he drew blood, my blood type would be orange juice and ginger tea. Actually, those might be overpowered by the Haitian Auntie remedy tea made of garlic, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, fennel, and honey. I forgot to add turmeric. It sounds gross, but the potency and pungency of cinnamon and ginger are refreshing. The drink helps alleviate the congestion and heaviness in my chest. I swear a ghost or demon had sat on my chest. It was ridiculously difficult to breathe. One aunt wanted me to buy an oxygen meter. I didn’t, but almost ordered one. Part of what stopped me was that I’d have to go downstairs to pick it up.

I live in a Brownstone, third-floor walk-up. Even on healthy days, these stairs kick my ass, especially when carrying groceries, laundry, or a suitcase. Never mind sick, weak, and having trouble breathing. The main reason why I’ve felt so weak is because I haven’t been able to eat to gain strength. Who’s gonna stand at the stove and cook? I could barely pour the tea into my mug. Thankfully, I had some frozen soup in the freezer. One day I boiled eggs. The two times I ordered delivery, I ordered family-size so I’d have leftovers, which I ate cold.

I had to take a week off from work. I was offline for just as long. When I did peak, my DMs were popping. The usual forwards, but several people noticed my absence and silence, and cared enough to reach out. I have a modest, and I do mean modest, following. I surely do appreciate that in my little corner of Al Gore’s internet, people enjoy my posts about books, walking boomerangs, food, silliness, randomness, and eye candy of shirtless and suited beautiful Black men.

Via received calls and texts, I’ve already thanked those for their prayers and well wishes. More than once, I’ve reminded them that yes, prioritize wellness prayers, but sprinkle in that I find my own aforementioned beautiful (bald and bearded) Black man who loves, respects, cares about and for me. Going through this mess was bad enough, but going through it alone added an extra layer of suckiness. At one point, I contemplated contacting my ex. My aunt was no help when she said “he’d be there in a heartbeat.” I informed her that a friend offered help, but I didn’t want her to drive all the way from the Bronx and risk covid. Not only is my ex here in Brooklyn, but so what if he gets it? Still not equal payback for the shit he put me through. I didn’t call—even though I do agree he’d show up.

It would’ve been nice to have someone moisturize me after my steamy showers—the only time I felt somewhat ok and could breathe unlabored. In the early days, I placed my footstool padded with clothes in the tub so I could sit and feel the hot water stream over my head and body. I splattered gobs of Vicks VapoRub on the shower walls to mingle with the steam. I got in and out of the shower slowly and carefully. I feared slipping, bumping my head, and passing out naked. Once out of the shower, I reached for a robe and air-dried. My family knew I was in dire straits when I told them I was too weak to moisturize. I’m the girl who keeps lotion in her purse (and her car when I had one.) I’m the girl who has lotion strategically placed throughout her apartment. I’m the girl who kept lotion and body butter at her office desk. I’m the girl who has a vast supply of scented body oils, butters, and lotions. I don’t need to re-up for the rest of the year. But I will. To go un-moisturized is unheard of. I had dry (not ashy though!) skin for days. That’s scarier than the few episodes of Stranger Things I watched. I’m halfway through Season 1. The first time I did moisturize, I ended up having a coughing fit, then had to take a nap. I got taken out by body butter.

Other shows watched during my convalescence: nearly a full season of Everybody Hates Chris on Hulu, the final season of Dear White People on Netflix, and the last 6 of 9 seasons of The Game on Peacock (only the first three are on Netflix). I forgot that Lauren London and Brandy had joined the cast. Watching Jay Ellis play Blue, I realized he was playing Lawrence on The Game before he played Lawrence on Insecure. Both characters were awkward, and both got “cheated” on. Poor guy. I attempted to watch DVR’d shows, but it took too much energy to press fast forward to skip commercials. One of the times I ended up on the floor is because the remote fell and when I slid down to retrieve it, I couldn’t get back up. Thank goodness for streaming services’ autoplay. It proved to be the way to go.

I missed Juneteeth celebrations which I could hear from my apartment, that trainwreck of male R&B stars singing off-key on Verzuz, and a hair appointment. The shaved design on my right side is no longer visible. I didn’t miss Beyonce’s new single (thumbs down), and news of the overturning of Roe v Wade (double thumbs down and double middle fingers up).

I’m gonna miss this flat(ter) stomach when I gain back my weight.

The worst is over. I want to burn everything, except my beloved books and 65″ TV. I feel better-ish, but still don’t feel like Me. I’m told it’ll take a few more weeks.


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