by Patrick Green
The Corona Virus is everywhere, or it could be: lurking on the next door knob, the next peso note, the next rush of air. I might already have it, incubating away inside my cells. Will it send me to the hospital or will I not even notice the symptoms? Should I put on a face mask to walk out in public or maybe just in the confined space of a taxi? Should I take the scheduled flight back home or take the advice of my children and stay where I am? The tutorials on social media for hand washing and the proper protocol for sneezing and coping strategies for being responsibly socially isolated... The TV news... Enormous resources have been been brought to bear on bringing every aspect of this pandemic into my living room: statistics, graphs, modeling, probabilities, the heroes, the schmucks, the bystanders… the Corona Virus from 10,000 angles.
To escape from all this one must make a deliberate and conscious effort. I made one of mine last Wednesday. I walked into Centro, planting myself on an empty bench in the Jardin. The plaza was deserted. I had found a refuge. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. My phone rang.
It was my daughter, Sophie, who lives in Seattle. She takes a ferry ride every day on her way to work at Children's Hospital. She often passes the time on the ferry by calling and chatting. Of course, this is a welcome intrusion at any time, no matter what my agenda might be at the moment. I answered. We talked for a while, until the ferry was docking and she needed to be on her way.
Then, staying with my phone, I passed some time playing with a Spanish language app. As the sun moved I scooted down the bench following the shade. Worker ladies swept up leaves. It was quiet and I was alone, out of the virus zone.
Then an incoming text message popped up on my phone. Sophie had written, "Wow." I moved from the language app over to the messaging app. I could see she was writing another message. I waited. It arrived: "When I got to work they were testing everybody." "Testing everybody?," I wondered, "For what? Corona virus?" Her next text arrived: "I am positive for Covid-19." My mind, followed by my fingers, quickly went to "But you are ok right? Asymptomatic?" But before I could finish composing my reply another text of hers arrived: "April Fools !!!!!!!!" I sat there stunned. In her defense, she only left me hanging for 10 seconds or so. I hadn't had time to really process the threat, but still the relief was a godsend.
My first coherent thought was "How could you?" My second thought provided the answer. You see my daughter and I have a competitive spirit with regard to April Fools Day jokes. We have our tradition. As of late I've had the upper hand. Really I should have been on guard. I should have known she would be looking to pay me back for my recent successes.
Two years ago on April 1 Sophie was on the phone with her mother. Listening to her mother's end of the conversation, it the date occurred to me. I had an email that morning reminding me that my monthly payment was coming due on a bunch of student loans I had taken out for the benefit of this charming daughter. I got my wife's attention and said, "Tell her I am running low on money and ask her if she can make my student loan payment this month." Dutifully my wife delivered the message. A long pause followed. Finally the response came back, "How much is it?" "Four hundred and fifty dollars." Another long pause ensued; long enough for me to walk across the room and chant into the phone "April Fools!"
That was one of my greatest victories; totally unexpected, out of nowhere, whammo, I got her good. Of course I liked the subtle message: "Don't forget what I do for you."
She must have been aching to get me back. No wonder she came roaring back two years later. I can't blame her for stepping over the line of propriety a bit, humbling me with this dreadful claim of having contracted the nasty virus; all is fair in love and war and on April Fools Day. Nor do I fail to catch her own, not too subtle, message, "What would you do without me?" Heaven forfend.
Meanwhile, I lick my wounds and lie in wait for April 1, 2021. Revenge is a meal best served cold.
Patrick Green lives with his wife in SMA. He was born in Southern California. As a young man hitch-hiked to Alaska and stayed there 40 years. His one regret on retiring to SMA is leaving his 1964 Chevy pick-up behind in Alaska. He spends his time in SMA volunteering, studying Spanish and taking note of things large and small.