Life In A Global Pandemic, Part 5

Last night, I had a dream that gently drifted into being a dream about the xenomorph monsters from the Alien movie franchise. At a certain point in the dream, things turned sort of greyish like the movies, and from that point on, I was being chased by an unseen xenomorph that would destroy me the moment I let my guard down.

The night before that, I dreamed that I was in a crowded convention center of some sort, with people all over the place, glass elevators, ornate gardens, and everything that you might expect from a fancy hotel/resort. A few young, twentyish hooligans started causing trouble, bothering people, being mildly violent, annoying, and bullyish. When they came in contact with me, I did what I usually do with bullies, which is deny them the satisfaction of having their way. And just as in real life, this infuriated the bullies to the point that they decided they wanted to literally kill me. Their numbers increased dramatically, they became cruel and merciless, they started killing everyone in their path. Just when they had me surrounded, I would find a way to escape, usually taking one of them down in the process. As the dream proceeded, it got gorier and more gruesome, and also more harrowing. No matter where I ran, there was a crowd of violent hooligans waiting to pulverize me.

In both of these dreams, I woke up in the middle of the night because they were so intense, then I would calmly nod back off to sleep and find myself back in the midst of the same dream. The dream would continue like that until I woke up again. This process repeated itself several times until I made a conscious effort to put the dream out of my mind and think of something else.

I didn't connect the dots until this morning. A menacing force chasing me everywhere I go, with a feeling of inevitability about it all; people being killed, and me knowing that it is only a matter of time before it's my turn. These are coronavirus dreams.

During the day, I feel calm. It's inevitable that I feel a little stir-crazy. I go running every day, but aside from the neighborhood streets and the inside of my own home, I haven't had a change of scenery in a long time. Other than that, I am happy. I get to spend time with my family, I get to focus on exercising, and eating right, and playing my guitar. All those things are going well, and so it's easy to feel calm when I'm focused on things that make me happy.

Clearly, though, the specter of death and pestilence is working its way through my psyche. It comes into my dreams and gives me nightmares. My wife and I talk mostly about coronavirus -- what it's like to grocery shop now, which people are keeping their distance and which aren't, what are the prospects for a cure or treatment, what the latest numbers from epidemiologists, clinicians, researchers, and so on...? The fear sets in. It's hard to think about much of anything else, even as we stay calm, for the most part.

The people around here are not taking this quite as seriously as I think they ought to. The outdoor parks and paths are packed with crowds who do not keep their six feet apart. Every day, when I run, there are more and more cars on the roads. The sidewalks, which I used to have to myself, are now overrun by people walking and running. It's fine that they walk or run, but they often bring two or three dogs with them, taking up the entire sidewalk, and then refusing to move over for fellow pedestrians. New to outdoor exercise, they have never been versed in basic trail etiquette. That would be bad enough, but refusing to make way during a deadly pandemic seems particularly egregious.

For my part, I give them all a wide berth. Many of them say hello, but a few stare me down. Angrily.

Real information about the virus is impossible to find. The internet is replete with analyses that report a less-than-one-percent fatality rate. Good news, right? One analysis claims that none of the Chinese patients who had "severe" symptoms died; none of them. The deaths are only among those who experienced "critical" symptoms and required ventilators. So more than 99% of people recover from COVID-19.

Side-by-side to these reports are news stories of hospitals being overrun by dead bodies.

It is mathematically true that a virus with a high infection rate and a low fatality rate can still produce millions of deaths. Still, one can't help but feel as though there are competing narratives in the news. One narrative wants to convince us that the virus is not as bad as we think it is; the other wants to convince us that this is the worst thing that has happened to humanity since the Holocaust. Maybe both things are true, but how can a man make sense of that?

I think the senselessness, the lack of good information, the uncertainty of it all, is what amplifies the fear and causes it to penetrate into my dreams. It would be nice for the uncertainty to resolve itself somehow.

But wishful thinking doesn't get anyone anywhere, either.

No comments:

Post a Comment